Wassail Weekend: Woodstock, Vermont

woodstock Vermont downtown awaits Wassail Weekend.

Woodstock–the prettiest small town in America.

Winter is upon us in Woodstock, Vermont, and that means Wassail Weekend. Snow covers the ground here at the October Country Inn. The nearby Ottauquechee River has started to freeze over.  And the morning air’s bite  makes it especially welcome when the Winter sun shows itself. Christmas will be here soon.  Most importantly, Vermont’s most iconic Winter event occurs the second weekend in December.  This is when the nearby village of Woodstock hosts it’s 35th annual Wassail Weekend.

Prettiest Small Town in America

Wassail Weekend is an especially unique event for an especially unique Vermont village. Named the prettiest small town in America, Woodstock also hosts the best Christmas celebration in New England.

Wassail is from a phrase meaning “good health.”

horse drawn Wassail Weekend parade Wagon in Woodstock VermontWreathes and Christmas trees dot the village as the three-day Wassail weekend festival prepares to celebrate traditional local culture. It’s a unique window into one of the many things that makes the Green Mountain State so special. A wide range of eclectic activities from craft fairs, to carol singing on the steps of the library, to ornament-making at Billings Farm & Museum, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Many of Woodstock’s beautiful homes open to the public.  Almost every local business and organization is involved in some way. In case you’re wondering.  The word Wassail comes from a old Anglo-Saxon phrase which means “good health.”

The Wassail Weekend Yule log in Vermont

Getting warm around the yule log.

Wassail Weekend History

Originally, the wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and sugar. It was served from huge bowls often made of silver or pewter.

The high point of Wassail Weekend is Saturday’s horse-drawn parade through downtown Woodstock that showcase local rural expertise and culture with more than fifty horses from all around the town and further afield taking part, the parade is truly a must-see. A performance by the Yale Whiffenpoofs, an internationally acclaimed group of a cappella singers will perform at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre on Friday, Dec. 13. Established at Yale University in 1909, it is the oldest such group in the U.S. 

Join us in Vermont for Wassail Weekend

At 2:00 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 14, the Wassail weekend parade invites you to line the streets around the village green for a cavalcade of clopping hooves, tossing manes, jolly jingling bells, tall top hats, flowing skirts, and merriness all around. Petite ponies and mighty Percherons pass by carrying their cargo of children in candy cane stockings, adults in historic finery, heavy carts, and Santa himself. Starting at the 3:00 p.m. first lighting, gather in the village green around the neatly stacked yule log. Check the Woodstock Chamber website for a complete listing of all the many ways to enjoy the holidays, as well as parking and shuttle information.

By |2021-01-05T19:02:30-05:00December 9th, 2019|Seasonal Events|

Stand Up Shakespeare & Plymouth Blues Festival: Labor day weekend at Calvin Coolidge homestead.

Calvin Coolidge homestead in Plymouth, Vermont

The Labor Day weekend at the October Country Inn signals the end Summer while also signaling that Fall is just around the corner. Did  you put off taking a Summer break?Are you looking for an end-of-summer outing?  Consider visiting the Calvin Coolidge homestead.  And be sure to take in the Labor Day weekend events.   The Calvin Coolidge Homestead and State Historic Park is located at Plymouth Notch. Invite the pure Vermont country surroundings to wash over you.  Amble over local walking trails.  Peruse the Coolidge homestead, schoolhouse, and the oldest Vermont cheese production facility.  Additionally, the Stand Up Shakespeare Company presents a free public performance of their Bard-Based Variety Show.  Afterwards, the annual Plymouth Folk and Blues Festival kicks off.  The air is filled with live music performances for the rest of the afternoon.

A performance by a collective troupe of New York City based actors.

Stand Up Shakespeare Company Troupe.

Stand Up Shakespeare Company Troupe.

Stand Up Shakespeare is a collective troupe of actors based in New York City.  They travel to Vermont each Labor Day weekend.  Their one-hour show is based on the works of William Shakespeare.  It includes romance, tragedy, history, and comedy. The show is held at the 173 year-old Union Christian Church located on the grounds of the Calvin Coolidge homestead State Historic Site.

Then the music starts.

Starting at 2p.m., and running until 5p.m., Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine, the 14th annual Plymouth Folk and Blues Festival showcases Vermont and internationally know musicians for a two-day festival of folk and blues music performed in the pure Vermont country air.

Plymouth used to be the Summer White House.

Plymouth Blues Festival performersFor a little historical context, the Calvin Coolidge homestead State Historic Site preserves the birthplace and homestead of our nation’s 30th President. Also on the grounds are the Wilder Barn which examine Vermont farm life at the turn of the 20th Century; The Vermont Cheese Company first started in 1890; Coolidge Hall, used as the Summer White House as well as Grange meetings, dances, and other events; the Coolidge Homestead, birthplace, and nearby nature trails. Combine an end-of-summer visit to the Vermont countryside (time spent in Vermont is never wasted) with a dose of history, culture, and a down-home good time. Labor Day weekend at the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. You won’t regret it.

By |2021-01-07T15:40:12-05:00August 20th, 2018|Seasonal Events|

Bookstock: A Woodstock bookfair celebrates literature.

Woodstock's Book FairChuck and Edie, your hosts at the October Country Inn  want you to know that Woodstock is putting up the tents on the Town Green for Bookstock, the Woodstock bookfair, and literary festival. Bookstock supports cultural richness and diversity.  It also celebrates the arts. New England is home to many talented writers representing diverse genres.   There are national Poet Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. There are also emerging young writers and those who have found their compelling voice at midlife. Bookstock encourages appreciation for good writing.  And encourages other artistic endeavors by introducing residents and visitors of all ages to writers, musicians and artists.

A Woodstock bookfair celebrating the arts.

Donald Hall reads poetry

Local poet Donald Hall reads some of his work.

This year, the Woodstock bookfair is a three day event held on July 27, 28 & 29. Events are all free, and most events take place in historic buildings around the Woodstock Green, a short walk from the center of Woodstock village.  In addition, ArtisTree Gallery in nearby South Pomfret, hosts the opening reception, as well as the UnBound exhibition of book art. Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park hosts a writing workshop and presentation. 

Bookstock workshop

Read more books.

This Vermont bookfair hosts two book sales at once. Norman Williams Public Library (NWPL) offers a selection of vintage books of interest to both serious and casual collectors. In addition, NWPL and the North Universalist Chapel Society collaborate to put together an extraordinary used book fair. Thousands of quality secondhand books are available at yard sale prices under a tent on the Green, carefully arranged by genre and topic. Check out the schedule at www.bookstockvt.org.


By |2021-01-07T16:01:49-05:00July 7th, 2018|Seasonal Events|

Plymouth Folk & Blues Festival: Music to wake up “Silent-Cal.”

Plymouth Folk & blues festival performerAlthough you wouldn’t know it by the warm temperatures, the last days of Summer at the October Country Inn are close at hand.  Here and there a few trees are starting to display Fall colors.  It won’t be long now.  Labor Day weekend traditionally signals the close of Summer.  This may be your last chance for a quick getaway.  Let us make a suggestion, check out the 11th annual 2015 Plymouth Notch Folk and Blues Festival.  Music will fill the air on Labor Day weekend, September 5 and 6, in this idyllic rural community which was the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, also known as “Silent-Cal,” the 30th president of the United States.

A pure Vermont happening.

Plymouth Notch Calvin Coolidge homestead MapAn article in a local newspaper puts it this way: “It’s hard to get more Vermont-ish than Plymouth Notch. Forget about the modern-day Vermont attention-getters like Ben & Jerry’s or Phish; we’re talking Calvin Coolidge and prize-winning cheese here. And this Labor Day weekend, Plymouth continues what’s become a new tradition in town – the annual folk and blues festival.”  The reference to “prize-winning cheese” is about the Vermont Cheese factory located across the street from the Coolidge homestead.  But apart from sampling their delicious smoked cheddar, taking a wagon ride, or painting your face, bring a blanket to spread on the lawn and be entertained by down-home folk and blues performers.  And it won’t cost a dime.  It’s all free.

Mark it down for the Labor Day weekend.

Jay Ottaway with his band.

Jay Ottaway with his band.

The event’s organizer, Jay Ottaway, a traveling blues musician himself, notes: “The festival is special for performers and audience alike because, even though it draws a big crowd, it retains the intimate, personal feel of an acoustic folk coffeehouse.” Ottaway said that he chose this venue for the festival because: With all the traveling I do as a musician Plymouth Notch has been my one steady home since childhood.  Also, if you’re more of a hands-on folk and blues enthusiast, there’s a Saturday night jam session at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizza Pub.  All in all, not a bad choice for a Labor Day outing in peaceful Plymouth Notch.  If it rains, no worries, the whole thing just moves indoors to the historic 1840 Union Christian Church right in Plymouth Notch.  Of course, if you need lodging, you can’t go wrong with the October Country Inn.


By |2021-01-07T19:35:00-05:00August 30th, 2015|Seasonal Events|

Tour de Zack: Woodstock hosts a great local cause.

Zack's Place event riders.There’s a reason that the October Country Inn has hosted bike tours and bike riders for the better part of 40 years.  This area of Vermont has world-class cycling routes.  The air is clean and pure and the scenery is magnificent.   Now you have the opportunity to experience it yourself and also join in the fastest-growing local cycling event.  The 4th Annual Tour de Zack is scheduled for Saturday, July 18, 2015.  Ride either the 27 or the 47 mile loops, both wind through nearby idyllic Vermont countryside.  Enjoy a fantastic bike ride with a group of like-minded enthusiasts and support a great cause in the bargain.

Tour de Zack is a great local cause.

Zack Frates with his mother Dail.

Zack Frates with his mother Dail.

The Tour de Zack starts at the nearby Quechee Green at 10 a.m.  The 27 mile ride goes from Quechee through West Hartford, to Pomfret, and back, or go the full 47 miles and continue to Bethel and Barnard through Woodstock and back to Quechee. All will meet at The Quechee Green, for a delicious gourmet picnic provided by Jake’s Quechee Market, at 1pm or whenever you finish. These rides are some of the most scenic in Vermont. There are good climbs so be sure to read the elevation gain for each ride. Diners who choose not to cycle are also welcome to join us for lunch. Discovery Tours will follow the riders with water and sweep behind the last starting rider.

Support Zack’s Place.

Zack's Place logo.The Tour de Zack is a fundraiser that benefits Zack’s Place, a free enrichment center whose mission is to empower special-needs people of all ages to express themselves through art, music, dance, literacy, athletics, and fitness while developing bonds of friendship. The center was founded in 2006 by the parents of Zack Frates who were seeking fellowship and creative outlets for their son with Cerebral Palsy, who would soon age out of the public education system. With few post-educational resources available, Zack’s parents created “Zack’s Place” in answer to the daunting issue of what do special-needs individuals and their families do after their school years have ended.

By |2021-01-09T14:19:48-05:00July 4th, 2015|Seasonal Events|

Downhill Throwdown: Killington hosts daredevil skateboarders.

downhill throwdown poster
If you were staying at the October Country Inn next weekend, you would be in for a rare spectacle.  Because, on June 6, 7 & 8, Killington hosts downhill skateboarders from around the world.  In short, they come to compete in the second annual Throwdown freeride event.  Presented by Restless Longboards, this speed competition is a favorite for downhill skateboard and street luge competitors.  Because, this steep downhill course covers the twists, and turns of the lower two miles of East Mountain Road.  And racers can reach speeds of 75 miles per hour.

Killington hosts downhill skateboarders.

Click on this YouTube video link to follow Sam Blais and Sam Davignon down the course.  Obviously, this is the fastest course east of the Mississippi.  That is to say, East Mountain Road is notoriously steep and very challenging to ride.  For this reson, over a daredevil skateboarders zoom downhillhundred competitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Spain, and New Zealand are expected to compete in this event.    The Killington Downhill Throwdown is the first stop in this year’s Vermont International Downhill Federation Skate Week.  Part two is hosted by Burke Mountain on June 11 to 13.

The course follows East Mountain Road.

Therefore, Don’t miss the action.  Racing on East Mountain Road starts daily at 9:00am and ends at 5:30pm.  As a result, the road will be closed for the racing during this event from 8:00am to 6:00pm.  Get there early and get a good spot.  Passage up East Mountain Road between events will be allowed (approximately every 20 minutes) and the Killington Police Department will be directing traffic.  This is really exciting stuff to watch.  These skateboarders are very skillful and go very fast.  Don’t miss it.



By |2021-01-09T14:43:16-05:00June 3rd, 2015|Seasonal Events|

Killington Stage Race: Our favorite bike route gets competitive.

Woodward Reservoir.The route of the Killington stage race happens to be one of the outdoor activities that October Country Inn guests have to choose from, one of our favorites, is an 18 mile bike ride from the Inn, past the Longtrail Brewery, up a quiet winding road through a forested valley past the Calvin Coolidge historic homestead and Plymouth Cheese Company, down hysteria hill through Plymouth and up past Woodward lake, and finally back down to the Ottauquechee River where you follow it back to the Inn.

A Memorial Day weekend event.

Map of the course.

For detailed route directions see www.vermontbikerides.com

Usually, if it’s a busy weekend, you might encounter a couple of other cyclists along the way.  But usually not.  However, if you should happen to pick the Friday of the Memorial Day weekend, you’ll have plenty of company.  This day marks the start of the annual Killington Stage Race which consists of a circuit race of between two to four laps around the same 18 mile route.

The race includes three stages.

The peleton passes nearby.Some years ago, the Killington stage race was a five stage event considered to be one of the most prestigious road cycling events in the Eastern U.S.  After a 10 year hiatus, a reduced 3 stage event came back in 2010.  Besides Friday’s circuit race, there’s a 61 mile road race and a time trial.  It’s really exciting to see these tightly grouped racers quietly whoosh by.  You can feel the energy in the air.  If you’ve ever thought about giving it a try, they have a citizen’s class for the circuit race to give you that opportunity.

By |2021-01-12T15:36:55-05:00May 30th, 2013|Seasonal Events|

Bridgewater Raft Race: Like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Raft racers spread out on the Ottauquechee River.It was just before noon on a recent warm clear Saturday Spring day when, from the front porch of the October Country Inn, you heard the start cannon go off.  Shortly thereafter, the first wave of splashing rafters begin.  They make their erratic way down the nearby Ottauquechee River.  The 39th annual Bridgewater Raft Race had begun.

Self-propelled rafts only.

The river can be shallow in spots.The race is always held on a Saturday at the end of April or beginning of May.  The three mile course follows the Ottauquechee Rive.  It parallels Route 4.  Starting just west of the Long Trail Brewery, it ends at the Bridgewater Mill.

It is open to anyone with a self-propelled, home-made raft, and a $5.00 entry fee.  The entry fee, and revenue from T-shirt sales go to support the local Bridgewater volunteer Fast Squad.  Prizes are rewarded for first, second, and third place finishers.  Prizes also for for best raft name, most original raft, most challenging raft, and any other fun category somebody comes up with.

Bridgewater raft race is a tradition since 1974.

An example of creative raft design.Two local hippies decided to honor the Phantom Duck of the Rivers, in 1974, and began what has become the annual Bridgewater Raft Race tradition.  Rules are minimal.  Rafts (including any oars)  must be home-made and self-propelled.  The Ottauquechee Rive is usually shallow at this time of year, but the water is cold.   Helmets and life jackets are recommended.  You can watch a bunch of locals engaged in doing something unusual, and having some wet Springtime fun in the bargain.

By |2021-01-12T15:55:33-05:00April 30th, 2013|Seasonal Events|
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