Local officials stressed that the event, oft-dubbed "Wilco Weekend," is also an occasion for area residents to enjoy the many activities and late-night openings being planned in the downtown with the hope they will be dancing in the streets come Thursday night.
"Sometimes I think people in the community get lost in the sense that this isn't for us," said Mayor Richard Alcombright at a meeting Monday afternoon with some of the events coordinators. "I think we really have to send the message that it's for everyone."
Some 7,000 to 8,000 festivalgoers from 48 states and four countries will begin descending on Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — and the city — beginning Thursday through Sunday.
The number's on the increase from the band Wilco's first curated festival held in 2010, when more than 5,000 attended the three-day event that mixes musical performances, talks and art installations at Mass MoCA. The festival took a year off last year.
But while thousands are heading into Mass Moca, there'll be plenty of activities for both area residents and visitors off-campus, including the kickoff of Downstreet Art on Thursday night.
The opening of the summerlong gallery series is a week early to take advantage of the Solid Sound draw.
Jonathan Secor, director of Massachusetts College of Liberal Art's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, said he knew of a number of visitors coming a day early to include Downstreet Art into their festival weekend.
"One of the coolest things last time was the people who we saw a month or two later, who had originally come during the Solid Sound Festival, and they said they didn't have a chance to get downtown," said Secor of 2011's event. "How to do we capture them to come back on a regular basis?"
The answer lies in presenting the city's best foot forward, one that also encourages local residents to enjoy its attractions.
"We love the 7,000 visitors we're going to see but it isn't about just that," said Alcombright. "This is a community event ... to make a very enjoyable weekend not just visitors but for residents."
Thursday night includes a 45-part reading of Frederick Douglass' 4th of July address of 1852 by local officials — and anyone who like to sign up that night to participate. Nomadic Massive hosts a hip hop block party on Main Street to which everyone's invited. Both events are also part of Lift Ev'ry Voice.
"We're really trying to elevate the performance elements to really make sense with the art and what's happening," Secor said.
On the weekend, disc jockeys will be providing music on the main drag beginning at 11 p.m., about the same time the lights flick on, said Secor, adding that it will be some "fun stuff" with LEDs. Also look for a roving art installation in a pickup truck.
On the weekend, businesses and restaurants will be able to stay open until 2 a.m., and are being encouraged to provide attractions for residents and for the late-night crowd exiting Mass MoCA. Local residents were out in force in the downtown during the last festival.
"It was amazing how many locals were downtown just enjoying the night," said the mayor. "It's a great opportunity."
The new North Adams Chamber of Commerce has been coordinating with businesses, and helping those who may be new to Solid Sound to understand what it means for business. Restaurant maps and coupons through the chamber and BerkshireMenus will be distributed, along with the DownstreetArt Art Map.
"From beginning to end, it's going to be a busier day," said chamber President Glenn Maloney. "There are so many more choices than a year ago."
Above, Jonathan Secor expects Downstreet Art to attract not only area residents but festivalgoers; right, Mayor Richard Alcombright said the city's public safety is prepared for the influx of visitors.
Inside MoCA, there'll also be booth space with information about the city, and 15 volunteers will mingle with the crowd in "talk to a townie" shirts to answer any questions visitors might have and offer directions.
On Sunday, the Main Street Market opens from 9 to 2 on Main Street between Holden and Eagle streets with more than 40 vendors, ranging from produce to jewelry to handmade soaps.
"We heard so frequently that that was one of the highlights" of the last festival, said Veronica Bosley, the city's director of tourism and events.
The Holiday Inn was reportedly sold out by Thursday; Solid Ground, the campsite at Noel Field Athletic Complex, is also sold out with 340 sites (up 90 from 2011) and the overflow is being redirected to "Hurricane Camping" at Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire.
"We anticipate a hard and fast start [on Friday]," said Jodi Joseph, director of communications at Mass MoCA. The festival kicks off at 6:30 that night with the prime attraction being Wilco's "all request show" at Joe's Field on the museum campus. "... As a venue, we've really upped our game."
People are expected be trickling in during Friday afternoon, and Joseph expects the city to be "beyond bustling by about 4 or 5 o'clock."
Three-day passes are still available, as are Friday and Sunday single-day passes.
"It's just an exciting time for the community to kind of share North Adams with people who are coming from far away," said Bosley.
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