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, July 31, 2013

I Don't Think I Have The Whole Story Yet

So, let me make sure I've got this right.

  • No yellow reflective tape on the poles in front of the new Cumberland Farms Store.
  • Concern over seeds being transported into the river from the new store.  
  • Nothing yet on the relocation of the gas pumps.
  • Nothing on the traffic burden on the adjacent Hinman Street?

But, in the "historic area" of Fiskdale, the same area that the town will not allow a drive-thru at Dunkin' Donuts because it would not be appropriate in such an historic neighborhood, they are going to allow a wonderful old neighborhood house to be leveled in order to allow a convenience store to rebuild itself?

Do I have this right?   What am I missing here?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Clueless In Fiskdale

Cumberland Farms is going to build a new store in the same location at the corner of Hinman, and Main Street.

Is the new Cumberland Farms going to sell gas?  Will the pumps be relocated, or will drivers continue to block off Hinman Street while waiting for a place at the pumps?  These aren't rhetorical questions, quite the opposite, I'm totally clueless.  Remember, I checked out for the summer weeks ago.

We've been discussing CVS having to run the gauntlet before the ConComm, I was wondering if Cumberlands had to do the same.

If you have any information, I'd appreciate hearing form you.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hey Kids! Let's Put On A Show!

One thing that will always attract people is an entertainment venue.  Whether it be a large auditorium for acts to perform, or something more intimate, such as a club/restaurant.  I've always thought that Sturbridge would a be fantastic place for just such a place.

The Manhattans performing at Scullers Jazz Club in
Cambridge this past weekend.
What I envisioned was a rural complex, not too far from the interstates, set on a some open fields in a large barn like structure with a great restaurant, and club inside.  The land around the restaurant would grow much of the food used on the menu, and the menu would be exciting, not just fish 'n chips.  The club portion of the facility would hold a few hundred people for people, and groups to perform.  The restaurant could also have a small area for performers to play background music.

Who would perform at The Meadows in Sturbridge?  Actually, anyone that could attract a crowd.  R&B, jazz, pop, rock, and classical are all genres that could fill the space.

"We're going up to Sturbridge this weekend to catch Diana Krall at The Meadows."  Sounds nice.

I've thought about this for years.  I just need a millionaire with the seed money, and a sense of adventure.  They're a dime a dozen, I know, but we also need one with a bit of vision, too.

This past weekend we spent date night at one such venue in Cambridge, along the Charles River at Scullers Jazz Club inside the Double Tree Hotel.  Scullers is world renown, and has hosted performers like Tony Bennent, Chris Botti, and Wynton Marsalis.  Although, it's capacity is only 150, it is large enough to host a large ensemble such as the one we saw Saturday night, the famous Manhattans ("You Are My Shining Star", Let's Just Kiss And Say Goodbye").  The show, on Saturday night, was fantastic, and the "joint was packed".  We also enjoyed a great dinner before the show in the Green Room Restaurant.

This type of entertainment would be perfect in town, and would attract a whole different crowd than the family oriented seekers of Americana.  The word of a new entertainment facility being built would also attract the attention of many others that would want to benefit from that particular clientele.  Once built, and up and running, the folks that it would attract would add to our economy in other ways that the typical family visiting Old Sturbridge Village does not.

I may not have the business acumen that many others have, but one thing I do not lack is vision.  This idea would not only be wonderful for our area, but an excellent investment as well.  

Think it over.  Talk it over with your millionaire friends, and let's put on a show! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ma, We's Got Bears Down On The Podunk Turnpike

Black bear out on his morning patrol on
Podunk road in Sturbridge, MA on July 24.

A few years ago the town was agog with bear sightings.  Seems a black bear came to town from over in Southbridge, and wandered about for awhile.  A year, or so, after that visit came another sighting of a large bear up on Brookfield Road near the schools.  He was meandering across some yards in the late afternoon. 

Black bears in western Massachusetts are a fairly common thing, and are often seen on porches, trash barrels, rumaging around the bird feeders.  Out here, in Central Mass, they are a lot less common.

Same bear stopping by the photographers
house a bit later on for a play date.

Or, they were a lot less common. 

Over the past several years the bear population has increased further east, and they are as comfortable in Sturbridge as they are in North Adams.  In fact, over the past month or so, bears have been sighted in Webster, Charlton, and here in Sturbridge.

This morning, a friend of ours, Georianna Shea, was driving home from her overnight shift at the hospital, when she came across a large black bear on Podunk Road.  The bear was contently ambling along the middle of Podunk before wandering into the woods.  He later reappeared on Georgie's front yard. 

Black bears were here long before us, but until recently they were not so close.  Unless they become a nusiance, they are here to stay.  Don't expect the Fish & Wildlife folks to relocate every bear in the area to some remote park in the Berkshires; what's happening is natural.  What we need to do is learn to live with them, and when they do become a nusiance, we need to report it, otherwise live, and let live.

Below is a the Black Bear Fact sheet from the MSPCA.  Look it over, and give it to the kids to read, too.  You never know when you'll run into one of them, and having just a bit more knowledge than you had 10 minutes ago can help to avoid all sorts of problems in the future.

About Black Bears

The bears you may encounter in Massachusetts are black bears, the most common of the three bear types that live in North America. Black bears grow to about five feet tall and can weigh 100 to 600 pounds. A black bear’s diet consists mostly of fruits, nuts, and insects along with small live prey and carrion, making them omnivorous. Black bears live solitary lives except when they are courting mates and rearing cubs. Cubs are usually born in the spring and stay with their mothers until they are about two years old. They become sexually mature at about age three, but usually don’t breed until age five.


Although black bears have historically shied away from humans, they may wander onto human-inhabited property, primarily looking for food.

Take these steps to keep them away:

•Eliminate all food sources from your yard. Secure open compost piles, clean up spilled seed from bird feeders, clean and put away grills, and bring in all pet food remnants and containers if companion animals are fed outside.

•Store garbage in a shed or garage between garbage collection days. Put out garbage the morning of garbage collection day rather than the night before.

•Firmly secure your garbage containers with bungee cords (click here for image) or purchase bear-proof garbage containers. Click here to find vendors that sell bear-proof garbage containers.

•Limit bear access to beehives, orchards, and farm fields by installing electric fencing or heavy-gauge fencing with barbed wire.

•Install motion light sensors and use loud radios.

If you run into a black bear:

(Please note: These tips are for encounters with black bears only. If you are traveling in areas where other types of bears may be present, seek information and advice about how to handle bear encounters in those regions.)

A bear encounter can be scary. These animals are most dangerous when they are accompanied by cubs, are feeding or guarding food, are injured, or are startled by the sudden appearance of a human. Bears who have frequent exposure to humans in campgrounds or around garbage dumps are less fearful and can be more dangerous. If you are in an area where you know bears may be present, carry hot-pepper spray with capsaicin as the active ingredient. If sprayed from 7 to 10 feet away, the repellent irritates the eyes without permanently injuring the animal.

Take the following steps if you spot a bear.

•Stay calm and never approach the bear, but keep your eyes on them and hold your ground. This may be all that is necessary to de-escalate the situation.

•Wave your arms and appear as big as possible.

•Make noise by banging objects or by shouting in a human voice. Do not imitate a bear’s growl or other animal noises.

•If all else fails, throw things at the bear to get him to move on.

•In the unlikely event that the bear bluff charges, experts advise standing still since the bear usually uses this bluff charge as a warning before turning and moving off. If attacked by a black bear, be aggressive and fight back.


As with all mammals, bears can contract rabies.

Photographs courtesy of Georgianna Shea  Sturbridge, MA 

Am I Off Base, Or On Target?

There is a rumor that CVS is looking to build at the corner of Holland Road, and Route 20.

Nothing official, only rumor.  The same rumor also elicited the comment that CVS was nothing more than a corporation, and that corporations are not helpful, only hurtful to the local economy.


The people making the comments must feel that the only local people should own local business.  Problem is that no matter where you go, you are local, and that would mean all corporations should be excluded.

No Shell, Stop & Shop, Walmart, iParty, Marshalls, Staples, Cumberland Farms.  You get the point.  So why am I wasting anytime on this topic at all?  Well, because with all our positive attributes for corporations to set up shop here in town, I am still in disbelief that more have not.  We are a town that is bisected by two interstate highways, one US route, 20, and three state routes, 148, 131, and 49.  From Sturbridge you can get anywhere without having to travel the backroads of Central Mass, but more importantly, anyone in Central Mass, and beyond, can easily get to Sturbridge. We have acres of land available for industry, retail, and entertainment.

Let's review.  Exceptional access, lots of land, an easy drive from  most anywhere in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island yet we are nothing more than business No Mans Land.

What could be the common denominator that could possibly be such an influence on our communal welfare?

Maybe the same group that could  make it easy, attractive, and beneficial to businesses, is the same group that has been too restrictive making it unattractive for corporations to look here.

This is not just my opinion.  It is how the industry feels as well.  Sturbridge, as it stands, is a no go.

This all could be changing in the near future.  Springfield, West Springfield, and Palmer are all being actively sought by casino corporations.  Regardless of how you feel about casinos, when an industry sets up shop, and employs over 5000 people in one location, and is built within 25 minutes of 01566/18, it will stimulate a growth in the area not seen since the post war years. Unless the powers that be start planning for the future now, we will be run over by progress instead of being part of it.

It would great if we could do it without the threat of a casino on the horizon, but at this time, I think that is what it is going to take.

Take another sip of coffee, and discuss.

Monday, July 22, 2013

First Annual Roots N' Bluegrass Festival

The Sturbridge Tourist Association is pleased to present a Roots N' Bluegrass Festival on the Town Common (Route 131 across from the Publick House) on Saturday, September 14, 2013, from approximately 12:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

There will be 6 bands, including the 7:00 p.m. headlining act, Tony Trischka Territory; also, the Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band, Les Sampou, and even some zydeco music!

There will be delicious food for sale by Rovezzi's Ristorante and other local restaurants and artisans selling their wares such as pottery, beaded jewelry, wood carving, alpaca knitwear and dyed yarns, and watercolor paintings, to mention a few. And let's not forget the KIDS who can enjoy a bouncy house, face painting and a fun magician who will challenge your kid's senses.

This is a free concert and there is free parking. I suggest coming early to get good parking but be prepared to carry your items to the Common.

Libations (BYOB), coolers, lawnchairs and blankets are most welcome!
See you there and please pass this along to your friends!

Carol Childress
Sturbridge Tourist Association
Sturbridge, MA

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taking A True Vacation

Vacations are a break from the doing the same thing each day. Not just a break from the tasks at hand, but a time to unload the thoughts, stresses, worries of everyday life , and work, and let your brain rattle around unmolested.  

That is why we  need to vacation.   It has to do with emptying all that stuff that has been accumulating in our heads for the past year that has been gumming up the works.  It is a therapy.  What could be better than to empty ones head than by leaving your everyday life behind, not looking back, and concentrating solely on hiking shoes, paddle boards, feeling good,  fried clams, sunscreen, and vegetating so deeply you will actually take root in  an Adirondack chair.

Nothing.  Nothing could be better.  

A girl blends into the rocks as she watches the sunrise.  A great,
and simple, activity requiring nothing more than the willingness
to get out of bed.
©2012 WJ Hersee
Now, vacations are not just respite from work.  They are a walk away from anything one does all the time that consumes them.  Work is a given, but for those not working at a paid job, like stay at home moms, and dads with a gaggle of children, it works the same way.  Being a parent in the mountains with the children is easier on the soul than than when at home.   No clue as to why, but might have something to do with all that flotsam released at home prior to loading up the Caravan.

Vacations are meant to let go, relax, recharge, decompress, and reconfigure your inner systems.  A recalibration of our systems to take on the coming year is something we all need, otherwise we will tackle the new year with an outdated machine. If we were disappointed with the previous year it is not going to get any better in the coming year if you keep doing it with the same clutter in your attic.

I think that that a lot of folks actually dread vacations.  There's the planning, shopping for supplies, the travel arrangements, and packing all the while you are still working, and stressing.  The stress, and dread only increases, and carries over into your time away.

Here's a simple way of telling the difference between a vacation, and a family event, which is just redirected work in another location.

A fisherman alone with his thoughts.  ©2012 WJ Hersee
A vacation is time away.  Away anywhere.  No schedule, no rules.  Maybe a desire to do, but no urgency to do it before the end of the week.  

A vacation is time to wake up early to catch the sunrise if you haven't had a chance to all year long, or sleep late if you have greeted too many sunrises over the past twelve months.  If it's a beach day, then all you need is a blanket, some chairs, sunscreen, and something to wear that you don't mind getting wet.  The sun will dry you. No big production, no major planning, just go.    Nothing planned other swimming, sunning, walking the shore, reading, and people watching.  

A family event, like time at Disney World, requires a time schedule, planning multiple destinations for the day, transportation, and meals for the day, the location of those meals, reservations, running from place to place so that you get your moneys worth. This is only the planning for each day you're there, it doesn't even include the pre-trip planning.  That can be a stroke in the making.

In other words, it's work.  Another job, in a nicer place, happier place than work, but still, it's work.  The head doesn't have a chance to empty, only more is added.

That's the difference between an event, and a vacation.  

Don't fool yourself next time you are due to take some time off from work, be sure to plan downtime into your family event.  That way it will become a vacation, and not just another race to the finish.  You did that all year long, now it is time to take off the running shoes, and put on flip-flops, grab a rod, and do nothing more exerting than thinking, and then, not even out loud.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being A Bit Lazy; Still In Vacation Mode

While away I received an email from with suggestions for me to follow up on since he had not seen anything written as of late.  I didn't address them then, because vacation takes precedence.  Naturally.

I've annotated my responses to the email in red.  It's a lazy mans way of responding, I know, but until I walk back into that building, I'm still on vacation.

Hello Wally. I haven't seen much posted lately, and I though I'd throw out a couple of tidbits for you.

FIrstly, did you see the equipment a couple of week ago at New Boston Road and Rt. 20?  There was a Ditch Witch along with some other equipment.  They left an additional pipe on either side of the road to add to the one that has been there since late last year.  Surely the town knows what's going on there, but I haven't seen a thing in the papers.

We all thought it may be traffic lights, but nowI think it is just a telcom link to the state police barracks, or something less exciting. 
Did you notice that the Mobil station at Rt. 20 and Rt.131 has closed?  I never would patronize the place  as I found the gas was way overpriced.  I believe the corporation that owned it was called Sladdin and Daughter.  I recall my wife telling me that "Sladdin" passed away last year.  Anyway, perhap a more reasonably priced station will re-occupy that location like Stop 'N Shop gas did.

I haven't bought a full tank of gas there in years.  35-50 cents over the cheapest gas in town was nothing more than gouging the residents, and tourists.  We have enough gas stations in town.  They should close it for good, tear it down, and turn it in to a park. 
Have you noticed that the Kiwi Yogut place has yet to open?  If they don't open soon, it'll be Fall and people will be looking for hot chocolate.  Regardless, I hate to be a prophet of doom, but I don't believe it will ever make it in our town.  I often wonder what possesses people to invest perhaps their life savings into a business that the public would take one look at, and say "forget it!".  Have you seen the store openings and closings along Main Street in just the past year?  Advertise people, advertise!

In some ways we are like the Cape.  LIttle businesses open, and close.  They try the waters, some make it, some don't.  Others don't intend to make it more than a season.  The frozen yogurt store may not open, or last longer than a month or two, but it's nothing new around here.  I did notice that the sign was not put in permanently.  It is attached to a platform and covered with mulch.  That does not have the ring of permanence to it. 
I took my visiting family to the beach at Lake Quacumquasit, aka. South Pond over the Forth of July weekend to get relief from the heat.  OK, it's not technically Sturbridge or Fiskdale but what the heck.  Clean, warm water, lots of people, but I suspect few residents.

South Pond is shared by both Brookfield and Sturbridge.  The shoreline of South Pond is 80% developed with ear round homes, and cottages.  It has more than a few residents.  It is a great place to go to beat the heat.  Streeter Point Beach is also a great place to bring the family, too.  
 FInally, I wish your column ( as I have said before) had more town gossip in it.  I'd love to see tidbits of news that don't make the paper or town news that the administration doesn't want to feed us.

I don't go ferreting around looking for news.  I stumble on it as I'm out and about town, someone may offer me a tip  (which happens a lot) , or I read something in the local papers.   Gossip is something I don't do.  I may venture a guess as to what may happen, what is being built, or how folks will react, but I don't gossip. That you can get from reading the comments posted in the Telegram.

Now, I still have twelve more hours of vacation left.  It's hammock time.