Quiet carolers are caught midnote in the iBerkshires window.
Anyone who's been downtown lately has noticed the spirit of the season on full display.
Storefronts have been blazing with lights, decorated with trees and Christmas balls, snowflakes and Santas, giant nutcrackers and all kinds of interesting merchandise.
On Thursday night, downtown shoppers will have the chance to decide which is the best.
The decorating idea sprang up during meetings held earlier this fall by downtown merchants to promote the "Buy Local" campaign locally. (Members pointedly reminded those on the "shady side" of the street to dress up, too. And we have, just you see!) To encourage participation, the group decided to create a contest for the best window and offer a prize.
Judges will be perusing the city's best-dressed windows at this week's Hometown for the Holidays event on Thursday night to select the storefront with the best holiday spirit. Since judges' choices rarely please everyone, downtown patrons will decide the People's Choice.
The contest is part of the Hometown Holidays events that kicked off with the tree lighting on Thanksgiving Eve and has continued on the traditional Thursday shopping nights. Merchants and restaurants have been offering specials and discounts; the Mystery Shopper has also returned after decades of absence to lure shoppers downtown with the promise of gift certificates.
This Thursday, celebrity judges Mayor Richard Alcombright, Rep. Daniel E. Bosley and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Executive Director Joseph C. Thompson will be peeking in windows of participating businesses around Main, Holden and Eagle streets beginning at 5.
The judges will announce their choice at 6 p.m. at Petrino's Cafe. The winner gets a night at the Porches and dinner at Gramercy Bistro.
Then the public gets to weigh in. Local stores and volunteers with the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center will have contest forms available beginning at 5; get them back to Petrino's by 6:45 for the People's Choice winner to be announced at 7. The winner gets dinner for two at Taylor's.
While you're downtown, don't just look at the windows, step into the shops and check out the merchandise. Most stores will be open until 9 so there's plenty of time after the contest to circle back to that must-have item.
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Main Street Brings Back Mystery Shopper
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Shoppers in the downtown should be on the lookout for a mystery man or woman this Thursday browsing local stores. If you guess right, you'll win a $25 gift certificate.
The "Mystery Shopper" contest was resurrected as part of Hometown Holidays, an initiative of the city, Develop North Adams and downtown merchants to encourage people to shop locally. A kids' trivia contest is also being run through Dec. 24.
The Mystery Shopper was a popular North Adams holiday event decades ago. Does anyone remember it?
Downtown patrons will have the chance to track down a mystery shopper on the next four Thursday evenings before Christmas. Two Mystery Shoppers will be browsing stores, restaurants and galleries along Main, Eagle, Ashland, Holden and Marshall streets. Look for clues as to who and where the mystery shoppers will be on each Thursday in the text ads on iBerkshires; there'll also be clues in the local paper.
To make shopping easier, the city has revived the old tradition of free short-term parking along the streets (but not the long-term parking in the municipal lots). The limit is two hours and includes Main, Eagle, Ashland and Marshall streets and American Legion Drive through the end of Christmas weekend, Sunday, Dec. 26.
If you spot a Mystery Shopper all you need to do is ask them "Are you the Mystery Shopper?" based on the clue given for that evening. If you are the first to ask them you win a $25 gift certificate to a favorite downtown business.
One Mystery Shopper will be out between 6 and 7 p.m. and the other from 7 to 8. You have to figure out which one at which time. One prize will be awarded for each identified Mystery Shopper.
We'll give you clues for this Thursday, Dec. 2; look for the next set in the text ads circulating through iBerkshires.
Clue for Shopper 1: My purfect pet feels the beat of my heart.
Clue for Shopper 2: Plowing tops my mind when I go shopping.
For more information, contact Keith Bona, DNA Merchant Committee, at 413-664-6388 or at www.ShopNorthAdamsMA.com.
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North Adams Tree Lighting Kicks Off Shopping Events
The city gets a jump-start on the county's holiday season by lighting Main Street's two Christmas trees on Thanksgiving Eve.
Mayor Richard Alcombright will take his first turn at flipping the switch to light up the downtown on Wedneday, Nov. 24, 6:30 p.m. at Monument Square.
The celebration includes, of course, the Drury High School band directed by Chris Caproni, the arrival of Santa Claus on the historic North Adams Trolley bearing gifts of coloring books, crayons, candy canes and scavenger hunt maps of downtown businesses. Goodie bags will be handed out to the first 500 children.
Afterward, the band will go caroling along the downtown, kicking off the monthlong "North Adams Hometown Holidays" event, an initiative of the North Adams downtown merchants and Develop North Adams to showcase the shopping and services available in the city — and to encourage residents to buy local.
The evening will include a treasure hunt within participating businesses for the kids, drawings and music, plus a marshmallow roast, hot cocoa and treats and an appearance by "Jolly the Reindeer."
Window displays are already going up throughout the downtown (the best will get an award later in the month) and plans are to stay open on the traditional Thursday nights (Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23) when downtown patrons can search for the "mystery shopper" to win a prize. Look for clues to the shopper's identity on iBerkshires (we'll let you know when they post).
On Dec. 2, city galleries will open their doors for "DownStreet Art on Ice," featuring the 99-cent-and-up art sale at MCLA Gallery 51 (get there early because the bargains go fast) and other related activities.
Keep abreast of what's happening at ShopNorthAdams.com.
Specials and sponsorships for Hometown Holiday events are offered by Shima, the Party Place, Desperados, Bark 'N' Cat, Creations, Elf Parlor, Persnickety Toys, Christo's Famous Pizza, Jack's Hot Dogs, K-M Motors, Mia's Consignment, Martha Flood Design, Gallery 51, Empire Antiques, Papyri Books, Edward Jones and Dilego's Jewelry Store. Tranquil Moments Day Spa, Petrino's Cafe, Holiday Inn and Richmond Grille, Physical Therapy of North Adams, I Got Goodies, Dion Money Management and Supreme Pizza and Wings also offer specials and/or sponsorship.
Other sponsors include Develop North Adams, the city of North Adams, the North Adams Transcript, and Donovan and O'Connor, Attorneys at Law. The North Adams Office of Tourism is grateful to Landmark Credit Union, Cascade School Supplies, Big Y Supermarket and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts for their help in staging the tree lighting.
For more information about the tree lighting or any city event, contact the North Adams Office of Tourism at 413-664-6180.
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Light Attraction for Wilco Fans & Residents
Main Street looked like a small-town version of the City of Lights on Saturday night as the downtown did its best to attract at least the fringe of the 5,000 or so expected at the Solid Sound Festival at MoCA. (What's Solid Sound? It's right here.)
Some 1,000 feet of twinkle lights criss-crossed over the sidewalk on the sunny side of the street, augmented by theater lights shining on two of the city's more elegant structures, the Dowlin Block and the Hoosac Bank Building. Matthew Adelson, lighting designer at both the Mahaiwe and the Williams College '62 Center, set up the display.
The evening, much like the Wilco-curated festival, was a laidback affair, although there was brisk business at many of the local eateries and steady draw into the galleries, if not much art being purchased.
The theater lights were a nice touch.
"We smoked! This morning we had a line at the door ... This was just amazing," Mark Petrino, owner of Petrino's Cafe, told us in the wee hours of Sunday morning after a marathon day. The cafe started with a waiting line for breakfast; it was ending past 1 a.m., with a dozen or so patrons chilling to the sounds of 8 Foot River, a Great Barrington band.
There was music up and down Main Street and on Eagle. The night was mild, the sidewalks busy but not packed, and people clustered around the street musicians, sat on the new benches or strolled into open galleries. Not everyone stayed open to the advertised 2 a.m., but most kept their doors open to at least midnight.
Keith Bona, owner of Creations and a city councilor, said it wasn't a record day, but a very good day. He didn't get the sales predicted by Jonathan Secor of MCLA Gallery 51, who'd bet him $20, but he must of been close. Neither would state the figure, but Secor said he'd considered spending $100 "to get his dignity and his $20 back."
We hear the galleries didn't sell much on Saturday, but didn't really expect to. Brian Handspicker at the Berkshire Arts Colony did note a significant increase in foot traffic into the gallery at 107 Main St. on both Friday and Saturday. When we wandered over about 9:30 on Saturday night, there were a half-dozen people in the gallery — all local. Handspicker said quite a few city residents had stopped by on Saturday evening, while out-of-towners had visited during the day.
This festival crowd was mostly middle-aged, and many brought their children along. Joe Thompson, MoCA's executive director, described them as "rock daddies," with a strong streak of social responsibility. "They don't like waste," he told us last week. "They don't like to see overflowing trash cans." That's why we think the Smart Car we saw with a New York plate on Main Street belonged to Wilco fan; we don't see too many of those models around here.
These fans are also pretty hungry, if Saturday was any indication.
Seriously Supreme Pizza salesmen
Over on Marshall Street, the guys of Guys and Dogs were crowded with customers. Jack's Hot Dog Stand at the other end of Main Street was open to midnight and reportedly packed most of the night; another street vendor on the other side of Marshall had a waiting line, too. We also heard The Hub, which closed by 11, did a boffo 400 covers on Saturday. Supreme Pizza was covering both ends of the street, with a pair of fast-talking salesmen reinforced with Red Bull wheeling and dealing on single slices near the old Moulton's General Store.
Supreme's general manager Spencer Leonard said the proof was in the piled and empty pizza boxes behind their table. "We couldn't keep up with them," he said.
Vinnie Melito and David Lewis of Guys and Dogs, said they'd spoken to people from as far away as California and the feedback had been positive about the city and the Berkshires. "One guy said 'this place is jewel,'" said Lewis.
It wasn't just the out-of-towners impressed on Saturday. We met a young resident named Paul Oparowski who was chatting up pretty much anyone to find out where they were from and what they thought. "Everyone's been so friendly," he said, adding he hoped more events like this would continue. "It was awesome."
Our reporter Patrick on the job at MoCA
For all the focus on Solid Sound, the real drivers of the early evening were people from right here. They were on the street and in the shops and resaturants. "It proved we could do it ourselves," said Secor.
We know lots of other places were open — Christo's, Village, Red Sauce and the Richmond Grille among them — but didn't make it that far. There was a farmers' market on Eagle Street in the morning we missed because we were busy chasing some great deals at the townwide tag sale in Adams. If any readers have info on how other venues did, tell us about them.
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