May 6 brings a first – the first Berkshire Cycling Classic, brought to Lenox, MA by Sparta Cycling. A highlight of the event is the participation of German cyclist Erik Zabel. Zabel is known for his epic sprint skills. This will be his first cycling appearance in the US since the 1996 Olympics. His participation extends beyond simply cycling – he will also be making some speaking appearances as well.
The event offers cyclists (and spectators) two routes, one of 62 miles, and the other of 81 miles. The details on the event website make it sound really lovely from the participant perspective:
“Riders will be delighted with our 130km and 100km parcours, both featuring luscious scenery and challenging terrain as they sweep through the beautiful Berkshire Region. The routes will be fully supported by our experienced technical crew from Mavic USA, including two autos and two motorcycles to spearhead the rider support efforts. Additionally, area bicycle shops will set up “repair pits” along the racecourse. A broom wagon will follow the event, picking up riders unable to continue their efforts.
There will be three total feed zones, at the 30, 70 and 100 kilometer points, each manned by our trained staff and well-stocked with energy drinks, water, hot drinks (if the weather is cold), energy bars, small sandwiches, and fruits such as banana’s and sliced apples – The typical food a pro racer would find in his musette bag.”
Sounds like a Lenox destination event to us! That same lovely scenery is enjoyable by spectators as well, of course. They had us at “luscious”. Downloads of the course maps are available online, as are oodles of information about registration, volunteering, sponsors and more.
Cycling News (http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/zabel-to-ride-berkshire-cycling-classic-in-may)
Photo above courtesy of the event website.
In this forum I have a category called "Celebrity Guests." Well known musicians, television, stage or movie stars, etc. But increasingly, a growing set of "celebrities" are turning that phrase into something negative....and you know who I mean....rhymes with Dim, Dookie and Embarrass.
Additionally, we have recently hosted very well-known authors, novelists and playwrights here. People who would wince if I called them a celebrity...so let's start a new category called "Notable Guests" of Hampton Terrace.
And let's start with the most un-celebrity famous person I have ever met...Ann Beattie. She and her husband, Lincoln Perry, spent a couple of off-season, mid-week days here and we had a chance to converse over breakfast, enjoy a glass of wine in front of the fireplace, and generally spend some leisurely time. She was sincere, humble, self-effacing and as genuine a person as anyone I have ever met.
I cannot say I knew who she was. Not a reader of The New Yorker, or of fiction in general, I have to admit that my WOW occurred when Entertainment Weekly arrived in my mailbox the day after she left and there she was...her new novel Mrs. Nixon featured with a photo, half-page article and a B+. Then I Googled her. WOW again. The New York Times called The New Yorker Stories one of the "Top 10 Books of 2010."
Here is what I did know: When I checked her in and was giving her a tour around the inn's common rooms the subject of The University of Virginia came up....mainly because there is a portrait of Mr. Jefferson in my bar. Ann offered that she had been teaching English at UVa since the mid 70s (except for a stint at Harvard). And then she also said her husband, Lincoln, was teaching art at U.Va and was painting the mural in Cabell Hall. I was an art major at Virginia...so the bond was permanent by that point.
She does not typically do readings in places as small as Lenox, but she went to college with the Lenox Bookstore owner, Matt Tannenbaum, and Lenox ended up on her intinerary.
So....just like the time I asked Laura Linney at a picnic...."now, exactly what do you do?," I kind-of did the same with Ann. I asked her what she was reading that night.
She told me it was somewhat different from her usual fare....short stories and novels. This was a "faux" biography...or a historical fiction...or something else entirely. She did not really know what to call it.
She had the idea to write an autobiography of Pat Nixon...only because Nixon was among the very few modern first ladies who have never written a memoir. In other words, one could only imagine what Pat Nixon thought about her husband, Viet Nam, Watergate, or any number of important events she witnessed first-hand. So Ann Beattie decided to write it for her.
Of course, she first immersed herself in all things Pat Nixon, including checking out Life Magazine photos to see how she dressed and carried herself in public. She admits not to be much of a Richard Nixon fan....which would certainly lead to some interesting suppositions. I told her sincerely that THAT sounded like a book I would want to read.
And then, of course, I went to Google: The website Slate stated by 1980 Ann was "the most famous young fiction writer in America." She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in the 1990s and has won numerous top awards including the PEN/Malamud Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Creative Writing at U.Va. Her short stories have populated The New Yorker for decades and found themselves in several collections deemed the best of the century.
So not only am I proud that I was able to host Ann Beattie and Lincoln Perry (more on him in another Notable Guest blog) but she just wrote to me, "...will most certainly see you again and have already told friends about your lovely place - I reviewed it for that travel site and meant every word..."
We will see you soon, Ann.
Actually...don't answer that yet.
I got a call several minutes ago. A nice lady booked a room for next weekend and told me she had considered about every inn in the area before committing to us. She asked why we were $75/night less than any place she looked into...yet we are rated higher on TripAdvisor than any of them. AND...we include a $30 wine gift card to the wine shop as part of the Romantic Weekend Package.
I could only reply, "Because I am an idiot."
But am I really? The last time we had a rate increase at Hampton Terrace was 2007. But our gross revenues are 30% higher in 2011 than in 2007...in spite of the economy and increased competition. That means we are hosting 30% more guests than four years ago. Susan and I are working 30% harder.
So I guess I am an idiot.
But not so fast my friend...borrowing a line from College Game Day. I went on to tell the lady that our goal at Hampton Terrace is to exceed expectations. I want our guests to drive away from Lenox feeling, "Wow, we really got a good value." And the proof is that 19 out of 20 reviews on TripAdvisor give us a 5 out of 5. Almost 400 reviews.
I certainly will not discount that occasionally we run into someone we cannot please. Or someone who was looking for a $500 experience for $199. That is the "HotWire.com" phenomenon.... because recent economic events have caused some 4-star hotels to offer 2-star prices. Lucky for those consumers...but not a business model that works in a 14-room inn.
So back to our prices. I often get asked if we offer AAA, Senior Citizen, or other discounts. I respond that our policy has always been to charge the least we can, in order to attract the most business. And apply that rate to everyone.
So there we are. Our rates vary between in-season or off-season. Mid-week or weekend.
This week we enter eight months of off-season rates. Our Romantic Weekend Special is less than $200/night for all rooms except the suites. That includes full, daily-changing, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets of comfort food. We also provide $30 of wine or gourmet food of your choice to enjoy in your room, at our self-help bar, or in front of one of our many fireplaces. We help you plan your stay by providing lists of recommended restaurants and things to do in the area.
And according to my most recent call, we are $75 less than other inns. I guess I AM an idiot.
Seems quintessentially New England. A caroling choir on a street corner merrily entertaining by-standers. Snow on the ground. Smell of fireplaces and hot chocolate. Nice.
So what do you think about up to 30 of them? In competition? Worth a visit to what is already the quintessential New England town?
Welcome to the Lenox Caroling Festival.
The Berkshires, rated the #7 destination in the world by National Geographic Traveler is already known for its world-class events. Boston Globe once pronounced this area "an aggregation of performing arts unmatched anywhere in America:" Tanglewood, Shakespeare and Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Barrington Stage Company, Jacob's Pillow...
But many of these organizations only present during the summer "season." The Lenox Caroling Festival was conceived to inspire a critical mass of varied performances during the "holiday season." Already, the December 10th weekend calendar is filling up: Shakespeare & Company is presenting the "Santaland Diaries," Ventfort Hall has a decorator showcase and other activities, the Lenox Library is hosting a Gingerbread House contest, there is a tour of homes/inns. The calendar is expanding. Bottom line....a visit to Lenox on that weekend is a guarantee of satisfying entertainment.
The Lenox Caroling Festival will feature approximately 30 choirs performing throughout the day, Saturday, December 10th, at six locations around Lenox Village (a town of only two square blocks). You....the audience...will get to vote on your favorite performances.
The winner will be announced at Shakespeare & Company at 6 pm, where the winning choir will perform again. First place is $2,000....a very generous bounty in the world of choraling competitions. Lenox is serious about this!
Visit the Lenox Choraling Competition website, where local businesses have posted special offers and coupons. Hampton Terrace has rooms available and is offering the Romantic Weekend Package and off-season rates.
Ventfort Hall, located across the street from Hampton Terrace, was featured last month on a nationally televised episode of Ghost Hunters.
So it is entirely in context to carry the ghost theme into Halloween Weekend.
A full slate of activities has been planned for this upcoming weekend, including a lecture by Andrew Lake, author of "Ghost Hunting in Southern New England," which analyzes ghost sightings in thirty legendary haunted places, including Ventfort Hall.
Also, the weekend includes a presentation from Chicopee Paranormal Investigators, who have done ten examinations of the mansion and will present a summary of their findings.
On the afternoon of the 31st, a "Ghostly Tea" will be held by Intuitive Spirit Medium, Lisa Lanno.
For information on ALL of these events and more CLICK HERE.
Hampton Terrace was fortunate to be at the epicenter of a great event last month...Broadway in the Berkshires.
Produced as a fundraiser for Shakespeare & Company education programs by Lenox's Deborah Grausman, the evening featured a number of Broadway-associated actors who donated their time and talents. The evening raised over $60,000.
New York-based reviewer William Wolf captured the spirit of the evening. Pictured at left is Tony-winner and evening host, Chip Zion, and organizer/rpoducer Deborah Grausman.
We were priviledged to host several of the actors for the weekend, but in a larger capacity, Hampton Terrace served as the host of the "after-party" for the actors and major donors of the evening.
Approximately fifty people attended the after-party, which was highlighted by much spontaneous singing around the grand piano....with jazz pianist David Grausman showing his chops to keep up. If our piano could express joy, this would be an evening it would remember.
Hampton Terrace has been very fortunate to be associated with many such collaborations: a staged reading of a musical version of "Sense and Sensibility" which is under development.....and a production of David Black's "An Impossible Life." Both productions featured Tony-award level actors and were capped by receptions here at Hampton Terrace. Many of the actors stayed here during the production.
Susan and I are very honored to be able to meet and host such talented people. We hope our association continues many years into the future.
Photos by Kevin Sprague
Shakespeare and Company, located a mere block from Hampton Terrace attempts to program year-round to provide entertainment of the highest caliber to Berkshire visitors. For ticket information CLICK HERE.
It has been a while since we did a blog on celebrity relationships at Hampton Terrace. Time to get back to it.
Last month we were honored to host Jerry Williams from California for a week. Jerry is a semi-retired percussionist... who has performed on more than 750 movie scores. Jerry, and his wife Shirley, were in town to enjoy "John Williams Movie Night," conducted by his brother....John Williams, of course.
Did John stay here? Not necessary, because John has a 30+ year relationship with the Berkshires and has his own 2-bedroom cottage (with grand piano) on the grounds of Blantyre.
But he did visit Jerry here at Hampton Terrace, and he played our Steinway Grand. Not content to let that be a "word of mouth" rumor for either Hampton Terrace or the Steinway, we asked Jerry if he would mind asking John to document his visit.
Within the week, the following note arrived:
I consider this extraordinarily generous on the part of John, of course, who took the time to send a letter from California. But especially from Jerry. This is akin to asking a girl if she would fix you up with her better-looking best friend.
But having spent a week with Jerry and his wife, I detected nothing but great respect and admiration for his brother, and a sense of awe at what John has accomplished. In my opinion, John Williams will be remembered as the greatest composer of this generation, and most probably of the century.
John's trip to our piano was not a serendipity. He has a passion for pianos, according to Jerry, and was especially intrigued by this one.
Our 1929 Steinway "L" has been played by many of the world's most famous musicians and singers, including Arthur Fiedler, Emanuel Ax, Van Cliburn, Roberta Peters, Robert Merrill, Jerome Hines, Robert Shaw, Claudio Arrau, Alicia de LaRocha, and others. Many signed the pin block.
How that came to be...will be the subject of another blog.
But add John Williams. Jerry has promised to be back. We are hoping it will be as soon as next summer, when it is a certainty that Tanglewood will do something special for John's 80th birthday.
Celebrated stars of Broadway, current and past, will perform in Lenox on Monday, August 13th. Some will stay at Hampton Terrace and all will attend a reception here after the show.
The Berkshire Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization for the Berkshires. It receives state funding as a "regional tourism council" and also orchestrates campaigns on behalf of its 700 members, including Hampton Terrace.
Reminding potential visitors about what the Berkshires can offer is increasingly difficult as budgets tighten at the state level, at not-for-profits like the Norman Rockwell Museum and Tanglewood, and at corporate members, like Canyon Ranch and Jiminy Peak.
So the message has to be clean, concise, targeted and results-oriented.
Would you not agree that the campaign above fits the bill? These posters appear in many dozens of rail and subway stations in Boston for the next several months. Hits at the Berkshire Visitors Bureau website are up 20% since the campaign started...and that is no small feat since the BVB website is already the #1 ranked website utilizing the term "Berkshires."
The goal is to do New York City next year. Very smart people are behind this campaign and I cannot imagine it will not happen.