Spotlight: Independent film ‘Farmer of the Year’; ‘In Bloom’ exhibit at Springfield Museums

Published: 4/5/2019 8:00:39 AM

An odd couple of the road

Several years ago, when former Plainfield residents Vince O'Connell and Kathy Swanson retired and sold VOMAX, their cycling and ski apparel business, they didn’t head to Florida or some other warm clime: They enrolled in a master’s program in filmmaking at the University of Ohio.

Now living in Vermont, the couple have put their new skills to work in producing “Farmer of the Year,” an independent film about an 83-year-old farmer and his directionless granddaughter who hit the road for a series of comic adventures. 

The low-key comedy/drama has screened at a number of film festivals and theaters around the country in the past year, winning good reviews and a number of awards. On Saturday, April 6, it comes to the Bing Arts Center in Springfield at 3 and 8 p.m.

“Farmer of the Year,” which was written by Swanson, was shot in part around a farm she grew up on in Tyler, Minnesota. The story stars Barry Corbin (“Northern Exposure” and many other TV shows and films) as Hap, an elderly Midwestern widower who’s just sold his family farm and is wondering what to do next.

Hap opts to fix up his '73 Winnebago and take a road trip to a California reunion of his World War II regiment — and maybe pick up an old flame along the way. Also joining him is his granddaughter, Ashley (Mackinlee Waddell), fresh out of college and at odds with her parents about her lack of a job.

“In the wrong hands, this odd-couple story could have been pure corn,” writes the Vermont alternative weekly newspaper Seven Days. “But Swanson's screenplay avoids sentimentality, achieving instead the kind of gentle, humanistic comedy we rarely see these days in movie theaters…. Corbin and Waddell create full-fledged characters with great comic chemistry.”

Tickets for both shows at the Bing Arts Center, at 716 Sumner Avenue in Springfield, are $8. For more information, visit


Springtime flowers — and science

As the weather slowly warms and new floral life springs from the ground and trees, the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield is matching the season with some color of its own.

A new exhibit, “In Bloom: Floral Works from the Collection,” draws on a variety of works — paintings, woodblock prints, wood engravings — that celebrate flowers “as a subject of shared interest for artists, scientists, and all who appreciate nature’s beauty and variety,” according to exhibit notes.

Curator Maggie North says she wanted to present these floral works as a means of looking at how Eastern and Western artistic methods influence each other, as well as how science and art complement each other. As such, the show includes botanical specimens from the collection of the Springfield Science Museum.

Along with the work of 19th-century Japanese artists such as Ando Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai, “In Bloom” includes the work of a number of American artists, including Hatfield engraver, printmaker and illustrator Barry Moser.

The exhibit, which opened this week and runs through September 1, is accompanied April 4-7 by a related event, the Springfield Museums’ Festival of Flowers: 50 interpretive floral arrangements set up in three of the complex’s museums, including the D’Amour. Details on all of these activities are at

— Steve Pfarrer 









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