Cross-country skiing has seen a boost in popularity during the pandemic, for obvious reasons. It’s an outdoor sport that naturally lends itself to social distancing.
For Hopkinton Parks & Recreation, that made it a perfect addition to its lineup of winter programs. The recently concluded cross-country skiing program in town was a big hit — and would have been even bigger had more people been able to find equipment to rent.
“The issue for the numbers came down to getting equipment,” said Bob FitzPatrick, a longtime Nordic skiing coach who led the program with his daughter, Marisa, a former competitive skier. “Equipment became very scarce very early on because of COVID. All the cross-country equipment was for the most part gone right after Christmas. If you went to any of the cross-country areas, they were jammed.”
Those who were fortunate enough to acquire equipment enjoyed lessons in the snow on the fields behind the high school/middle school complex. There were two four-week programs for kids as well as a one-day program for adults.
“Before we had any snow, we were able to do a lot of dry land training, and then once the snow came, we got out there doing drills, skiing, we even got to ski down Center Trail and really take advantage of the trails/fields Hopkinton has to offer,” said Marisa.
Establishing the trails was a team effort.
“For the most part, we did most of the work ourselves by snowshoeing or just skiing in the tracks,” Bob said. “Building and Grounds groomed it once, for the last class [on Feb. 24]. Prior to that we had so much snow early on and the machines couldn’t go through the deeper snow. So myself and Colleen [Allen from Parks & Rec], we snowshoed the trails a few times, then we skied them in.”
The program focused on the basics of the sport: learning how to push off, how to glide, downhill skills, uphill skills, turning, stopping and more. The coaches also incorporated some games for the younger skiers.
“We did relays, ski on one ski, snow soccer — although because of COVID, kids were getting too close together so we discontinued that,” Bob said. “But lots of relays, balance activities, something we call the Iditarod, where kids pull each other on a saucer.”
Following the successful debut, organizers already are planning for next winter’s program.
“I think it’s something people want to get into and do it every year,” Bob said. “I think COVID was kind of a good entry to get into it, because people are looking for more outdoor activities. But once [Parks & Rec] saw the popularity with it and how the kids really enjoyed it, I think it will be something they continue to do.”
For more information on upcoming Parks & Rec programs, including flag football, STEM basketball, golf, children’s etiquette and more, visit hopkintonma.myrec.com.
Central Public dining bubbles a big hit
It might seem like we’re living in a bubble nowadays, with all the COVID precautions. Well, at Central Public House, you can actually be in a bubble while you enjoy a meal. Late last month the restaurant installed two plastic dining bubbles — which include heat and lighting — on its front patio, and they were an immediate hit.
“They were fully booked out,” general manager Mike Thomas reported on the first weekend. “People were calling and requesting them. … The feedback has been great, people are excited about trying them out.”
The idea started with Bryan Brown, branch manager of Guaranteed Rate on South Street and vice president of the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce. Brown had recently taken his family to eat at a restaurant at Patriot Place in Foxboro, and they enjoyed the bubble experience there.
“We had a good time, really enjoyed it, it was something unique and different,” Brown recalled. “Then kind of the light bulb went off and I said, ‘Oh, we should do this in Hopkinton.’ ”
So Brown reached out to his friends at Central Public House. Thomas said they had wanted to install dining bubbles, but because of the uncertainty of the winter dining season during the pandemic, they were hesitant to spend the money.
Brown offered to partner with the restaurant on the project, serving as sponsor.
“A lot of these restaurants, they’re hurting,” Brown said. “I just want to see the business do well and support local. It’s one local business supporting another.”
On Feb. 26 the bubbles hosted their initial diners: Bryan Brown and family.
“We had to make sure he’d be the first,” Thomas said.
K of C hosts annual food drive virtually
The Knights of Columbus Bishop Rice Council, which covers Hopkinton and Ashland, is holding its annual Lenten Food Drive this month, aiming to offer support to the Project Just Because Hopkinton Food Pantry. For the second straight year the event will be held virtually due to the pandemic.
“Many of our friends and neighbors continue to be in distress,” the council wrote in its fundraising appeal. “Food insecurity affects one out of eight Massachusetts residents. The Project Just Because Food Pantry of Hopkinton is continually challenged to meet the ongoing needs of our community, they are running critically low on food and supplies.”
The drive will be held from March 13-21. Those wishing to contribute can send a check made payable to Project Just Because, with K of C 4822 FFF written in the memo section, to St. John the Evangelist, 20 Church St., Hopkinton, MA 01748. Another option is to purchase an Amazon eGift card and have it emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (add K of C FFF Drive in the message box). Gifts also can be made through donor-advised charitable funds by selecting Project Just Because in Hopkinton (Tax ID 06-1728553). Specify in the use/note area that it is for the K of C Council 4822 Food for Families Food Drive.
All donations are tax-deductible.