Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Time To Take Some Pointers From Other Places

Mary and I are planning to travel up to Ogunquit, Maine for a long weekend this summer. Ogunquit has become a tradition of ours for the past three years. It is fairly close, and in between the shmaltz of York and the high end tourist offerings of Kennebunk. Ogunquit also offers many things of its own that are well worth the visit.

This little ocean side village has somethings in common with Sturbridge. Lots of hotel rooms, and lots to do once there. Of course, there is always shopping in Ogunquit. From galleries to t-shirts, the town has something for every tourist. Here in Sturbridge we seem to be stuck in the antique and "primitive art" market.

In Sturbridge, we have our outdoors to explore, and of course Old Sturbridge Village when one isn't shopping with the kids for that must have antique, or black crow decorator accent. In Ogunquit, along Route 1, they have a variety of shops. Variety attracts more people. A flag store, a cupola and weather vane store, a store that sells just lighthouse stuff, book stores, some antique stores, clothing stores, small specialty grocery stores, the traditional souvenir shops that every tourist town needs, no matter how kitchy. There are dozens of other stores along the road to Kennebunk, too. Lots to browse on a cloudy, rainy day. There are only so many antique hunters out there, and only so many that want a cast iron plant hook.

There are a variety of hotels, and motels in Ogunquit. Each has it's own reason for being successful. Some are motels right on the water, others are wonderful old inns, and others are full service hotels.

Ogunquit also has a "trolley" to make sure the dollars get to the stores in comfort.

When one mentions Ogunquit to others, most likely the Marginal Way will come up. The Marginal Way is a wonderful paved path that runs along the crest of the rocks beside the ocean. It goes from downtown to Perkins Cove, a small area of more shops and restaurants on a tiny peninsula. So many people make a point of waking up and starting their day with this wonderful walk, and then spending their dollars at the other end in the shops, or grabbing breakfast.

A drive north, or south along Route 1 will deliver more shops, and restaurants to you just as moving in any direction from Sturbridge will expose you to more variety as well.

Ogunquit has been in the tourist business for way longer than Sturbridge, and we should be able to learn much from that Maine village, or practically any other place specializing in tourism. We seem to have dropped the ball along the way.

With the summer vacation days coming upon us, and more folks sticking closer to home, I hope that those visiting elsewhere in New England will find some neat thing in another area that would be something that would go well here in town. Trolleys, Sturbridge restaurants weeks, weekend events on the Common every weekend, maybe a souvenir store complete with t-shirts that read, "I Love Grandma. Sturbridge, Mass", little cedar boxes, and bumper stickers.

It's time to live up to being a tourist destination, and offer more to our visitors. The dollars can either stop here, or travel on to someplace else. I think they'd find a nice home here in Sturbridge.

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