Posted by: Tim Kane | October 1, 2009

Hyland Orchard, still on the hill

By Jonathan Cook
Turley Publications Reporter

STURBRIDGE – News about Pioneer Brewing leaving Hyland Orchard & Brewery for a location on Main Street has garnered plenty of attention. But it has left many people wondering, what will happen to the orchard up on the hill?
Rest assured, proprietor Chris Damon said, not much will change.
“My family is committed to keeping it going,” he said. And that means, apples, animals, music and a brewery with a bar.
Only one question remains. Who will run the brewery?
Damon said he has had many offers from investors who love the place and don’t want to see anything happen to it. He has also talked with a brewer from New Hampshire who would like to come in and operate the brewery. But Damon says he is inclined to keep the operation close to his family once again.
While he credits Tim Daley and Todd Sullivan of Pioneer Brewing with “crossing some hurdles we weren’t able to cross” when they took over the brewing process in 2004 and made it a success, having another entity on the inside can be disjointed.
For example, Pioneer eliminated the Hyland line of ales and began making only Pioneer.
Also, Damon said two liquor licenses became necessary, creating a divide between the bar and the pavilion.
Once Pioneer has vacated, which Damon expects will occur in March 2010, he wants to reunify the license and bring back Hyland’s staple brews – Amber and Pale.
Furthermore, even when Pioneer takes a whole set of brewing equipment with them, Hyland has a second set ready to be plumbed in. Damon estimates it’ll take one month to begin brewing on site.
Until then the plan is to contract brew the Hyland recipes with another brewery, plus feature a variety of guest taps in the bar. Other than beer, also available is wine, bottled water, fruit juice, and soda.

The Hyland in the orchard

Something about the winding climb from Brookfield on Rice Corner Road and the straight uphill ascent made from Sturbridge on Arnold Road must have struck home for Jim Hyland more than 60 years ago.
It’s not hard to imagine why he sold three properties to buy 144 acres under the wide-open sky.
In 1945, he came to a hobby orchard that had been grown over for years and in his mind’s eye he saw thriving apple trees.
“He was rewarded with 30 years of clearing stones,” his daughter Sally Damon said. Yet, Hyland Orchard was born.
Sally, who is also Chris’s mother, grew up in the house and moved back in 1976 to raise Chris, Don, and Melissa. But somewhere along the way, the orchard and woodland acreage was sold to a developer. For more than 10 years the orchard remained untended, until Chris’s father Eugene Damon came in to finance the purchase of the bulk of the original land, build a brewery, establish a variety of farm animal populations, and plant new apple trees.
Then Chris, like his grandfather, began clearing overgrown land and saving what old trees he could while patiently pruning for five years before the fruit would grow. The work paid off this year in a bumper crop of apples. “The best I’ve ever seen,” Chris said.
All varieties but Courtland are outdoing themselves for size, ripeness and abundance, he said. The orchard sells overflowing bags or empty ones for those who like to pick their own.
For one thing, Damon, explained, the trees are hitting the prime of their productive years.
For another, equipment problems that normally crop up didn’t happen this year due to careful winter maintenance. Plus, there was lucky weather including a lack of the normal hail storm that will knock buds from the trees.
In October, Hyland is going full gear. This weekend is the Oktoberfest celebration with live music on Saturday and Sunday.
For Damon, keeping the place essentially unchanged means more than full time hours for part time pay, which is why he also runs a landscaping company.
October is the grand finale, but, beginning in early August, peaches and a couple of apple varieties ripen. That’s when weekend concerts begin under the pavilion. The orchard hosts weddings and charity events as well.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 14, 2009

Sturbridge selectmen debate video highlights now online

The Town Common has posted video highlights from Thursday night’s Sturbridge Selectmen Debate online at our newspaper web site.

To view the quick view videos broken down by topic, visit:

See this week’s paper for complete results.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 13, 2009

Gimas on Malloy

Gimas said one of the first things she would like to do if elected would be to sit down with Town Administrator James Malloy and see what his intentions are regarding his continued employment. She said someone who can put “100 percent of their heart and soul” into the community.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 12, 2009

Paying for coordinator

Ehrhard floated the idea of rethinking the position of Town Planner and had praise for OSV and their turn around, saying the town needs to be more proactive and bring in an economic development coordinator, which will pay or itself in the increase to the tax base.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 12, 2009

National search

Gimas wants to see a national search for an economic development coordinator if one is to be hired. She said someone with a “proven track record” needs to be hired and placed a time frame of 6-9 months to see someone hired.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 12, 2009

Sturbridge as Lexington

Ehrhard clarified a comment of his that appeared in the Town Common. When saying he would like Sturbridge to be more like Wellesly, he clarified his comment by saying there needs to be a balance of economic development and preservation of its historical character, much like Wellesly, Lexington and Longmeadow have done.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 12, 2009

Main Street

Creamer says in talking with store owners there is a feeling of “every shop owner for themselves” and there’s need to be discussion to create a sense of place

Ehrhard, “Route 20 has had its problems despite of what Sturbridge has done”

He also agrees with Gimas that a economic developer should be hired, and historic lighting would make the area more walkable. He disagrees with Creamer that the power lines would be buried.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 12, 2009

Route 20 appearance

Goodwin has called for a “walkable” Main Street to change the appearance of Main Street

Creamer responded by saying its much more complicated than burying the wires below Main Street. He said the Master Plan would be a better avenue to address that.

Posted by: Tim Kane | March 12, 2009

Town Common debate

All four candidates have expressed a desire for controlled growth in town.

Priscilla Gimas has called for the hiring of a director of economic development. Someone who can work full time to preserve the historical significance of town.

James Ehrhard, agrees with Creamer that water connection needs to be brought in to spur development. Also, “retail components of some significance needs to anchor that development,” he says.

Posted by: Tim Kane | December 22, 2008

Map Mavericks

STURBRIDGE – Fourth, 5th and 6th grade students spill into the cafeteria excited to face the small stage where 12 students sit – nervously – in folding chairs with nametags at their feet.
Using a tone of voice trademarked by pro wrestling announcers Assistant Principal Jack Canavan introduces the crowd to competitors in Burgess Elementary School’s 2008-2009 Geography Bee.
One 6th grader’s alias, intimidating as it is, may not guarantee a first place finish.
In announcing Dom Boutiette’s name Canavan stretches it further than a Greenland coastline on the Mercator Projection.
“Dommm – the Dominator – Bouuutiettteee,” Canavan says.
Cue wild cheers.
Hand lettered signs with the slogans: “C’mon Conor” “Go Go Christian” and “Logan kick butt” wave from side to side. Students in white t-shirts bearing similar encouragement yell and shout.
This bee is held annually and pits the winners of individual classroom competitions against each other. It’s an opportunity for students to get excited about geography and show their knowledge, Canavan said during the set-up.
But now he calls for quiet. Ground rules must be established. Fabulous prizes require announcement.
Rules first: There will be two rounds, a final and a championship round. Elimination comes after two incorrect answers. When three students remain the second round begins and all are given a clean slate. The three then face off with the same elimination rules of the final round. Later, the first place winner will take a qualifying test. If they pass its off to Clark University and the statewide bee.
Victory at Clark secures an all expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. for the national bee.
Now prizes: Canavan tells the crowd of 4th, 5th and 6th graders what they can win at the national level. There will be a $5,000 college scholarship (wild cheers follow); a $500 cash prize (more frenzied shouts); and a chance to participate in the national bee – hosted by Alex Trebek! (mild confusion ensues).
Let the bee begin.
Paper copies of the lower 48 are passed to each competitor. The states are outlined but not named. However, Plant Hardiness Zones – as determined by the United States Department of Agriculture – are defined.
This set-up confounds the first two contestants. Questions are not fully understood and state names are provided instead of zone numbers.
With Grace Foulis, who sits in the fourth seat, comprehension kicks in.
“Nearly all of Ohio lies in what zone?” Canavan asks.
A moment passes as she consults the map.
“Six,” Gracie says.
Gracie relaxes and smiles.
The first round of questions ends and students reach down to grab whiteboards and erasable markers. A wrong answer here spells elimination for some.
Canavan asks, “Myrtle Beach is a resort town in what state?”
There is a flurry of scribbling. Markers are put down. Canavan directs the students to reveal their answers. A few are correct. Others name neighboring states.
One answers New Jersey. No word if that was wishful thinking or if the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism has an elementary school student on the payroll.
There are four left. The Dominator, unfortunately, is dominating somewhere offstage.
The next question asks; in what state did Hurricane Ike make landfall? Of the four two answer correctly triggering a face-off between Mason Wildgrube and Frank Tremblay for a third place finish, which Wildbruge earns for knowing that Londonderry is in Ireland.
Two remain. Conor O’Brien and Jason Izzio. It doesn’t take long, a few questions, and Conor wins first place and advances his chance to earn $5,500, a trip to Washington D.C. and a rendezvous with Alex Trebek.
A gold medal is placed on Conor’s neck. He is center stage in front of cheering peers. He raises both arms to the ceiling as the school’s 2008-2009 Geography Bee champion should.
For this moment geography is Conor’s world.

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