Once upon a time in the charming town of Pomfret, Vermont, autumn brought vibrant foliage and a surge of eager influencers, wielding smartphones and DSLR cameras. However, as hordes of selfie-obsessed content creators descended upon this quaint enclave, something remarkable happened. For the first time, the locals rallied and won a battle against the overwhelming influencer invasion.
Not too long ago, Pomfret was a quiet haven for leaf-peepers, with just a trickle of visitors. However, the situation took a dramatic turn when images of Sleepy Hollow Farm, a 115-acre private property nestled along a rustic road, went viral on social media a few years back. Since then, locals have noted a significant shift.
A brief scroll through Instagram now unveils a treasure trove of countless snapshots capturing the farm’s meandering earthy pathway, framed by majestic maple trees painted in autumnal reds and jack o’lantern oranges. This enchanting scene guides the eye towards an elegant 1700s Cape Farmhouse standing proudly on Cloudland Road. Little wonder, then, that this unexpected farm has earned its reputation as one of “the most photographed places in the state.”
Instagrammers, photographers, and influencers from far and wide flocked to capture the perfect shot. The picturesque landscapes, dotted with rustic barns and meandering streams, were the stuff of dreams.
View this post on Instagram
But the town, with its population of just over 900, began to feel the impact. Locals noticed a wave of tourists who didn’t just appreciate the beauty but sought to immortalise themselves in it. Suddenly, streets were blocked, peace was disrupted, and Pomfret’s residents yearned for a return to their tranquil way of life.
“It’s a beautiful spot. It’s too bad it’s been ruined for everybody,” said Deborah Goodwin, the exhibits coordinator at Pomfret’s Artistree Community Arts Center. “[For] the past couple of years it’s been out of control. Tour buses were just dumping […] people out there,” she continued.
In a true David and Goliath showdown, the town’s community fought back. The rallying cry was simple: protect the town and its soul from the influencer invasion. New ordinances were put in place, dissuading influencers from turning the town into a photo studio.
In a heartfelt plea posted on GoFundMe, a dedicated team of organisers shared their plight: “[We have] faced an unprecedented wave of tourist ‘influencers’ fueled by Instagram and TikTok. They’ve left a trail of damage in their wake, including road deterioration, accidents, vehicles requiring rescue from ditches, trampled gardens, trespassing, and even instances of verbal harassment towards residents.” Their appeal has resonated with 103 generous donors, resulting in a remarkable total of $16,068.
As a response to this ordeal, the town’s officials took action by voting to close the roads leading to the farm during the height of the fall foliage season, spanning from 23 September to 15 October 2023. However, this decision didn’t sit well with travellers who had journeyed to the area, hoping to capture that picture-perfect autumn shot.
It appears that during a time when popular destinations like Venice are mulling over tourist taxes, and trendy dining spots are sending influencers and their camera-trigger-happy ways packing, Pomfret aligns itself with a worldwide movement battling against overtourism and the incessant hashtaggers. Nevertheless, taking such a stance does come with its own set of challenges and costs.