Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sutton's Funky Moped Kids

Funky group of musicians adored in Sutton

above from left to right, Antoine, Etienne and Charlotte
By Nancy Helmuth
They call themselfes "Les Nitrates de Madame Mimieux". "They" are a group of three Sutton musicians, namely Charlotte Paquin-Bichard, Antoine La Mothe and Etienne Hamel. There is a fourth member to the group  but she is not a musician but calls herself "chief cook and bottle washer, Kim Besre. (Who also does many of the groups graphics and photography). The four have been pretty much inseperable for some time, live in the same building in Sutton and practice and perform together.
Their music is a funky blend of completely original lyrics and composition where every member of the group participates in the development of a new song. From pop to neo ballades, they encompass an enchanting variety of styles and textures and what makes every performance of this young group, (they are all 20 years old) charming, is, that every member can play every instrument and they will alternate on the keyboard, the drums, the guitar or the bass. All sing and sing well, all have excellent grasp of their instruments and their coordination is exceptional.
Recently they performed (for free, as a gift to the town  of Sutton), to a large audience in the Salle Pelletier in Sutton,.On July 2, they will play at a venue in Montreal, and at the end of July, they have a gig in Dunham. Theyr first album was recently released to excellent acclaim (at least by their loyal following and some Montreal press).
There is another dimension to the group: They are locally known as the "moped kids". Their hobby is the restoration of vintage mopeds of which they now own eight. They have their own spacious garage and when not practicing music, they can be found tinkering with theyr bikes, which are all in pristine working condition and joyfully used by all four members of this group.

Kim, Antoine and Charlotte in the moped barn
The "company truck" for the "Nitrates" is a 1962 Chevrolet C-10 which they are also currently restoring and which has become a fixture in Sutton. But beyond their musical activity and their love for mopeds, they all work hard at a variety of "day jobs", are highly esteemed by the people in Sutton they come in contact with, because with their openness, friendly demeanour, the absence of drugs and other side effects of a young band, they have made themselfes a well established and much liked facet of the fabric of Sutton.

 Photo courtesy Kim Besre

New Atelier in Sutton

Atelier Ariane Marois opened in Sutton

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Atelier Joailliere Ariane Marois opened on June 17th in Sutton. The store is in the center of town at # 3 Principale Nord. The place has been beautifully redecorated and painted but with stark white walls and simple adornents, it lets Arianes displayed work stand out without distruction.
Dozens of guests were at the vernissage and the vibrant and obbisously talented graduate of the Ecole de Joailliere de Quebec will hopefully become a welcome addition to the growing number of stores, Bed & Breakfasts, studios and boutiques that are run by women in this town. On Saturday she was hard at work on a bracelet, carving delicate roses to adorn the piece. Ariane designs and creates jewelry and a number of her fine pieces are on display. She also does any custom work or repair desired.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jenne Monuments of Sutton

A Sutton Institution since 1893 - Jenne Monuments

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Amicable Brian Bidwell owns what is possibly the oldest continuously operating business in Sutton, Les Monuments Jenne, at the same location it was started in 1893. The monument trade in Sutton began with Lucius McClarty who eventually sold the business to Ernest Jenne and Henry Holmes in 1923. Eventually, Mr Homes got tired of it and joined the railroad but Ernest Jenne ran the business with his son Paul until he passed on in 1973. Paul Jenne continued and among the people he hired to help him is Brian Bidwell who started there at age 12 (!). Eventually Brian was able to purchase the business in 1976 and continues to artfully craft and inscribe monuments.
"It is now mostly done by sandblasting" explained Brians wife and partner, Liette Nadeau. "We use vinyl stencils and sandblast the names, dates, inscriptions or ornamental designs into the stones. Paul still used to work with chisels but the new technology affords us to deliver a much better product".

 Speaking to the owners of this venerable business was enlightening, because it was expained to me how much work and effort goes into the erection of a stone which may weigh up to 1,000 lbs. A trench must be dug, a concrete foundation is then built and levelled off to the finest precision and, only after the concrete has set and aged, can Mr. Bidwell place the monument upon it. The company makes up to 100 monuments every year but that is only one part of the job. Brian and his crew will restore old monuments, re-write illegible texts, polish and maintain the stones, set them up properly if they have tilted because old foundations  or mortar may have given way. Brian also repairs cracked monuments, regardless the age.

In June of 1998 Brian and Liette added another dimension to they business: working with natural stones found in the area, they started to create decorative  items such as personalized garden stones, ornaments, "welcome" stones and birdbaths as well as simple things like "The Wilson's Residence". Their stones can bee seen all over Sutton and are not only highly ornamental but differ from any other product inasmuch that every rock is unique in shape and texture. The items in stock are available at the "Rock Shop" which adjoins the monument factory at the corner of Principale and Western streets.
"Is your husband ever getting depressed working around graveyards?". I asked Liette. "Not at all" she smiled, "We have the gift to make memories that last and can be enjoyed by loving family members for generations. This is our greatest reward".

Fiat Fever hits the Townships

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
This lovely Fiat 500 Abarth edition graces our favorite Italian grocery and deli in Knowlton. It is a 1957 vintage and I remember them fondly  from my youth in Austria. Actually, most of our first cars were Fiat 500s or Fiat 600s ,because used ones in the 60's could be had for the price of a good bicycle. My fondest memory of this little car "that could" is, when, in August 1964, an Italian family crashed one into the back of my dad's Peugeot 404 in Malcesine on Lake Garda in Italy. Out came one dad, one wife, one grandmother and four bambini. The mama of the family grinned broadly and explained "nemo morto" (nobody died) and exchanched cards of the Assecurationi Generaly, the Italian car insurance system with my dumbfounded dad, whereafter they asked us to push the damaged 500 into a field and bummed a ride into the next town.
Fast forward to the here and now and my friend Roger Gervais, a Sutton entrepeneur, just got his brand new reincarnation of this iconic vehicle and it is even cuter than the original and when I went to photograph it in Sutton, next to one of his stores, I had a hard time to get a clear shot of the car because so many people crowded around it.

 The car is an absolute joy to drive and of course it has all the modern amenities such as airbags, superb anti locking brakes, a fuel efficient front wheel drive system, the best dashboard I have seen since I raced in LeMans and the cutest interieur. Roger's car has the folding convertible top which adds the extra pizazz to the little cutie. Performance? "It will easily cruise at 140km/h without straining itself, told me one happy owner. Of course the original engines that had produced between 14 and 21 horsepower are long gone and the new models, depending in the engine options selected have up to 100bhp on tap.

With Fiat now taking controlling interest in the Chrysler corporation, they have made available an incredibly cool car for the North American market and one that has been strategically priced well below some of the other reincarnations such as the Mini and the Beetle. But Fiat has done one better than VW and BMW because they truly followed iconic styling cues which will make this car an instant classic. And I cannot afford one.....Bummer!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lynda Graham of Sutton and her B&B

Gîte Vert Le Mont B & B in Sutton - A love Story For Lynda Graham

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
"Seven years later I am still in love with this business" smiled Lynda Graham, the owner of one of the finest Bed and Breakfast places in Sutton, "Gite Vert de Mont". Lynda is originally from Great Britain, her dad was a famous chef, she trained as a chef and for some years was the chef of one of the finest dining establishments in Sutton. May I be forgiven for using the first person thing again (I know, I have been told not to!), but the evening we moved into Sutton, our great friend, realtor and town councillor Louis Dandenault, invited us to Lynda's kitchen and to this day I have never had a bowl of mussels as delicious as those served us on the 14th of December 2,000.
Eventually, Lynda decided to strike out on her own and she purchased a beautiful house built in 1916. It has the original wainscoating, parquet floors, a great carved door she installed, which predated the house by possibly 50 years, original furniture pieces and a nice front door lock chain made for the home when it was first built.
Everything else has been redone in the most tasteful colors with delightful shades of grey and beige alternating in hallways and bathrooms, accented by a superb collection of original art.

Art is everywhere, sculptures are in front of the house, next to the great verandah and in a two acre (estimated by me) sculpure garden in the lovely landscaped grounds, where many local artists have had their first showings. But many pieces are owned by Lynda outright. "If I really like it, I have to have it" she explains. "There are pieces just to beautiful to go elsewehere, so I splurge on myself and buy them".
The philosophy of her business? " This is your home but you do not have to do any work", she tells her guests. People have the run of the house from the dining hall to the nice outdoor spaces. Lynda will arrange tours, is a wizard in finding new things to do, knows pretty much every hiking and biking venue and deals with every vineyard, museum, gallery or local event organizer. "My objective is to give the best possible breakfast, the nicest rooms and every assistance I can give to my guests to make their stay enjoyable. And I do not charge exorbitant prices. Almost everyone can afford to be a guest in my home".
Actually, Lynda's breakfasts are a local legend and she goes out of her way to use locally made or grown  products from fruit to cheese, to bread and meat.
"What is the busiest time ?" I asked. "Summer now", Lynda explains. "It used to be in winter because of the skiing but in the past few years, Sutton has emerged as a summer designation because of the great outdoor activities available, plus, we have the jazz festival , the Tour des Arts and weekly cultural events such as concerts at the Salle Pelletier".
I interviewed numerous other tourism related businesses in Sutton and the answer about "when is your busiest time" seems to be "Summer and early fall", which is a great switch from only ten years ago when everyone lamented the day the ski hill closed for the season.
Today, Friday June 18, Sutton town crews hung beautiful hanging plants everywhere in town and Lynda Graham and every other business in this tourism dependent town is looking forward to welcome its guests for another year. So are the cyclists which are starting to arrive in town in droves.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sutton Filtex Plant

The Filtex plant, suttons disaster area revisited
By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Winter is a blessing for Sutton because tourists cannot use the lovely bicycle path that follows the railroad and thus cannot see the ugliest part of this otherwise bucolic town: The Filtex Plant. Now that everything is in bloom, people begun to walk and bike and are surprised when their children point up to the graffitty with the "F" word in plain sight. The sprawling complex of approximately 100,000 feet has been closed and pretty much abandoned since Filtex ended operations in Sutton in 2004.

This ugly eyesore is the last incarnation of a company that started production of a variety of yarns in 1955 when the firm was known as Yardex. At its peak the company employed 160 people and former manager Charles Talbot remembers a time when the employment peaked at 202. In the last decade before the closing, an average of 70 locals were employed at the plant.
After closing the place, the owners tried to sell it to the town to "create much needed greenspace and parking". At that time, six years ago, they wanted in excess of $ 350,000.- for it. Meanwhile, the town has realized that part of the land upon which the plant exists, is a lease to the railroad and thus unuseable, additionally, environmental studies show that the ground beneath at least a part of this facility is so heavily contaminated that the whole place would have to be razed and severe soil remediation measures will have to take place before the acreage can be put to any further use.
The current listing realtor, Linda Bresee, sees very little hope in selling the plant (price now is in the $ 250,000.- range) and another realtor in Sutton told us that "it will cost more than $ 350,000 just to tear down this mess". Asked, the town, through a spokeswoman, told us that the town of Sutton has "not the slightest interest in inflicting the cost of rehabilitating or razing the facility at taxpayers expenses. We have made numerous tries to contact the owners but our telephone calls have not been answered.
Says local councillor Louis Dandenault: "If they give it to us for a nominal Dollar, we could possibly do something with it ,but to pay for a building that needs to be torn down it is ridiculous".
Ridiculous is what most people in Sutton have come to call this situation. A large tract of the most beautiful land in one of the most environmentally friendly towns in theTownships is a mess of crumbling concrete, graffity, dangerous open windows where children have been seen to climb into and completely ignored by its owners (which do pay taxes amounting to $ 4.517.- to the town annually), pretty cheap for 100,000 square feet when people on the mountain pay about the same taxes for a chalet annually.

 Former general manager Mr. Talbot disagrees with the decision to close the plant down because he went on and managed  another yarn company who, through making the best possible quality product did not only stave off the cheap stuff from the Far East but expanded operations because "quality will always be appreciated" and "if you want to downgrade quality for quantity, do not blame foreign competitions but look at your own incompetence to position yourself in a competitive marketplace".
Needless to say, the last real "place of business" in Sutton is history and the local employment is now the ski mountain, the local I.G.A, Couche Tard, Home Hardware, restaurants, the seasonal golf course and the elusive job at the municipal garage.
Sutton needs clean industry, Bromont has been able to find it through high tech and non polluting companies, so has Knowlton. But first, Sutton has to rid itself of this gross monstrosity in the center of town: The Filtex Plant!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Skiers, mountain bikers and shopaholics find Bromont irresistable

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Bromont did not exist until 1964. It was created as a resort community incorporating the old town of West Shefford and environs. While Sheffors's loyalist and victorian roots can still be traced through some of the old homes and three magnificent churches, the town has become exactly what it's founders envisioned: A tourist center. The main attraction is Mont Brome,the ski mountain which is adequate for beginners and intermediate skiers and in Summer offers challenging mountain bike trails and a mountain bike championship. The only museum in town is the "Musee de Chocolate" which consists of two rooms of exhibits next to "Confiserie Bromont", a superb chocolate shop in the center of town.

Confiserie Bromont - one of many counters of goodies

Bromont has become a designation for Montrealers and the place has unabashedly been developed. On the day of this writing, June 6, 36 contractors were busy building new condominiums, adding to the shopping malls, roads to Lac Broome could only be accessed throught dusty detours to afford more construction to be carried out and, as one contractor voiced: "we are building a new Mount Tremblant here".
There is Calvin Klein. Tommy Hilfiger, Atmosphere, Guess, Jacobs and all the other name brands in sprawling new complexes everywhere. No doubt, shopaholics can have a field day in this historic tow,n but thankfully, all the hundreds of shops are at the periphery of the old main street which still has lovely restaurants and boutiques. There is no history museum however, no artists colony, none of the attributes which make nearby Sutton so attractive. Here it is all about growth and development. One of the advantages that Bromont has over Sutton is that it has night time skiing, a favorite of many weekenders. Bromont also holds at least two world class equestrian events every year, has a fabulous golf course, boosts its own airport, some 15 minutes from town, and is only one hour's drive from Montreal.
Other attractions are a multitude of spas, access to local vineyards, well groomed hiking and biking trails and two lakes, Lac Bromont and Lac Gale.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Older story revisited (March issue of LeTour)

Ready or Not, Spring is Just Around the Corner
The ice is melting on some of our ponds, the sun is becoming stronger and we feel it in our bones that we've made it through another winter here in the Townships. For many years I hated this time of transition because it meant the end of skiing and the glorious drives through glittering landscapes which had brought me to the Townships in the first place. At 63 years of age however, the warm rays of the tentative spring sun are now much appreciated.
A few days ago I had the chance to walk a sugarbush with a friend. Docile maples have long been tapped and every sugar producer is eagerly awaiting the sap to start flowing. For now it is just the beauty and silence of the bush, the sap buckets throwing long shadows onto the snow and the early morning sun reflecting off the long icicles that grace the sugar house roof.
As we watched six does crossing the meadow between my friend's house and the woods behind I thought, “If I owned an IPod, the piece to play right then would have been "The Lark Ascending" by Vaughan Williams”. From my friend's place I can see Pinnacle Mountain in the distance, still snow-capped but this morning endowed with a halo of cloud tinted pink by the rising sun.
As I hiked up Courser Brook Road in Glen Sutton yesterday, I turned to see the valley below like an inland sea with distant dark peaks sticking out of the morning fog. I half expected to see the "Flying Dutchman's" three-masted barquen-tine coasting through the valley, possibly right over the top of the Auberge Glen Sutton. On the other hand, there were three brightly outlined contrails of aeroplanes full of people bound for Europe and places beyond criss-crossing the sky, and me, just a tiny dot on a mountain road descending back into the mist.
My first two seed catalogues have arrived and we've just begun the annual ritual of doling out "my space" and "her space" in our garden. This year I shall opt for a new strain of celeriac and sharp white German beer radishes while Nancy once again will try for the best tomatillas and her never ending quest to grow good Loofa sponges. Of course, I can always be certain that our fine crop of dandelions will stand proud in about three weeks time.
Next, the bicycles will come out of the garage for their annual spring cleaning and tuning. But the nicest sign is that my 17 year old cat "Filmore" is curled up on the front steps, contentedly soaking up the good clean air and the first warmth of spring sun on her back while the three younger cats play in the driveway again.
Let's all enjoy it and remember, November is a whole nine months away!
Manfried Helmuth Starhemberg

Sutton Junction's Valley Store

The "valley store", Sutton Junction's supermarket

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Prime Minister Harper sent them gratulations at their 50th wedding anniversary and one would think that Arnold and Gloria Wighton should be safely retired at age 80. But no, for 32 years they have operated what locals in the Sutton area call "Sutton Junctions Wal-Mart. It is a depanneur, it sells general used merchandise, bric a brac and even has a small cantine on the premises, which is the source of tea and coffee for local road maintenance crews, neighbors and friends.

Arnold Weighton
Arnold is a retired gravel truck driver and many years in the past, Gloria had worked at Sutton's long defunct Paramount bakery where she was in charge of shipping."We moved to Sutton Junction in 1958, into the old C.P.R house, which has 16 rooms. The house belonged to my parents" explains Gloria which is the historian of the family. "There was a large general store next door but it burnt to the ground in 1980 and we bought the land and built our store. Everything was done by Arnold, myself and our family and friends". Ever since then they have been open from 8am to 5:30pm.
"We used to really work the cantine but now it is just down to coffee, tea and toast for the locals" muses Gloria, but explains:"Even though, I just had to take the mandatory course for restaurant owners pertaining to the hygienic operation of a food service establisment and now I finally know that no shelf can be closer to the ground than 12 inches", she chuckles. Needless to say, she passed and can continue to serve toast in her fully licensed "restaurant".

When the Wightons moved into town, Sutton Junction was still a vibrant community with a large railroad station, railroad repair facilities, two garages, a big post office and a large general store. The center of the community was the beautiful St. Aidan's Anglican church which is just up the street from the Valley Store and stiull funcions as a meeting hall and spiritual center for a healthy congregation.
Now Sutton Junction has an artesinal forge, an organic chocolate maker, a vineyard and many prosperous surrounding farms. "It has become to easy to drive the five minutes to Sutton", explained one customer. But if anyone needs a cold beer or a carton of milk, some canned goods available in plenty, or a used book, sweater, clock radio, telephone,a picture for the wall or a lamp for the night table, it is still available at Arnold and Gloria's emporium. Don't forget to pet one of the lovely four cats that tend the store alongside their masters.


Monday, June 6, 2011

A Day at the Sherbrooke Record

A Day at the Sherbrooke Record

By Manfried and Nancy Helmuth Starhemberg
When art lovers view a great painting, they are mostly interested in the visual, the sensual impact of the work. They might appreciate the intricate brush strokes or the texture of oil on canvas. Most also notice the frame, many just admire the frame. Very few know how those pieces were created, what inspired them, what made them last as valuable clues of the specific time in which the artist worked.
Newspapers are not often looked at as great art but they share many characteristics with the best creations of man: The written word remains forever, as a testament of a day, a month, a year, of human activity. It becomes the basis of research for future historians and it informs its readers daily. It also entertains, or, sadly, remembers our loved ones.
Just like a painting, a newspaper has to be built of a solid canvas. To explore the transformation of a blank canvas into a vibrant daily newspaper, my wife Nancy and I were given permission to spend a day at the Sherbrooke Record.
"The number of pages are mostly pre determined" explains news editor Daniel Coloumbe "this will dictate what we can do with the paper every day. We do have a general guideline what is on which page and this is pretty well planned ahead". This then fixes the canvas upon the easel. Next is the underpainting: Pre allocated spaces such as the masthead, the crossword puzzle page, fixed weekly advertisements, the editorial and sports pages have their spot and page three is reserved for the local fires, accidents and break ins. Now you have the beginning of what artists would call the outline or the sketch which would normally on a canvas be drawn in charcoal as it can be erased and modified.
A newspaper has to be equally flexible and the editorial staff has to interact with the advertising department to create a delicate balance of news and commerce, the priority of breaking story versus a late phoned-in advertisement which may just have to wait for a day to appear.
JoAnn Hovey has been director of advertising for 27 years and she has this balance well in hand.

From JoAnne the ads go to the production department where the copy is built into the final form.  The design of an effective advertisement is the keystone to repeat business and customer satisfaction. Every bit of energy goes into this stage of the daily work, as would be expended on that "perfect editorial". A newspaper can only be profitable if it achieves a balance of quality content and billable space.
Next to JoAnn is Michel on the phone to clients and I admire his elegent delivery as he soothes and advises, the phone seemingly at his ear the whole time we spent at the office.

"When Publisher Sharon McCully invited me on board to edit the paper some 6 months ago, she charged me with one important thing and that is to make this newspaper as community oriented as possible" tells Daniel,"People have access to the international news from a variety of sources but if things happen locally, they must have the information that only a local newspaper can provide".
The paper has made great efforts lately to reach target areas outside the traditional locations in the Eastern Townships. It is now widely read in Sutton and Knowlton, Dunham, Bromont, Mansonville and Abercorn and Potton. "Local contributors have been given space to showcase their hometowns and this will enhance the fabric of our locally oriented coverage" states Coloumbe.

Daniel Coloumbe is also a local radio host and is normally on air for two hours in the early morning before he begins his day at the Record. He is assisted by veteran journalist Steven Blake as correspondence editor, Doug McCooey and Corinna Pole who tells me that she spends most of her day on the telephone. She is the reporter and has the sometimes harrowing task to dig into the small news stories often overlooked.

At about three in the afternoon,Josee arrives. It is her task to do the final pagination. She adds the pictures to the pages, checks compatibility of color pictures to the black and white final product, after which she does all the final placement and checks each page before creating copies that are delivered to the press room.This is tedious work, as any mistake made at this point is irreversible. This is the varnish that fixes the painting!

To "frame" our work of art" is all up to the pressroom. "We are so privileged to have our own press" explaints Daniel, "we print in- house, thus if there is a need, we can increase the number of pages or the number of the press run as needed. We even print our other publications, the Brome County News and the Townships Outlet right here. And as a job press, the Newport Vt. paper is also printed by the Record staff. For almost 29 years senior pressman Serge Gagnon has presided over the production of the printed work. He is now assisted by pressmen Stephen Young and by his son Michael.
The first step of Gagnon's work is to photograph the finalised pages, mount the negatives in the appropriate order so that opposing pages will roll of the press in the correct order. After this, Michal "burns" the negatives onto aluminum plates which are mounted on the rollers and are the matrix of the final impression. This is exacting work .

Stephen Young meanwhile readies the paper on the press and inks this huge machine. Black is pumped in hydraulically but the colors like magenta or cyan are applied with spatulas by hand. Stephen also removes yesterday's plates from the rollers. These will be recycled. When Serge and Michael deliver the new plates, it is time to mount them, which is at best a contortionist act with much acrobatics on top or under the machine.Serge helps and it is a ballet to watch this process.

After everything is checked out at least twice by Serge and Stephen, Serge rings an alarm bell and the machine comes to live, at first chuggung and huffing like a big old steam engine getting her grip on an icy track but soon the first papers fly by to be folded and collated. Michael throws out a few hundred at first, as the color is being adjusted. We watched the printing of the Brome County News and in the beginning there was a bit too much red in the color. Finally satisfied, Serge increases the speed and the papers rush out in a steady stream. What a sight and sound!

With the press run of the Brome County News completed, the three masters of the black art begin the circle again by photographing next day's pages of the Sherbrooke Record which will start its production run about an hour after the pages are in Serge's remarkably clean hands, but Stephen is busy again with paper and ink. The three men handle the 900 lb. rolls of paper by hand and block and tackle, a daunting task when one sees the immense rolls stored here. In order to remove one from the top of the stack, a huge "claw" attached to the heavy duty forklift is used, but once on the ground, it is "manual only".

While all this is going on, Laurie, in the office, which she presides over as business manager, writes checks and orders things and tends to all the financial afairs that will make it possible for all these dedicated people to return in the morning to start it all over again, as have their predecessors at the Sherbrooke Record for more than 114 years. It is fitting to observe that the international newspaper association names this year the 400th anniversary since the advent of the first recognized newspaper. The Record has been part of this for more than a quarter of that time!
-----END OF TEXT--------
Time to go home, I hold the first copy of the BCN in hand and Nancy is relaxing in the office. Thank you all!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thriving Sutton

Thriving Sutton, shining example of conservative growth

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Two things tower over the town of Sutton, the Roman Catholic church and the storied ski mountain which just celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. But Sutton has so many nuances, it is hard to explain in brief. There is of course Mont Sutton, the ever growing skiing center which keeps improving its trails and activities every year, there are hiking trails so varied in lenghth and difficulty that one hiker said: "If I spend five months here I could possibly do them all" In summer there are hundreds of kilometers of roads well enough groomed for bicycling and there is the big bicycle race in July which attracts people from as far as Europe. Add to that the annual Swiss festival, the biggest outside of Switzerland, the local galleries, boutiques and restaurants, it would take a book to describe them all.

"It's a little bit like the line from the movie Field of Dreams", muses town councillor Louis Dandenault, "Build it and they will come". The ski mountain was built 50 years ago and "they" came, later tourists discovered hiking and cycling and a new attraction is the 100+ acre site of "Treetop adventures. But, we have to be careful of what we build because we must always remember that our infrastructure of roughly 4,000 people can only absorb a certain amount of growth". He jokingly spoke of a French fable in which a frog inhales and inhales and puffes itself up to be the biggest animal on the farm. "He exploded" laughted Dandenault. "Any town that is almost totally reliant on tourism which in turn is dependent on the weather, should take care to make sure that it knows where to stop building new condos, new hotels, new restaurants. It is an incredibly delicate balance and everyone here is in one way or another affected by tourism. Contractors and electricians, restaurant owners, the Bed and Breakfasts and the people who work there are directly affected by a bad month of rain"
Sutton has built again in the past few years. Downtown has undergone a dramatic change when all the ugly telephone and Hydro poles disappeared with lines now running under the newly paved sidewalks and the beautifully paved road which is now complete right to the Richford Vt. border.
A great attraction outside of the sporting activities are the local artists. There are galleries, there is the annual "Tour des Arts" which brings thousands into town, there is the Jazz festival and weekly entertainment at the Salle Pelletier. And gourmands will have a heyday here with some of the best chefs in the townships competing for clients nightly. The food offerings range from the dominant elegant French fare to Italian and even Indian. And the boutiques offer anything from a bathrobe made from bamboo to outdoor gear. A new bicycle shop has just opened in town and seems to be doing well as is the local bakery.

Sutton's river which originates on the mountain runs through the center of town but hikers can follow its trail upriver and see a magnificent waterfall, a swimming hole or they can catch themselfes a brook trout.


Victorian splendor in Knowlton

Victorian splendor still exists in Knowlton

Photo by David Milligan (courtesy "Destination Knowlton')
By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Lac Brome was created in 1971, following the merger of seven municipalities (Knowlton, West Brome, Foster, Fulford, Iron Hill, Bondville and East Hill), Lac-Brome surrounds Brome Lake. The name refers to a village in Suffolk County, England. The elegant Victorian village of Knowlton, the largest in Lac-Brome, is famous for its Loyalist roots and splendid built heritage. It was established upon the arrival of Colonel Paul Holland Knowlton, who came from Vermont and who built a flourmill in 1836, a sawmill and a store. These establishments quickly became popular and prosperous, transforming Knowlton into a small upper-class village by the end of the 19th century. By 1855, the village, a regional centre for telegraph reception, had a post office and an inn and became the seat of Brome County government. As early as 1867, vacationers were attracted to the town and have come there ever since. But today the town is different and one aspect of it is that it has its own fighter plane, a Focker Dr-Vii, one of only seven left in the world and this one is in pristine, unrestored condition and can bee seen in the local museum.

 Knowlton today is not totally reliant on tourism as it has a duck farm, which has been pruducing Peking ducks which are sold worldwide. The farm employs up to 150 people and their products are a staple at local restaurants and gourmet shops. There is also a manufacturing plant which makes packaging for a variety of cosmetics companies, bottling plants etc. It employes more than 300 people. Thus, Knowlton has a secure employment base, which other tourist towns in the area lack.
Attractions is town are the beautiful waterfall on mill pond, the Pettes Memorial Library, storied Victorian homes some of which can be visited by tourists. There is a playhouse which every year puts on original new theater and of course there is the lake. Sailing, swimming, fishing and even motorboating is allowed and visitors only have to pay a nominal fee to park and put their watercraft into the lake.

Pettes Memorial Library (courtesy)
On the culinary side, there is a bevy of fine restaurants, a couple of bistros and the great Knowlton Pub. For accomodations, there are three fine hotels and numerous B&Bs, auberges and private residences, available by the week or month. Knowlton will host the 33rd annual foot race in June, has a huge duck festival and many other activities right through Christmas, where the annual Santa Claus parade is held. For visitors less interested in the fine hiking and biking trails, there are antiques stores and boutiques, a superb book shop and the opportunity for shutterbugs of all ages to take splendid photos of some of the finest homes of the Royalist and Victorian area.

Historic Dunham

Historic Dunham - stone houses, flowers, apples and wine

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
Every spring Dunham sparkles with flowers, hanging baskets are everywhere, the well tended lawns and gardens have flower borders and the stateful old stone houses which give this town such a distinctive flavor, stand gracefully amidst all that bloom.
In Dunham tourism is pretty much a summer and fall issue because this is where people from all over the province come to sample every imaginable berry, gather pears and later apples, and visit the many vineyards. In spring the added beauty of the apple trees in full bloom is also a wonderful sight. Apple orchards stand in the dozens and a great variety is grown here. While many apples are sold to area stores and supermarkets, a goood number go to an apple factory in nearby Frelighsburg to be processed into apple juice.

In summer there are numerous hiking trails but of late, Dunham has been attracting bicycle tourists as well because the road to Bedford winds through magnificent vineyards and berry farms and the road to Frelighsburg is equallly scentic with tens of thousands of appple trees on either side of the trail. Water sports enthusiasts may enjoy the sparkling clean Selby lake just three kilometrer from the town's center.
In fall it is all about wine. All the vineyards do wine tastings, sell wine on the promises, some have special activities, one even has a fine sculpture garden which shows off the works of local artists. This is also a good time to visit the local pear orchard or later in fall, to pick up a holloween pumpkin because everywhere on the road to Cowansville, the fields are dotted with the bright orange of this years pumpkin harvest.

Three stately old churches serve the town and the large farming community and numerous restaurants are available to visitors. There is even a local micro brewery, a fine artesinal bakery, antiques stores and a number of equestrian centers to delight horse lovers. Any visitor to the area is well advised to make some time to visit this delightful historic town.