The Village of Turners Falls in the town of Montague has gone through a renaissance over the past several years, transforming from a town of industry to a hub of art, culture and unique businesses. Helping to shepherd this change has been RiverCulture, a partnership of leaders from the arts and business communities which is committed to promoting and strengthening cultural life in the village.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Suzanne LoManto, the Director of RiverCulture to find out more about the past, present and future of creativity and culture in Turners.
This segment originally aired on March 31, 2022.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: The village of Turners Falls in the town of Montague has gone through a renaissance over the past several years, transforming from a town of industry to a hub of art, culture, and unique businesses.
Helping to shepherd this change has been RiverCulture, a partnership of leaders from the arts and business communities, which is committed to promoting and strengthening cultural life in the village.
I spoke with Suzanne LoManto, the director of RiverCulture, to find out more about the past, present, and future of creativity and culture in Turners. Suzanne, RiverCulture started in 2006. Tell me a little bit about why that was important to have this organization and what do you guys do?
Suzanne LoManto, RiverCulture: So, RiverCulture was founded in 2006 with a grant from the Mass Cultural Council, it was called an Adams Grant. And the Mass Cultural Council set up the grant because they were looking for communities like Turners Falls where the creative economy could take foothold. And then that program was sunsetted in 2017.
And at that point, the town of Montague voted to put RiverCulture as a permanent part of town hall. I run the RiverCulture program and my job is to work on the creative economy.
But the mission of RiverCulture is, specifically, to enhance quality of life for people that live here; to foster the creative economy; and to create an environment that attracts new businesses, creative entrepreneurs, visitors, and residents to the town of Montague.
Zydalis Bauer: So, Turners Falls is one of the five villages that makes up the town of Montague.
How do you partner with the other villages and their cultural institutions and organizations?
Suzanne LoManto: The town of Montague isn’t a big place. Turners Falls is very small, but Montague is a town of 8,000 people, so we have to work together. We are a resourceful group of people. Town is — the town of Montague is resourceful.
I think one of the things that RiverCulture does very well is just the fact that there is this position, there is a central person — me. If you have questions, if you need partners, if you need resources, people in town know that I’m the person to go and speak with, maybe in order to get an event off the ground or perhaps to get some more information.
And so, again, it’s — it’s we’re resourceful and we have to be and so we do work together.
Zydalis Bauer: When I visit a new town or village or city, one of my favorite things to do is check out the food scene.
So, tell me a little bit about what the village of Turners Falls has to offer.
Suzanne LoManto: The restaurant scene is very good. I think not only the restaurant scene, but the brewery scene.
We have a number of microbrews in town, as well. I think what’s really interesting is because we’re in Franklin County, we’re so close to all these farms. So, most of the stuff is super local, super fresh, and generally organic.
And it’s a great place to come and do — to get a meal, to go down to Unity Park, to do some shopping, of course, to go to the Discovery Center, which is a fantastic museum right over the bridge here on the other side of Route Two.
Zydalis Bauer: You mentioned the unique businesses that are in Turners Falls, and it is really a fun dining and shopping experience.
What makes this place the ideal location to start a business, and what can visitors expect when they come?
Suzanne LoManto: I think what’s unique about the business community in Turners Falls is the number of businesses that identify with the upcycling movement and prioritize things that are handmade, locally-sourced, or ethically-sourced.
And that’s why we have shops like Loot and that’s why we have shops like Buckingham Rabbits Vintage and Breakdown Records and FAB Fashion. They’re stores that prioritize things that are handmade and things that are unique. Turners Falls is strictly a one of a kind shopping experience. Everything here is unique in and of itself.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, throughout the year, RiverCulture is putting on different programing and events.
Tell me what you’ve done in the past and what you hope to do in the future.
Suzanne LoManto: I think maybe one of the highlights of the year is the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival. So that happens the first weekend in August, every year. We’re in our eighth year. That is produced by the Nolumbeka Project and I am a proud co-sponsor of that event.
And right now, we’re in the middle of kind of planning our 2022 season. We call it our Summer Park series. So those are things that are happening in the cultural district. So, down at Peskeompskut Park, which is on the other end across from the Carnegie Library, and of course at wonderful Unity Park, which is on the water. So we’re going to have music, live music, obviously, and theater, and events for kids, and that happens from June to August.
And all of that information will be on the RiverCulture website.
Zydalis Bauer: So, what is something here in the village that is really under the radar that many people might not know about?
Suzanne LoManto: Hm! That’s interesting. We have a lot that’s under the radar, but I think one thing that’s under the radar is our little fashion boutique on Second Street.
So, we have a fashion boutique called FAB, and that’s run by a man named Richie Richardson, who splits his time between here and New York City. And he is a designer, and he brings his designing friends up from New York and around the Caribbean.
And his business model is that he makes clothes for you. So, he has clothes there, of course. And they’re lovely. They’re just gorgeous. But if there’s something that you like, he will measure you and have it made. And that is something I don’t know if it exists anywhere else in the valley.
Zydalis Bauer: What is your favorite part about your position and the town of Montague and the village of Turners Falls?
Suzanne LoManto: My favorite thing about Turners Falls is that…how hard it is that we work. We work really hard.
There’s a wonderful sculpture down the street called Rock, Paper, Scissors. And if you look at the plaque on the side of the seating area, it says that it’s the little — the little village that could. And that really is us, we don’t give up. We don’t give up. We just keep meeting and talking and thinking about the next step.
The last two years have been hard on everybody, that’s for sure. But we are going to come out this spring and we’re going to do it.