I was on my way home from a family reunion a while ago and came over a small hill and literally stopped. I looked across the expansive fields of hay bales, into the white clouds, blue skies, and green, green, green. I knew that just about 18 miles away was Canandaigua – bustling with tourists and waterfront activity. Beyond that in another 20 miles is Rochester with nearly 350,000 people. Right now though, in my world over that hill, there were no people – and that’s the kind of moment that is just as precious in our tourism world. Real, authentic, fresh air in the country! I was in Gorham, New York.
In today’s world it’s often all about fast and busy and active. We write, we tweet, we Facebook about the newest – fastest – most modern things and know that visitors love those experiences. Done and next! What do we see and do if we slow down – and encourage our visitors to do the same?
Gorham is a quieter part of Ontario County. It bears the name of the original landholder of the “western frontier,” Nathaniel Gorham. Certainly, things have changed since 1789, but the really cool thing about Gorham is that its history is preserved and its tone is preserved, I thought as I looked across this long landscape. I grabbed my phone and snapped these pictures to help capture the moment and give Gorham its due. This town is full of examples that make small town America bucket-list-worthy.
I could lace together a long list of phrases to describe Gorham, but instead, I offer this picture series and my own little top 10 list to illustrate why the road less traveled yields surprises for the soul.
#1. Agricultural splendor
The scene changes seasonally – even throughout the day. Let me tell you – the sunset across this field is amazing.
#2. Classic cars, classic bike rides
I don’t know much about cars, but I did notice this one and then when it pulled up behind me – it was the former supervisor from the Town of Gorham. He too was out enjoying the sunny Sunday. It has to be fun driving these cars – but even seeing them is a joy. As for the biking – we have a bike route that takes you through the time of Gorham and interprets the sights and history along the way. Check out Gorham Lake Views and History ride on this link.
#3. Cultural diversity
The Mennonites and the Amish run many of these farms and on a Sunday they are in church and with family – but their neatly kept yards and farms are sprinkled throughout Gorham. It’s a simple life – and it is good.
Growing up in a Finger Lakes high school, the highlight of May was to be in the school band and participate in the Gorham Pageant of Bands. At times more than 50 field, marching and concert bands spread out in this school, behind the school, and through the community in a competition that earned Gorham its moniker as The Bandstand of the Finger Lakes.
#5. The cemetery
Yes, the cemetery is a visitor attraction – especially for genealogical root-seekers. I love the sloped hill, the huge trees and the quiet.
#6. Victorian architecture, farm-style bed and breakfasts and beautifully manicured lawns
Need I say more – there are many of these in Gorham and my hat is off to the owners who keep them up, so we can snap pictures of them. Check out the Gorham House Bed and Breakfast (see picture above) and you know you'll get a restful night's sleep there!
#7. Art or Architecture?
Where do you get to see such beautiful restored building art? This is not art for the sake of art – this is industrious America, captured (and restored) at its place in time. P.S. Check out the restaurant too – and across the street is one of my favorite little antique shops and country grocery stores.
#8. Museums and Historical Society
Have you ever seen such a beautifully landscaped post office? Museum? Historical society? What is it? All of the above. Unfortunately it wasn’t open when I was there – but peeking in the windows is allowed in Gorham!
#9. Small town events
Growing up in the country, I know that often to partake in community social events you had to “drive into town.” Watch for those rotating signs. Guaranteed, the drive into town will yield both new friendships and new knowledge. It’s often the simple things from which you gain the most. P.S. watch the signs in particular for a chicken barbecue, church dinner, impromptu fundraiser for a community group. Yum (just saying!)
#10. Cobblestone buildings
Houses, barns, and more are made from the cobblestones in the area. This architecture is quite unique to New York State (Ontario County has about 100 cobblestones) and Gorham also has its surprises, seek them out for your rewards!
I always think that a top 10 list sounds contrived, so I needed to make sure you got an eleventh item as well. So what is No. 11? I'll let you choose between a deep, eyes closed, yoga-style breath of the clean, crisp, fresh air; some refreshing lemonade in a Dixie cup for 25 cents from a roadside stand; or a fresh-from-the-garden table of fruits and vegetables where you are on your honor to pay for what you take. I can’t choose – what makes you feel good is the best way to go.
There is no Disney here – thank goodness. Gorham, NY conjures up a different set of words: nostalgic, bucolic, idyllic.
“Hmmm,” I thought. “All of these are big words to describe the simple, pleasurable feeling you can have when visiting a small town like Gorham. Check off your bucket list – Small Town America and you'll be glad you slowed down long enough to enjoy it!