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Never Mind The Temps, Jumpfest Goes On (And Turns 90)

Photo: Mel Morales

By Lauren Curran

Next weekend, when Satre Hill in Salisbury, Conn. is icy and slick and the first ski jumper there soars into flight, a time-honored, local tradition will turn 90. Ski jumping runs deep in the roots of Salisbury and, along with it, the coinciding winter festival known as Jumpfest, which runs through Feb. 14. As per tradition, the winter festival features everything from the zany — a human dogsled race — to old-fashioned fun: bonfires, a chili contest, karate and ice sculpture demonstrations, a bourbon tasting, restaurant specials and a Snow Ball Dance.

“It’s become part of the fabric of our community,” says John Sullivan, a member of the board of directors of the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA), the nonprofit group that sponsors Jumpfest and fosters ski jumping for all ages. 

The volunteer-run festival, with the ski jump competition at its core, attracts thousands of people — one year as many as 5,000. The activities begin on the 11th with sales, gallery openings and other community events. Then the flying begins. The schedule: Friday, Feb. 12 is the target ski competition; Sat., Feb. 13 is Salisbury Invitational ski jumping; Sunday, Feb. 14 holds the Eastern U.S. Ski Jumping Championships, where competitors, some of whom you may see in the next winter Olympic Games, seek to earn a spot in the Junior Nationals held the following weekend. Three of the four ski jumpers on the last winter Olympics team competed here. 

Photo: Kate Erwin

“It’s such an extraordinary event right here in northwestern Connecticut. You can’t really see it anywhere else,” says Hallihan. “Each day has its own personality.”

Tucked between the scheduled ski jumps are events for kids and adults. On Friday, after target ski jumping, the human dogsled races kick off, featuring six-person teams with one lucky member chosen to ride inside the team-designed sled. The remaining members pull. “It’s a crowd favorite,” says Hallihan. One year, a competing team went with a Viking theme: helmets with horns and half of a canoe as the sled. The Falls Village Volunteer Ambulance also has competed with a sled design suited to the team: a mini ambulance.

With fun and frivolity so much a part of Jumpfest, it’s no wonder so many people turn out to cheer the skiers with cowbells in hand at the hill’s base.

“If you haven’t seen ski jumping live, you haven’t witnessed the sport,” Hallihan says.

Jumpfest, A Winter Festival
February 12-14 in Salisbury, CT

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/01/16 at 12:48 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Monterey

By Rachel Louchen

For some residents, the selling point of Monterey is proximity to Great Barrington and other Berkshire towns. To visitors less familiar, Monterey is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village with a big forest to hike. But it is so much more. There are active community members, great food, farms, hiking, swimming, camping, animals and world-class views. It’s really one of the most well-rounded towns in the Rural Intelligence region. There are many reasons it gets so much attention from the New York Times. Here are 10 of them.

1.) The cheese. Glorious, creamy, fresh, locally-sourced cheese comes out of Rawson Brook Farm. Appropriately named Monterey Chevre, the cheese comes in three varieties: plain, chives and garlic, and thyme and oil. Owner Susan Sellew pasteurizes the milk from her goats, makes the cheese by hand, then ladles it into cheesecloth to hang and incubate. The entire small-batch process is aided by the fresh goat’s milk, courtesy of healthy Monterey goats.

The Harvest Barn at Gould Farm.

2.) The mission. Gould Farm is known for its eggs, dairy and made-from-scratch bakery treats but, most importantly, it’s a psychiatric rehabilitation program for adults with mental illness. Founded in 1913, the residential community helps patients as they work together on the farm, learning new job skills in a supportive environment. The unique facility provides a safe environment and a sense of community for patients, aided by the clinical team that helps them manage symptoms of their mental health diseases. The fruits of their labor are available at the Harvest Barn, a retail bakery that serves bread and pastries made on site, plus their famous maple syrup, honey, cheddar cheese, jams and chocolates. Gould Farm and the positive work the residents and staff do is a leading factor in what makes Monterey such a special community.

Photo courtesy of the Bidwell House Museum.

3.) The history. Settled in 1739 and incorporated in 1847, Monterey’s Colonial times are alive and well, thanks in part to the Bidwell House Museum, an authentic 1750 Georgian Saltbox. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was the residence of Reverend Adonijah Bidwell and today serves as a museum, open for tours from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The house is appointed with original 18th- and 19th-century furnishings that include collections of artwork, quilts, furniture, silver, needlework, baskets and rugs. Bidwell House is also notable for its surrounding 192 acres of hiking trails, with extensive perennial beds and stone walls scattered throughout the property. The entire town can be considered historic: the first United States Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, passed through Monterey in 1776 on his way to end the Siege of Boston. The route he took is now known as the Henry Knox Trail.

4.) The forest. A popular hiking spot is Beartown State Forest, which offers more than 12,000 acres of trails. The extensive paths lead you (with options from beginner to advanced) through the forest inhabited by abundant wildlife: deer, bobcats, and even black bears — the forest’s namesake. Beartown is well known for its fall foliage display, especially on the 1.5-mile Benedict Pond Loop Trail. Camping year round is an option here and it’s camping in the truest sense of the word: there are no bathroom or shower facilities. But that doesn’t deter campers who want to be near water and trails. As the snow begins to fall, winter hiking gives way to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

5.) The water. Lake Garfield is one of the largest (262 acres) and most picturesque lakes in the Berkshires. It’s also one of the few lakes in our region with a public beach that doesn’t require resident parking passes. In the summer, it’s populated by swimmers and boaters, and in the colder weather, ice skaters. It has over a dozen species of fish, most notably rainbow trout, so the lake attracts fishermen from far and wide. The nearby Benedict Pond at Beartown State Forest is a popular canoeing spot for its relatively short length and undeveloped shoreline surrounded by thickly settled woodland. Lake Buel is known for its many beaches, waterfront cottages and summer camps.

Mount Hunger image courtesy of The Monterey Preservation Land Trust.

6.) The land. Farmland and rolling acres abound in Monterey. That’s because 67 percent of the land is protected, thanks to the Monterey Preservation Land Trust. The highlight of the MPLT’s conservation land is Mount Hunger, a 385-acre property open to the public. Mount Hunger has it all, offering the best in hiking trails, long-range views and natural landscapes. The three miles of trails pass by wetlands, scenic vistas, charcoal pits and stone walls.

7.) The books. Like many historic towns, Monterey has a cherished library; it was established in 1891 and moved to its current location on Main Street in 1931. Located in the heart of the village near the post office, general store, town hall and Monterey United Church, the Monterey Public Library is an anchor of the town. There are adult book discussions, stitching circles, book sales and art exhibits. The Knox Gallery, an exhibition space and community meeting spot inside the library, hosts eight shows a year featuring the work of local artists. Until January 30, 4 elements — a community group exhibit featuring works from nearly 40 artists — explores the themes of earth, fire, water and air.

8.) The pancakes. When The Huffington Post recently included the Roadside Cafe on its list of 11 best pancakes in America, Monterey residents weren’t surprised; the cafe is one of the town’s best-kept secrets. Located on Route 23, it looks, from the outside, like your standard greasy spoon, but guests will be blown away at the quality of the ingredients, which are sourced right down the road at the cafe’s owner, Gould Farm. The eggs are farm fresh, as is the cheese, and the granola, maple syrup and yogurt are all homemade. The staff is made up of guests transitioning from their time at the Farm, so you’re also supporting a great cause with your meal. The famous pancakes are offered in buckwheat and buttermilk, and come in three sizes, the largest of which calls to mind those needing to be flipped by a shovel in the movie Uncle Buck. The rest of the menu is filled with staples like Belgian waffles, breakfast burritos, huge omelets and really tasty lunch options.

9.) The general store. The village of Monterey exudes classic New England charm, all white buildings and black shutters. The centerpiece of the town is the Monterey General Store, which looks like your typical country village store, but inside is so much more. The décor pays tribute to the year it was built, 1780, with its exposed posts and beams and authentic wood floors. But the vibe is distinctly cool, selling important as-needed goods like milk, bread and eggs along with fun gifts, stationary, postcards and lotions. Freshly baked pies, bread and pastries are made daily, and there is a small but satisfying breakfast and lunch menu filled with staples like egg, lox, turkey and tuna sandwiches. It’s the ideal people-watching spot; pretty much everyone in town wanders in at some point, and the back patio overlooks a brook shaded with greenery in the summer. The front porch of the store has a helpful bulletin board where you can get information about upcoming yoga classes, babysitting services, and bikes and snowplows for sale. It’s truly Monterey’s community hub and is a good first stop to learn about the town.

10.) The community spirit. Ask anyone who lives in Monterey why they love it, and you’re sure to get a different story each time, but always a passionate response. One resident says Monterey has “truly the best road crew in the Berkshires, in terms of plowing and road maintenance.” Another notes the intriguing mix of diverse and passionate homeowners, some who live here year round and others who chose it for quiet, peaceful weekends. Two-thirds of Monterey residents are second homeowners who appreciate the opportunity to live on the water, and the bucolic sights make it an inspirational place for artists and writers. There’s mention of the dedicated farmers, the cute animals and the wonderful town clerk. One pragmatic resident said his favorite thing about Monterey is the very low taxes… and that the cell phone reception is getting better.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 12/29/15 at 08:56 PM • Permalink

Your Own Holiday Bubble — Made Of Glass, Made By You

By Lauren Curran

You must believe us when we say our intention is to cover every nook and cranny of the Rural Intelligence region. But, okay, there still might be some pockets of wonderfulness here or there in that wide swath we haven’t explored as much as we should. So we’re glad when the holiday season alerts us to a new place to share with our readers. Thank you, Christmas in Riverton, Conn.

This weekend, Dec. 4-6, way over on the eastern edge of Litchfield County, the village of Riverton in the town of Barkhamsted will celebrate the holidays with a candlelight wine tour, a festival of trees, horse-drawn wagon rides and — what really captured us — an opportunity to partake in an ancient art seldom available at holiday celebrations: glass blowing your own ornament. Resident glass blower Peter Greenwood will open his studio on Saturday, Dec. 4, allowing visitors to step inside to create a glass orb using the heat of a roaring furnace and a long, metal rod. If this doesn’t bring out your inner Chihuly, nothing will.

Located in a circa 1829 former Episcopal church that he and his wife now own, Greenwood’s studio and craft harkens back to an age when glass bottles and other vessels were hand blown through a long metal pipe with taffy-like molten glass stuck on at one end, with the other end reserved for the artist to blow into. And that’s precisely how you’ll make your ornament. But first, you get to choose the colored chips to be melted and swirled into the molten glass blob. Then you’ll blow into the rod held by Greenwood. That deep breath will create a glass bubble that when hardened is your ornament. It’s like breathing life into a shimmering piece of art.

Walk into Greenwood’s studio and the first thing you’ll notice is the warmth from the furnace used to melt the glass, a bonus on a cold, December day. The $32 cost to design the ornament includes all materials, and the process takes only about five minutes. While the activity might seem fleeting, it’s the process that people usually find most fascinating as they watch the orange-hued, molten glass miraculously harden into a work of art. Greenwood says his favorite part about working with customers is watching how nervousness in the beginning turns to awe. “The expression on their face…is precious,” he says.

Greenwood offers various glass blowing workshops, too, in which participants can make paper weights and glass flowers. Several companies have even hosted team-building workshops at his studio. On one particular day, the phone rang several times with people inquiring about coming in to attend one of the workshops. “Most people are intimidated when they come in,” Greenwood says. “After they make their paper weight they’re amazed at how easy it was.”

In addition to the studio downstairs, an airy gallery upstairs showcases Greenwood’s stunning work. A cobalt blue chandelier, a large table, lighting – all made of glass, of course – are on display and for sale, as well as smaller items such as water pitchers, goblets and pumpkins, a holdover from fall. Candy-colored swirls of glass can be seen in every part of the room. Items range in cost from $5 to $25,000. If you’re busy this weekend, it’s worth a visit on another day.

Born in Hartford, Greenwood is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and came to the glass blowing discipline in 1979. His work has been shown in museums and galleries throughout the world, including The Louvre in Paris, The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT and the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio. His glassworks are also in numerous private collections.

Just as your self-made glass ornament can be a part of yours.

Glass-blown Holiday Ornament Workshop
Peter Greenwood Glass Blowing Studio and Gallery

Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
3 Robertsville Road, Riverton, CT
(860) 738-9464

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/01/15 at 08:15 PM • Permalink

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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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/26/15 at 02:22 PM • Permalink

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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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/29/15 at 12:03 PM • Permalink

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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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/08/15 at 08:54 PM • Permalink

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.

Debra Lill.

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
(860) 738-2240

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/30/15 at 09:56 AM • Permalink

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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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/26/15 at 12:21 PM • Permalink

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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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/17/15 at 11:20 AM • Permalink

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.
Berkshire County

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.

Hilltop Orchards
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.

Columbia County

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.
Dutchess County

Burger Hill and Poets’ Walk

These two properties protected by Scenic Hudson offer wide opens spaces with spectacular vistas for skiiing or snowshoeing.

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.
Litchfield County

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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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 01/01/15 at 09:14 PM • Permalink