Chamber celebrates growth of CiderDays

  • Cider tasting at West County Cider in Shelburne during CiderDays. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dan Young of Michigan, one of the founders of The People’s Pint in Greenfield, returned for CiderDays this year, bringing his ciders for tasting at Loot in Turners Falls. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Varieties of apples on display at Loot in Turners Falls during CiderDays. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/22/2019 10:46:12 PM
Modified: 11/22/2019 10:45:59 PM

WHATELY — This year was the 25th anniversary of CiderDays, and although the event has come and gone, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce decided to celebrate it one more time at its monthly breakfast Friday at the Whately Inn with speakers who have been involved for many years.

Ben Clark, fourth-generation owner of Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, said his grandfather started pressing cider in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

“It was a small-town farming thing,” he said. “We’ve upgraded since then to stainless steel. We do sweet cider.”

Clark said his father, Tom Clark, knew the people who started CiderDays through a conversation in a field in Colrain.

“It was about 10 to 12 years ago that the cider movement picked up steam,” Clark said. “Cideries have come a long way since CiderDays started.”

Originally, CiderDays was a one-day event with not much more going on than a few home cider makers sharing their products. It has grown into an event that draws thousands from all over the United States and the world, as well as commercial producers.

“The event is an economic driver for the area,” he said. “It benefits all sorts of businesses.”

Field Maloney, owner of West County Cider, said his business started in 1984. He said until then, cider wasn’t a big driver, and definitely not hard cider.

“We found our way into fermentation,” he said.

His father, who was a doctor, moved to the area to grow apples, and in the 1980s, decided to try his hand at making cider. He had done some wine making in California, so he figured he’d use some of the techniques he had learned.

“He started making cider and kept going, despite the fact that no one else was listening,” Maloney said. “A group of people got together and discussed how to get people to listen about cider and think about apples. CiderDays started as a small thing.”

Maloney said CiderDays has always been about more than one person or one place. Even in the early days, it happened at all of the orchards that took part.

“You didn’t just come to a tent to drink,” he said. “It was volunteers and exploring Franklin County that made it what it is today.”

CiderDays is held the first weekend of November every year. He said it has expanded to even longer than that by some orchards that offer special events on the Thursday and Friday before.

Maloney said organizers love that it has grown and evolved, but plan to keep it a volunteer-run event and keep it unique.

Author and cider expert Ben Watson, who has been helping with the event for many years, said he became interested in cider making when he met the Maloneys.

“I’ve been coming to CiderDays since the 1990s,” Watson said. “Initially it was focused on people making their own cider and sharing it. It was a bit of a geeky thing. Actually, it still is.”

After meeting cider makers, he believed cider making would end up being a big deal, that it would explode. He said it is one of the few predictions he has made in his life that was proven true.

“This event is not a drinking event,” Watson said. “It’s about education and tasting different kinds and attracting producers.”

He said when the Cider Salon opened at the event in 2008, 13 producers contributed 25 different brands. This year, 52 producers contributed, and there were more than 130 brands offered.

“It’s all about celebrating the culture of cider,” he said.

Lisa Davol, Franklin County Chamber of Commerce marketing and membership manager and one of the CiderDays organizers, moderated the panel discussion.

“This event is known all over the county, all over the country and internationally,” she said. “But there are still some people right here in Franklin County who don’t know about it.”

She said many of the events and workshops held during CiderDays are free, but some are ticketed. She said 1,070 tickets were sold this year, with people who bought them coming from all over the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

She said 42 percent of the tickets sold were to people from outside of Massachusetts and half of the state residents who attended came from the Boston area.

“We had 15,000 visitors to our website,” she said. “Our hotels were booked and our businesses thrived.”

Davol said CiderDays is a mecca for cider makers and cider drinkers. Those who conceived of the idea 25 years ago in a field in Colrain have forever changed the landscape of cider in Franklin County and beyond — many cider makers from other parts of the country have copied, or at least tried to copy, what CiderDays has done.

For more information about CiderDays, visit: ciderdays.org. For information about the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, visit: franklincc.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.


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