10 Things To Love About New Milford
By Jacque Lynn Schiller
Of Connecticut’s largest town (in square miles), I was really only familiar with two New Milford attractions, The Silo at Hunt Hill Farm —where I’m determined to take a cooking class before the year is out — and the famed, funky Elephant Trunk’s Country Flea Market. But on my recent visit to the inspiring harts gallery, I was delighted to see that the downtown area was undergoing something of a renaissance. So while nearby Candlewood Lake is lovely, Pratt Nature Center is intriguing and I’m anxious to try newly opened American Kitchen, for this post I’m sticking close to the village green.
1. That Green
A quarter-mile-long rectangle dividing Main Street in two, the handsome village green boasts an iconic bandstand gazebo and is the site of popular Village Fair Days in July and annual Festival of Lights on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The city center is decked and trees adorned to create a magical Christmas in Connecticut scene. And, as you might expect, the town holds its farmers’ market there, too.
2. Fitbit Friendly
The New Milford Center Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, makes for a pleasant stroll and shopping sans car possible. Comprised of eight blocks with a major portion lying atop a plateau overlooking the Housatonic River, the setting “embodies the 18th and 19th century character and history of the typical Connecticut town.” Architecture lovers can make a game of spot the style, with examples ranging from Victorian to Art Moderne, Greek Revival to Craftsman all represented in the tree-filled area.
Dagwoods bianca flatbread with mozzarella, honey and pistachios.
3. Around the Culinary World in a Block
The restaurant offerings are equally diverse. I had the pleasure of dining at Dagwoods during their soft opening, and can report them at the top of their game. Jalapeno mac-n-cheese is my kind of comfort food. We’ve also heard great things about romantic Lucia, the farm-to-table goodness at Green Granary, inventive Tonios Panino paninis and in the liquid lunch category, Nelly O’s Whiskey Bar.
4. Mane Things
You know when you ask for recommended things to check out in a town and one of the suggestions that gets repeated is a hair salon, you can trust the place with your tresses. Joe’s Salon, says a local, is “very chic, very New York.”
5. Main Attractions
See what I did there? A true cinema treasure, the black and white Carrara glass façade of the Bank Street Theater is as review worthy as the films shown inside. With four screens (and state of the art digital projection) playing the latest blockbusters along with the occasional indie, there is talk of expanding programming and eventually hosting a festival.
6. All Aboard
Okay, so it may be a while before passenger trains run again connecting New Milford commuters with nearby towns, but one can imagine the quaint days of riding the rails as the historic old train station still stands. You can read all about the Danbury line extension on the HVCEO improvements page or check in with the Chamber of Commerce, now housed in the depot.
7. Amazing Space
I love a thoughtful renovation and by the looks of 19 Main Street, developer Gary Goldring put in a lot of time and consideration into the elegant building’s recent restoration. If you’re looking for an event space in Litchfield County, I highly recommend you venture over for a look at the mixed-use venue now known as United Bank.
Interior of 19 Main Street; Village Center for the Arts.
Resplendent with original details like mosaic floors in the lobby and floor to ceiling windows, the impressive stone structure has already hosted several tastings and is ideal for an eclectic wedding.
8. Creative Play
Cultivating culture for all ages, New Milford offers multiple opportunities for both hands-on and audience-only enjoyment of the arts. TheatreWorks is an award-winning, non-Equity company, presenting excellent regional performances.Buck’s Rock Creative and Performing Arts Camp is a unique self-directed sleepaway where artists aged 9-16 are encouraged to follow their passions at their own pace. At the Village Center for the Arts, classes in various arts and crafts are provided to the community and the harts gallery has announced a roster of thought-provoking workshops.
9. Ready-Made Fun
For more than years, this Nordica Toys has been a one-stop-shop for memorable gifts and games, both modern and nostalgic. With its massive inventory, be ready to spend a while in the varied and whimsical sections. I like its old-fashioned vibe, but they carry current “Dear Santa” requests too. Gift wrapping is free, by the way.
Event space at Ameico.
10. Trad over Fad
On the very modern front, behind a very old front actually, is design shop Ameico. Located in a landmark building, which once operated as the town’s telephone company, 29 Church St now connects customers with 20th century design classics along with contemporary creations. The airy upstairs is also used as a gallery space, with exhibits such as Interaction of Color and Form: Works by Josef and Anni Albers (closing October 31). My own “Dear Santa” letter will be a link to their product catalog.
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Four Brothers Drive-In Updates the Classic
By Jamie Larson
The drive-in movie theater experience is back in a whole new way in Amenia, NY. With a style that’s classic nostalgia crossed with rustic modern, community events in the daylight, a progressive slate of movies beyond the blockbuster and a full restaurant menu, two sons of the Four Brothers Pizza Inn dynasty are redefining what a drive-in can and should be.
“We wanted to build a drive-in that’s classic Americana but with some modern elements,” says John Stephanopoulos, who runs the Four Brothers Drive In with brother Paul, both sons of William and nephews of the other three founding Brothers. “People can relate to it no matter what their age. We wanted to make it a place you could come and hang out with your family or on a date.”
Paul and John Stephanopoulos, (Images courtesy of John Stephanopoulos)
Though the idea of a drive-in may be old, the two brothers’ execution at their year-old drive-in is keenly in tune with a modern regional aesthetic. There’s unapologetic kitsch and whimsical elements that let you know you’re in movie land, but by using a lot of rustic materials and reclaimed vintage signage and decor, the design comes across as intentional, knowing and sophisticatedly irreverent.
John is primarily responsible for creating the flashy yet unified design elements that make up the look of the place and the drive-in’s attractive web and social media presence. With a master’s degree in accounting, his impressive execution of the drive-in’s branding is a testament to his personal love of art and the style elements he’s seen while traveling. Once you learn he has an affinity for Miami, the vibrant Art Deco lines and colors at the drive-in begin to wink out at you.
“We tried to make it subtle,” John says. “We want to bring you to a place in time. We find that a lot of people come here early and end up hanging out for a long time.”
On weekend days, the drive-in hosts community events. They offer live music, a farmers’ market and kids’ activities including pony rides, magicians and clowns. John says people sometimes show up in the afternoon and stay until the end of the last showing. They even hosted a wedding once, and after the sun went down on the reception — catered by the restaurant — the party watched a scary movie.
The one-screen theater is on a lot right beside the true family business, the Armenia Four Brother’s Restaurant. One of the most distinguishing aspects of the drive-in is that, along with expected fare from the snack bar, the theater encourages visitors to get any item from the entire Four Brothers menu — and it’s served by a car hop. “If you want, you can get an all-organic fruit smoothie from the concession stand and a chicken parm from the restaurant brought right to your car,” John says.
Did we mention they show movies? They’re doing that their own way, too. The Stephanopoulos family is in a uniquely independent position when it comes to showing movies. Because the drive-in was conceived to bring people to the restaurant, rather than having its success tied heavily to ticket sales alone, they can do things other drive-ins can’t, like show two top-billed movies on their opening weekend in a double feature. They also do special screenings of independent movies and host a hugely successful “Throwback Thursday” night where they show older movies.
John and Paul’s patriarchs, the four Stephanopoulos brothers, often told their children that one of the first things they did when they came to America in the 1970s was go to the drive-in. They had a dream in the back of their minds that someday they would open their own.
Now, the next generation of the successful family has made that dream a reality, honoring the past and looking to the future with style.
Four Brothers Drive-In
4957 Route 22, Amenia, NY
Mon - Thu: 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Fri - Sun: 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.
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Kent Sculptor Goes Wild In Sculpturedale
By Lauren Curran
Kent, Connecticut is probably the last place you’d expect to go on a pseudo safari. Which would explain why drivers taking the picturesque Route 7 near Kent Falls State Park might do a double (or triple) take when they spot a fairly wild kingdom out of the corner of their eye. Okay, the animals aren’t real. But they’re imaginative and compelling enough to make you want to stop and explore the life-size, rusted sculptures on the hill.
The figures are the work of sculptor Denis Curtiss, who meticulously sketches and welds from his nearby workshop using a band saw, fumes extractor, welders and his own handmade tools. He and his wife, Barbara, welcome visitors to their property — a neatly manicured, four-acre swath of beautiful countryside — to roam and take in the views of the life-size or larger creatures. They call it Sculpturedale.
Curtiss refers to the property, which also showcases Barbara’s gardening skills, as a “working gallery.” The animals are strategically placed: a pig and bear are spotted in the distance on a grassy hill; elephants lurk nearby when you first enter the driveway. You can’t miss his best-selling sculpture — a baby elephant sitting on his backside. Take a walk and meet a chipmunk, a blue heron and possibly the form of another species: a dancer. The works are fashioned out of bronze and steel, which he buys from a supplier in Torrington.
Curtiss, who grew up in Cornwall and graduated from Oliver Wolcott Technical High School in Torrington, served in the Peace Corps and taught overseas before returning to the area. He first began creating large sculptures with what he calls “the dancers,” eight-foot wooden and metal figures stretched into a variety of positions.
Then came the animals, of which he’s sold hundreds to people from all over the world, including 20 to the late singer Andy Williams for his own yard and for his Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri. Prices range from $75 to $12,000, which was what someone paid for a Texas Longhorn he sculpted.
All of the pieces at Sculpturedale are for sale, and Curtiss takes commissions. His work has been displayed at countless sculpture exhibitions, and, locally, you can visit some of the Curtiss menagerie at the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville. For customers who don’t have estates (or — for you city folk — any backyard at all), he’s created a line of “Basics,” smaller-scale, more house-friendly pets.
“I love talking with people,” says Curtiss, who quickly came out when I arrived for a visit. He jokingly refers to himself as a “cheap New Englander,” and says no advertising is needed: 85 percent of his customers come right off Route 7, attracted by the simple Sculpturedale sign and the animals lurking up top. It doesn’t hurt that Sculpturedale was mentioned in a New York Times story on Kent, or that Curtiss was included in HGTV’s Off Beat America or that the garden was named one of the places to visit in Yankee magazine’s annual travel issue.
Customer Lisa Vaeth of North Canton says she’s enjoyed the artist’s work since the 1990s, when she commissioned Curtiss to do a dog sculpture for her husband. “There’s something so magical about his sculptures,” she says. “I’m always astounded by the life they bring to the garden.”
Of course, the fact that Curtiss works in steel, and the sculptures are exposed to the elements, means that a certain patina forms on the sculptures after time outside in damp conditions. But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Curtiss or his customers.
“The people I sell to want rust,” he says.
Sculpturedale, works of Denis Curtiss
3 Carter Road, Kent, CT
Visitors are welcome most afternoons and weekends.
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Artisans Breathe New Life Into Historic Winsted Mill
Don Wass. Photos by David Archambault.
By Lauren Curran
Here in the Rural Intelligence region, we are blessedly removed from the land of strip malls. We like our commercial areas to be as artistic as the people and contents inside. And we’re fortunate that New England’s history of mills and factories has left its legacy in buildings begging to be repurposed into centers like the one we’ve just discovered. Whiting Mills, which sits at the end of a nondescript street in Winsted, one of Connecticut’s old mill towns, is a mighty, brick giant whose dusty, historic innards are being transformed into a small business and arts mecca.
The four-story, light-filled former factory, known in the 1800s as Winsted Hosiery, is being revitalized into studio space for a wide variety of artisans, small business and retail shops. Paintings, yoga, handmade soaps, model railroad supplies, carpentry, farrier-related products, basket weaving, sculpture, photography, video production and a silversmith’s wares are among the activities breathing new life in the building’s 52 large, airy, studios and shops.
“It’s becoming a success story,” says photographer David Archambault, who also rents a studio there. “My goal here is to have no vacant studios.”
The studios have been a long time coming. Winsted was one of the first mill towns in Connecticut, and Winsted Hosiery was a small manufacturer of men’s hosiery, later becoming the largest hosiery manufacturer in the state after expanding its product line. Whiting Mills LLC was established in June 2004 when Jean Paul and Eva Blachere of France bought the aging 135,000-square-foot complex and later renovated it.
Now the goal is to become a destination spot, Archambault says. One way of doing this is hosting Open Studios, an event when all the artisans and businesses are open, sharing their studios and services with the public.
“It really is recognizing that there’s a major art community here in Winsted,” Archambault says. “That’s what Open Studios is all about.”
Whiting Mills Open Studios will be held on Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7 (with a block party on Sunday), and again during the holidays. Last December, more than 1,500 visitors walked through the mill in two days, says Archambault. He continues working diligently to attract visitors from Connecticut and New York, citing Route 8 as a major thoroughfare.
Several artists from New York City rent studios at the mill, citing the reasonable cost and ease of getting there. It will also be the future home of a mural described as “the largest indoor collaborative artwork in the world,” an endeavor of The American Mural Project, which will include the creative work of kids from across the country and be a tribute to working Americans.
It’s not difficult to imagine the mill as a bustling center of commerce during New England’s Industrial Age. Artifacts remain: a black, narrow wooden ladder extending from floor to window, wide fire doors once used to contain factory dust fires, and a center courtyard overgrown with weeds hearken back to the mill’s glory days.
Artist/animator Don Wass was one of the first artists to claim a studio at the mill. Surrounded by a medley of canvases, paint jars and brushes, he contently works on a piece destined for an art gallery in Denver. “It’s really exciting when we see so many new artists coming in,” he says.
Many of the artists renting studios in the former factory have works exhibited outside Connecticut’s borders. James Gagnon of James Gagnon Design is a contemporary craftsperson and sculptor working with pewter, silver and gold. A piece of his resides in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Debra Lill, a book cover and mixed media artist as well as a fine art photographer, has had her work appear on books authored by John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark, among others.
But Archambault refuses to rest on the mill’s laurels to date.
“We’re not finished growing yet,” he says.
Open Studios and Block Party at Whiting Mills, with live music, food,
farmers’ market, studio demonstrations and more.
Saturday June 6, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday, June 7, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
100 Whiting Street, Winsted, CT
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A Day Trip To Daffyness
By Lisa Green
Photos courtesy of Allison Stafford.
A spring tradition in Litchfield County has been delayed and the blame rests solely on Mother Nature, but even she can’t shut down the happy-making spread of daffodils at Laurel Ridge Narcissus Plantings on Wigwam Road in Northfield. First planted in 1941 by farmers Remy and Virginia Morosani, the small daffodil collection — put there because the rocky part of their property wasn’t suitable for a hay field — grew from the initial 10,000 daffodils on two acres to the now 15 acres of dafs spread out over verdant paths, a scenic overlook and a pond.
When the plantings began to attract visitors, the owners created the private Laurel Ridge Foundation, now managed and supported by their son, John Morosani. He owns the adjoining Laurel Ridge Farm, which raises cows for grass fed beef.
“The show is really spectacular,” says Allison Stafford of Naugatuck, CT, who has visited the gardens every year since 1994, and was even inspired to create a Facebook page dedicated to the site. “Besides the beauty of the daffodils, there’s a nice walk down to the water, which always has ducks or a swan or two.” (In past years she’s spied a flock of Canadian geese nested there.) The pond even has an island filled, of course, with more narcissus.
Typically, the daffodil pageant runs from early April through the middle of May, but so far there’s only about 10 percent in bloom, Morosani says. “We expect the full yellow daffodils to be out by the first week of May. “
Which gives those yearning for a spring outing time to plan a visit.
“It’s a great photo opp for families,” attests Stafford. Artists go there to work en plein air, others navigate the hill or take the stone staircase to the pond. A busy Sunday during the height of the season might bring up to 500 people staggered throughout the day, Morosani says. Picnicking is not allowed, but visitors are encouraged to take photos and submit their images to the website.
“It’s just fun to park along the roadside, stroll the beautiful path and look at the cows on the upper field,” says Stafford. “And it’s a great photo opp for families.”
As long as you keep the kids off the dafs, please.
Laurel Ridge Narcissus Plantings
164 Wigwam Road, Northfield, CT
Open from sunrise to sunset during the daffodil season.
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Jumpfest: From The Sublime To The Silly In Salisbury
Photos by Mark Niedhammer.
By Lisa Green
Very soon, there will be things going on in Salisbury you aren’t likely to find anywhere else: a human dog sled race, a leaf blower air hockey tournament, a curling demonstration. And most especially, the annual Jumpfest Winter Festival, with the 89th Salisbury Invitational Championships at the Satre Hill Ski Jumps as its centerpiece February 6-8.
Sponsored by the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA), a volunteer-driven organization, Jumpfest (including the Winter Festival in the week preceding) is the organization’s main fundraiser.
“A lot of people don’t realize we’re a nonprofit,” says Willie Hallihan, an SWSA board member and one of the volunteer organizers. “Our mission is to teach children how to ski, both downhill and cross country. We provide the equipment for jumping, travel money and scholarships.”
The effort pays off. Three of the four ski jumpers on the Olympics team last year competed here. It’s a sure bet that some of the young competitors will end up in the next Winter Games. Jumpfest culminates with the Eastern US Jumping Championships.
Last year, the three-day festival started a week early with art show openings, restaurant specials, a cocktail party and other events. “It turned into more of a winter festival, with ski jumping as its core, but it allowed other local businesses to benefit, too,” Hallihan says. This year, there’s a “Slackers Triathlon” kickoff party at Sharon Valley Tavern, and throughout the week retailers and restaurants will be offering specials and sales. Also on the schedule: gallery receptions, tastings and a host of other mingling events.
Jumpfest events start on Friday evening with a chili cook-off prior to the target jumping, followed by the ever-popular human dogsled races. The weekend will feature spectacular ice carving demonstrations, and leaf blower air hockey, which is not done anywhere else in the contiguous United States, says Hallihan. Participants wear backpack or handheld leaf blowers and blow a ball into a goal. “We don’t think it will require a lot of human prowess. Saturday night’s the Snow Ball Dance, and throughout the weekend there will be activities for the kids including sledding and hot chocolate, and a ski jump simulator that lets little ones get a taste of what being airborne feels like.
But it’s the ski jumping that really brings out the crowds. In 2014 about 5,000 people attended (the weather was perfect, says Hallihan). If Mother Nature doesn’t provide any snow this year, they’ll make it.
“If you have not seen ski jumping live, hearing the skis slapping down, people ringing cowbells, people cheering, you haven’t seen the sport,” Hallihan says. “Once you have, you’ll probably come back.”
Jumpfest, A Winter Festival
In and around Salisbury, CT
January 30 – February 8
Click here for a calendar of events and ticket information.
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Let It Snow! Spots for Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing
A skier enjoys Notchview in Windsor, MA.
Whether cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or merely sledding, now is the time and this is the place. Guardians of some of the region’s largest, most scenic properties—from country clubs to art parks to historic estates to resorts like Cranwell in Lenox—are throwing open their gates and welcoming snow-sports enthusiasts. Always call first or check websites to make sure snow and weather conditions are favorable.
Canterbury Farm Ski Area
1986 Fred Snow Road, Becket
Open every day, Canterbury Farm is a mini winter resort with 22 kilometers of groomed trails in an idyllic setting. You can rent skis, snowshoes and skates, and lessons are available as well.
Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Course
55 Lee Road, Lenox
You don’t have to be an overnight guest to enjoy the pleasures of this landmark resort hotel. You can rent skates and state-of-the-art skis to explore the ten kilometers of groomed trails.
508 Canaan Rd / Rt 295, Richmond
What could be more picturesque than skiing on a groomed trail through an apple orchard with mountain views? Perhaps a moonlight snowshoe trek and bonfire on Saturday, January 31. The guided tour leaves promptly at 6:30 p.m., weather permitting. Afterward, warm up by the bonfire or inside by the fireplace. Wine will be for sale at the orchard that is also home to Furnace Brook Winery. $10 per person (snowshoe rentals available on-site for an additional fee). Reservations: 800-833-6274
Kennedy Park & The Arcadian Shop
91 Pittsfield Road, Lenox
Do you ever wonder why the parking lot at this wonderful outdoor gear shop is always so crowded when the snow is deep? With direct access to the trails of Kennedy Park and ski rentals ($20 a day), this is an easy way to explore nature in the heart of Berkshire County.
Route 9, Windsor
If you’ve never before visited Notchview, it’s always a good time. Open daily, the Budd Visitor Center features a masonry heater, a perfect place to take a break with hot drinks and food. In addition to the intermediate and expert trails there are also seven beginner trails, so it’s very friendly to those new to the sport.
Clermont State Historic Site
One Clermont Avenue, Germantown
You can always ski for free at this magnificent property. Families can spend the afternoon skiing and sledding while taking in magnificent Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views.
Olana State Historic Site
5720 Route 9G, Hudson
Besides offering timeless, painterly views while you ski on the 250 acre property from 8 a.m. to sunset daily, Olana has a guided snoeshoe walk Saturday, January 18 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Snowshoes are limited, please register.
The Harlem Valley Rail Trail
Route 44, Millerton
While you can hop on the Rail Trail in several spots, downtown Millerton is choice because you can warm up after skiing at the Harney Tea Room, Oakhurst Diner, or the family-friendly Taro’s pizzeria.
Staatsburgh State Historic Site and Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park
Old Post Road, Staatsburgh
Great estates such as the Mills Mansion set on 192 acres in the heart of the Hudson Valley are one of the reasons New York is known as the Empire State. You can cross country ski there daily in the shadows of the Catskill Mountains and at the adjacent Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park.
American Legion and People’s State Forest
East River Road, Barkhamsted
There are several tranquil trails here, but be prepared to see snowmobilers in this park, too.
Great Mountain Forest
201 Windrow Road, Norfolk
Skiers must sign in and sign out at one of the visitor registers located at the gated entrances in Norfolk (Windrow Road) or Canaan (Canaan Mountain Road).
Topsmead State Forest
Buell Road, Litchfield
Like so many of our cherished state parks, Topsmead was once a private estate, the summer home of Miss Edith Morton Chase. It becomes a winter wonderland when covered in snow.
White Memorial Conservation Center
80 Whitehall Road, Litchfield
With more than 35 miles of hiking trails on 4,000 acres, White Memorial—former home of Alain White and his sister, May, that has been a not-for-profit educational center since 1964—has many pathways for skiing and snowshoeing.
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Kitchens For A Cause: The 12th Annual NWCT Kitchen Tour
If you’re looking for pie-in-the-sky kitchen design ideas, you can read scores of shelter magazines, watch endless HGTV programs, and tour pristine kitchen showrooms. But the best way to accumulate ideas for redoing your own kitchen is snooping around other people’s houses to see where they’ve hidden the recycling bins and where they’ve put the sinks (yes, no self-respecting kitchen has just one sink anymore). Whether you’re thinking about resale value or just your own needs for cooking and entertaining with ease, the 12th annual Kitchen Tour of Northwest Connecticut offers five private kitchens to visit on Saturday, November 1. The tour raises funds for the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society, which provides the backing so that students at Housatonic Valley Regional High School can produce a full-fledged musical (The Boy Friend, March 19 - 21, 2015), because unlike the fictional high school on the TV show Glee, there’s not enough money in the public school budget to support musical theater as an extra-curricular activity.
The five kitchens on the tour — which covers Sharon and Lakeville — each displays a uniquely inspiring approach to the “heart of the home.” They include: new construction that incorporates genuine period pieces and details; artist Ellen Griesedieck’s vibrant interpretation that includes a bonus tour of her art studio; a Victorian home with a light-filled kitchen and a spectacular view; a 1929 farmhouse with hand-painted custom-built cabinets, marble countertops and vintage lighting; and a Colonial set on 32 acres, with a modern kitchen that includes a center island, plentiful prep areas, and an informal eating area. Local caterers and restaurants will be offering “nibbles” at each kitchen on the tour, local florists will create unique bouquets for each house, and a number of raffle prizes from area shops will be up for grabs.
Lori Belter, founder of the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society, says the fundraiser isn’t simply supporting a play, but an invaluable program that instills self-confidence in the students who participate in it. Athletes perform side by side with drama students, and, she says, “Students with very different interests come together and they form a bond.”
Housatonic Musical Theatre Society Kitchen Tour
Saturday, November 1; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets $40 (available online and at the Sharon Pharmacy, Salisbury General Store & Pharmacy, and Kent Apothecary)
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It’s Baaaaack: The New York State Sheep & Wool Festival
October 18 & 19 in Rhinebeck
A few years ago, a friend of mine bought a 200-year-old manor house near the Hudson River with an impenetrable, overgrown meadow, and he decided that keeping goats might be the most efficient, ecological and economical way to clear and maintain the land. He knew nothing about goats so he persuaded me to accompany him to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, which was as entertaining as it was educational. We toured the livestock area and met dozens of people who raise goats, and they were all full of tips about fencing, shearing and milking. So were the sheep owners and breeders who were justifiably proud of their beautiful animals that often had exotic pedigrees. “Are you looking for a fiber animal?” the exhibitors would say, making me aware of the distinction between animals raised only for their wool and those raised for food.
If you’ve been mulling the idea of getting some sheep to maintain your lawn and up your rural cred, the Sheep and Wool Festival is a must. You can find lots of folks who’ll advise you on what type of fences and outbuildings you’ll need and how to keep the animals’ water troughs from freezing during the winter. At the festival, my friend learned that he’d also have to get two gigantic Great Pyrenees to guard the Shetland sheep he was coveting. Apparently, coyotes like to dine on lamb.
Even if you have no interest in keeping livestock, the festival makes for a wonderful outing; it’s part petting zoo and part holiday bazaar. If you knit, you can find skeins of every imaginable type of wool from suppliers like Red Hook’s Hudson Valley Sheep and Wool, and you can attend workshops in spinning and felt-making. And if you’re planning ahead for the holidays, you can buy handmade scarves, blankets, ponchos and mittens from dozens of vendors. And if you’re bringing children, the organizers suggest that the sheep dog trials, leaping lama contest, and canine Frisbee Demonstration will equally amuse the kids and adults. — Dan Shaw
New York State Sheep and Wool Festival
Dutchess County Fairgrounds
Rhinebeck, NY; 845.756.2323
October 18, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
October 19, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Admission: $12 (Two-day pass: $17)
Children under 12: Free
Free parking; no pets allowed.
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A Fall Foliage Drive: Millerton to Hudson, NY (or Vice Versa)
Not all scenic drives are created equal, and this bucolic 30-mile jaunt delivers enough smiles per mile to justify the gasoline you’ll use. The route, which connects Millerton and Hudson, is not only an insider’s shortcut between the two towns, but also a reminder that local agriculture is the key to preserving the rural landscape.
Though we started our drive in Millerton and ended at Olana, you can just as easily do this trip in reverse, concluding at the Harney & Sons Tea Lounge. The route is a rural cliche in the best sense, as along the way you can buy pumpkins and gourds, pick apples, shop for baked goods, and procure the last tomatoes and peaches of the season. You can even pick fall raspberries which, for some reason, are so much tastier than the ones you get in early summer. Best of all, you can revel in the vistas and fall foliage, and marvel that we reside in such an unspoiled land.
Begin at the intersection of Route 44 and Route 22 in Millerton. Head north on 22 and make your first left onto Route 60 (a.k.a. Winchell Mountain Road). When you reach the peak of the hill, there will be a cemetery on your left; make a right on Pulver Road, passing farmland and views of the Catskill Mountains in the distance. Make a left at the fork onto County Route 60, which brings you into Ancramdale. If you need coffee and an egg sandwhich, stop at The Farmer’s Wife. Continue straight ahead on 82, which becomes Route 23 when you cross Route 9, continuing on until you reach Route 9G. Turn left onto 9G just before the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
This farm offers more than just the perfect background for family photos. The pumpkins and gourds here are in pristine condition and they are exceedingly well-priced, with extra large pumpkins you can barely lift at just $10 each.
3201 Rte. 82, Ancram; 518.329.2280
Thompson Finch Farm
Thompson-Finch is not hard to find; it’s the second right, Wiltsie Bridge Road, after you pass through Ancram. As of September 27, you could still pick organic raspberries on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but call first to double check availability or check their website for daily updates.
750 Wiltsie Bridge Rd., Ancram; 518.329.7578
The West Taghkanic Diner
Whether it’s early or late in the day, this vintage 1953 diner is always convenient (and affordable) for comfort food like grilled cheese and french fries. It’s not hyperbole to say this is as all-American as it gets and feels like an appropriate stop when on a long country drive.
1016 State Rte. 82, Ancram; 518.851.7117
If your impulse is to bypass any place that looks like it was designed to appeal to tourists, you’ll drive right by the yellow barn that resembles a set director’s conception of a country store that you’d come upon on a Sunday drive in Columbia County. It’s exactly what you’d suspect, and Taconic Orchards has the aw-shucks feel of an old-time general store, with over 20 different varieties of apples, locally made cider, pies, apple fritters, fudge and a large variety of produce.
591 Rte. 82 Hudson; 518.851.7477
Fix Brothers Fruit Farm
Heading towards Olana, you will see a sign for “Fix Bros. Pick Your Own Apples.” Follow the arrows and you’ll pass acres and acres of orchards. This fourth-generation family farm has a wide variety of apples, including Macintosh, Cortland, Honey Crisp, Empire, Macoun and Jonagold. A corn maze and hay ride will keep the kids happy. And they’re open every day. 215 White Birch Rd., Hudson; 518.828.7560
If you want to tour the inside of the fantastical 19th-century Persian-style house, you have to call in advance and make a reservation. The owner and creator of Olana, the revered artist Frederic Church, created a landscape that makes the most of its hilltop setting, and the view down the Hudson looks like one of his famous paintings. It’s a magnificent vista any time of day, but never more so than just before sunset. 5720 Rte. 9G, Hudson; 518.828.0135