In and Around Fitchburg, Massachusetts

This blog was created to discuss some of the positive aspects of living in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, that are often overlooked by outsiders and residents alike.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fitchburg Art Museum

Earlier this month, I attended the opening reception for several new exhibits at the Fitchburg Art Museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’d never been to the museum before. My visit definitely exceeded my expectations! The turn-out for the event was quite good, and many of the artists were available to discuss their work.

I was most interested in viewing the Ansel Adams photography exhibit, with much of the work shown in Fitchburg having never previously been displayed. The curator did a fabulous job pulling together a comprehensive selection of images from a sailing journey taken by Adams and a colleague in 1940. For those familiar with Adams’ more famous work, be aware that this collection is geared towards photographs of the people and sailing vessel involved with the trip rather than sweeping natural landscapes. However, there were a few shots somewhat representative of a more typical Adams style, including some mesmerizing images of patterns created in the water by the boat’s wake.

Several other exhibits opened in conjunction with the “headliner” Adams exhibit. Frank Gohlke’s photographs from along the Sudbury River continued the natural photography theme, depicting a variety of scenes along the river throughout all four seasons. Gohlke juxtaposed scenic images with more jarring ones, such as a photograph of a discarded wheelchair rusting in the river. A third and final newly-opened exhibit featured illustrations from a variety of children’s books. It served as an interesting reminder that talented artists often present their work in unlikely places – as someone who does not have children, it’s not often that I take the time to view the images put forth in children’s books! I was most struck by the incredibly detailed sketches of Gordon Morrison. The focus of Morrison’s work was the natural world, which served as a fitting tie-in with the Adams and Gohlke exhibits.

In addition to the current special exhibits, the Fitchburg Art Museum also features a variety of other collections and offers an impressive selection of art classes for people of all ages. I’d highly recommend a visit!


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ice Skating at Coggshall Park

On the day when my husband and I were scheduled for a showing of the house we would eventually purchase, we arrived about 30 minutes early for our appointment with the realtor. We decided to use the free time to explore the area surrounding our future home’s neighborhood and happened upon the entrance to Coggshall Park. After a brief drive through the park, we were enamored with it. However, we had no idea at the time how frequently we would soon be visiting Coggshall!

Coggshall Park is truly a hidden gem. The park consists of more than 250 acres, including a picturesque central pond known as Mirror Lake (with a gazebo and water fowl, such as swans), a "stone house" that includes restrooms, a children’s playground, and numerous well-marked hiking trails. It's the perfect spot for a jog, a walk with your dog, or a picnic by the water. There is no fee for entrance or parking. In the summer, there are even free concerts that are quite well attended.

As much as I enjoy meandering through the park in warm weather, there’s something particularly captivating about Coggshall in the winter. The city clears a section of Mirror Lake for ice skating, and I was there this weekend to take advantage of it. Amazingly enough, there was no one else on the ice! It was quite a treat – as a native New Englander, I’ve spent my share of time attempting to skate peacefully amongst fast-paced ice hockey games in any location that a town maintains and clears. Skating at Coggshall was a completely different experience, with the quiet and the gorgeous scenery providing an unmatched level of serenity. Our only companions were a young family and a few people out walking their dogs.

While there, we spoke with a man who indicated he had lived in Fitchburg his entire life. He deemed ice-skating at the park “Fitchburg’s best-kept secret” and told us that decades ago, Coggshall Park was the place to be in the winter. In those days, multiple sections of the pond were cleared to provide separate areas for figure skating, ice hockey, and games of snap-the-whip. A fire was kept burning in the stone house, live music played, vendors served up warm food and beverages, the local AM radio station broadcast the activities live over the air, and the pond was lit for nighttime skating. His story evoked such vivid images, we could easily imagine the scene. It’s unfortunate that people seem to have forgotten the potential of Coggshall to bring together our community in the winter months, but perhaps that can change with time. I hope to see some of you there next time I’m out skating…if we get enough people interested, at the very least, I’m happy to start bringing along hot chocolate and cookies to share!


Friday, February 09, 2007

No Place For Hate®

Last night, I attended a meeting of the newly-established Fitchburg “No Place for Hate®” (NPFH) campaign. NPFH® is a nationwide effort created by the Anti-Defamation League to foster inclusive community environments. There are approximately sixty cities and towns in Massachusetts participating in the program, including Lexington, Melrose, New Bedford, Peabody, Watertown, Wellesley, and Worcester.

The meeting was facilitated by a representative from the Massachusetts NPFH® organization. Meeting attendees included city residents, a youth sports coach, several religious leaders, a city councilor, and representatives from the Human Rights Commission, the Fitchburg Police Department, Fitchburg State College, Neighborhoods and You, Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, and the Fitchburg School Board.

Fitchburg has declared its intentions to participate in the NPFH® program, and the next step is to begin organizing community activities related to the theme of understanding diversity. The group reviewed existing NPFH® programming suggestions and brainstormed an array of events that would be appropriate to arrange in our city. The decision was made to focus on developing a partnership with the school system to encourage students to interview members of different cultures, a graffiti “paint out” program, diversity-related parade floats and activities in association with Fitchburg’s July Civic Days celebration, and a “pot-luck” ethnic food dinner. At the next meeting, it will be determined to which of these events initial planning priority will be directed.

In addition to discussing future events, the group spoke of the importance of cataloging existing activities within the city that fit within the principles of the NPFH® program. There was also talk regarding options for publicizing NPFH® and related activities. The value of establishing relationships with local media outlets, such as Fitchburg Pride and FATV, was highlighted by many at the meeting. Efforts will also be made to create other communication outlets, such as a newsletter and blog.

Ultimately, last night’s meeting provided an outstanding glimpse of what our community can accomplish under the auspices of the NPFH® program. However, success is dependent upon the involvement of as many people as possible, and all present agreed that we would love to have additional members of the community attend future meetings. So to anyone out there reading this, I would strongly encourage you to join us at the next meeting, which has been scheduled for Thursday, March 15, at 6:00 p.m. in the library at Memorial Middle School (615 Rollstone Street). Feel free to send me an email (address available in my profile) if you have any questions. In addition, I will soon be creating a separate blog to post meeting minutes and other NPFH® information, and I will post a link here when that has been set up. I hope to meet many of you next month!

[Addendum: The NPFH® blog can now be accessed at Oh, and my apologies for having to use the ® symbol all over the place - just trying to avoid getting sued! I promise though, the group is very welcoming...]


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Old Mill Restaurant

Continuing on the prior topic of breakfast venues, my favorite local Sunday brunch spot is The 1761 Old Mill Restaurant in Westminster. The buffet spread includes a variety of outstanding breakfast foods in addition to carving stations, other entree items, and a tempting array of desserts. The cost even includes a champagne toast! While the food quality and variety at The Old Mill is fabulous, the true highlight of this restaurant is the quaint atmosphere. Brunch is offered in a cozy, window-lined room overlooking a small pond. Reservations aren't required (or necessary, at least the mornings I’ve been there), but consider making one anyone to request a window seat - the staff cannot guarantee seating requests but will do their best to accommodate. The grounds are gorgeous, as are the many character-filled dining rooms. Special events are frequently held at the restaurant, with the classic setting serving as the perfect backdrop for photographs. The Old Mill also has much to offer in the way of lunch and dinner dining, and the Cracker Barrel Lounge area is a charming spot to relax with a drink.

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