We’ve had a dusting or too of ESSENNOOUCH, but the big guns (e.g., the storms that are advertised as 4 inches for you, that turn into 18 inches for us) are yet to be seen. Not a problem — I can’t remember whether the big-tread tires are on the front wheels as they should be. Should ask my husband. These decisions matter out here in the land of no-reliable-public-transportation but beautiful scenery and sincere folks.

A lot has gone on since my last entry, and if you’re interested in theatre, come see a charming production of Christmas Carol every weekend in December leading up to Xmas at Stratton Players (currently housed in the UU church at the top of the Common, Main Street, Fitchburg). for more. Also, a group of artists is having a discussion on la vie boheme on Tuesday, December 10, 6:30 pm at The Kiln, 353 Main Street, Fitchburg. This is a glass shop this is also (shhh) a head shop! I was so delighted when owner Michael Flanagan talked about their wares. He brought an amazing box of glass-made items by local glass artists — the kind of work you’d see under the glass cases at Harvard’s MCZ (anatomically correct milkweed caterpillar, surrealist beads, etc). This is free, and more on Facebook if you go to my site.

The bigger story is that a group of people are trying to launch a charter school here in Fitchburg. This would be a K-4 and is utterly unnecessary and redundant, particularly since 3 of our 7 schools moved up a level in the state testing, and one K-4; Crocker Elementary was voted #5 of the top 15 elementary schools by We had a public hearing and a lot of people spoke on behalf of FPS — eloquent testimony by parents and students, teachers and administrators, that really brought the point home to the DOE Board who was in attendance that FPS are very much on the right track. Since then, I have been doing research on charter schools and truly impressed by how their lobbyists have effectively commod-ified a public service. The last motherlode of public money was protected — until Ed. Reform! And so, we get egregious examples like the so called “STEAM STUDIO” charter project trying to launch in Andover (a top-tier public school system — but the folks who want their charter school want to limit further the number of kids who can take advantage of public money), and various frequent-flyers in the application process.

Our Representative, Stephen DiNatale, our Senator, Jen Flanagan, our Mayor Lisa Wong, our School Committee, our City Council have all voted against this proposed charter school, and we have lively meetings every week of “Fitchburg Public Schools First” (FPS 1) to discuss our ongoing support of public schools.

DOE makes this decision in February, so we have some weeks to go and if I’m not out and about doing cool things, I’m hunkered down protecting the public schools and the education of 5100 kids that I swore to protect six years ago when elected School Committee. Happy Hanukkah/holidays to all.

more at

— Sally Cragin / News from Tri-town




Growing up in Lunenburg, MA, population around 5000 with no streetlights in my youth (now there are at least a half-dozen), I couldn’t wait to get to the big city. And when I got there I became a journalist, first a rock critic, than an arts reviewer. I’m writing about these experiences on the Phoenix alumni page on Facebook (email me at if you want the installments. It’s pretty funny — a coming of age story provisionally titled “Teenage Typesetter on the Night Shift.”

Of course now I’m a mom in a mini-van, making my living as Symboline Dai, STILL writing for the surviving Phoenixes (Portland, ME and Providence, RI). And I’m doing what I said I’d never do, which is living in my homeland.

My husband and I live in Fitchburg — yes, we’re a stop on the Commuter Rail. We have gorgeous Gilded Age housing stock for tiny, tiny sums (houses go from $40k to $200 and up), a great mayor, our friend Lisa Wong, and superb and constantly improving public schools. Recently, Fitchburg State College upgraded to a University, and I spend my Tuesdays overseeing Riverfront Children’s Theatre, which I co-founded with my mom. We have an 85 year old Community theatre, Stratton Players, tons of hiking trails, we’re 5 minutes from Mount Wachusett, you can finally get a decent cup of coffee, and I’m very active in ACE, a group I started. ACE Central MA is a volunteer group that assists the Shelter animals of north central Mass and presents school programs to ALL the kids in school (last year, more than 5000 kids heard our message). More at

So Here and Sphere’s editor asked for info on what’s going on here. Answer : Lots!
The Historical Piano Concerts up in Ashburnham is the big winner. They’ve been written up in the NYTimes, and years ago, when Patricia and Michael, the owners only had, say 30 historical pianos, I wrote a piece about them for the Globe. Their concert series is broadcast on public radio and takes place in an acoustically resonant Congregational Church in the center of Ashburnham. There’s more at, but here’s a sampling of what you’ll find this month….
Come visit!

Sally Cragin

FITCHBURG ART MUSEUM sponsors’ Nora Valdez’s public art celebration, 1 to 3 pm, Prichard and Main Street, Fitchburg, FREE. Public Art Installation, and discussion. Refreshments, dancing, fun, and food! FREE

Historical Piano Concerts from The Frederick Collection of Grand Pianos at 4 pm at Ashburnham Community Church, Ashburnham. 978/827-6232. MIHAI TETEL, violoncello & IRA BRAUS, piano by Caspar Katholnig, Vienna, ca. 1805-1810 play Ludwig van Beethoven Twelve variations in G on See, the conqu’ring hero, WoO 45 (1796), from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus, HWV 63 (1746); Andante con variazioni in D for mandoline & harpsichord, WoO 44/2b (1796), arr. Steven Isserlis; Twelve variations in F, Op. 66, on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen, and Seven variations in Eb, WoO 46 (1801), on Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen, both from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, K.620 (1798); Franz Joseph Haydn Divertimento in D (misc. movements transcr. by Gregor Piatigorsky); Luigi Boccherini Sonata No. 4 in A for violoncello & Bc, G4 (ca.1770).

>^^< STORIES AND SHELTER CATS, Fitchburg Library 4:30 pm (immediately after LEGO club). MEET a shelter cat, HEAR a cat story, MAKE a cat-related craft. Sponsored by ACE and Fitchburg Friends of Felines.

Annual Tori/Finnish Marketplace, 10:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. Finnish and Scandinavian wares and pastries, arts and crafts. Local vendors and folks from out of town. This is a great occasion to get holiday gifts, as well as unique crafts from overseas at really reasonable prices. The BEST bread in the world, “pulla” will be on sale. For those who grew up here, you may remember the Finnish Co-Op where the Post Office now is in downtown Fitchburg. That’s where I had pulla during my childhood and became Finnish-by-proxy. At the Tori, you’ll find beef stew, vegetable soup, hot dogs, coffee & Finnish coffee bread, Arctic sundaes. Finnish Center at Saima Park, 61 Scott Rd., Fitchburg, MA 01420. Call or email Maija at 978 582-7717 or

—- Sally Cragin — Blog 810