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Are We There Yet?: Winterfest or Thaw-fest?

By Rebecca Dravis
Special to iBerkshires
What happened to winter?
I'm not really complaining, mind you, as that recent bout of sub-zero temperatures left my middle-aged bones chilled through and through. But my daughter is not happy about the possible cancellation of a Winterfest activity of outdoor fun at Girl Scout camp this weekend — though that event is now interfering with the Patriots game, which I wasn't happy about. After all, what is a Winterfest without snow? January Thaw-fest, I guess.
As an aside, this thaw actually gave me a really nice half an hour. On Wednesday, I was left in charge of waiting for some volunteers to pick up Girl Scout cookies (yes, it's that time of year again; look for the girls all over the region in the next few weeks!). It was such a nice day that I sat outside in the sun, by myself, with no cell phone or iPad or kids or anything to distract me. I just sat there doing nothing. It truly was a magical 30 minutes.

But I digress ... 
The lack of snow might change the plans of an event this Saturday, Jan. 18, at one of my favorite places in Berkshire County: Sheep Hill. This nature preserve just south of the heart of Williamstown is run by the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation and is one of the most family-friendly ways to get outdoors in the area. This Saturday, there are two Winter Snow Animal Tracking programs, led by naturalist Dan Yacobellis. The 9 to 11:30 a.m. program is for beginners and young children and will encompass a family friendly walk around the lower Sheep Hill slopes identifying tracks and signs of animals such as squirrels, rabbits, mice, fox, deer and birds that have been through. From noon to 4 p.m., the program is for adults and kids 8 and up who want to take tracking a little further. This program venture up into the forest and look for some of the more secretive creatures like fisher and bobcat and will look a bit more closely at the tracks. Space is limited and registration is required. The suggested donation for the program is $5 per person or $10 per family. To register or for more information, email lre@wrlf.org.
But even if a period of January thaw is too cold for you to be outdoors, here's an indoor suggestion for Saturday: the "Our Big World" cultural fair at Haskins Gym in North Adams. This event, sponsored by the Family Resource Center, runs from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and will include children's games, activities, music and food from cultures around the world! Registration is required by calling 413-664-4821. More details at can be found at ccberkshire.org.
Sunday, Jan. 19, is all about football, so I recommend just staying inside and watching the Patriots (hopefully win, but my hopes are not high), which is where I will be if Winterfest is "grassed" out. But as this is a long holiday weekend, I have a Monday, Jan. 20, recommendation: the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Day of Service in North Adams. This event offers community members the chance to do volunteer projects around the area. This 21st annual event will begin at 9 a.m. with coffee and refreshments at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center. Around 9:15 a.m., participants start their choice of a community project with either on-site tasks at MCLA's Church St. Center or off-site at various community locations. Service projects for all ages and abilities include tasks such as painting, cleaning, organizing, building, winterizing or sewing. Last year my then 7-year-old daughter colored cards to include on packages to military personnel serving overseas. Every age can make a difference! For more information, email Kathy Keeser at kathykeeser@gmail.com or call her at 413-346-7196.
So whatever the weather, weather it well!
Berkshire County native Rebecca Dravis of Williamstown is a former journalist who now works for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She can be reached at rdravis@verizon.net.
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