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Are We There Yet?: Stay Empowered This Weekend

By Rebecca Dravis
IBerkshires Staff

So now that we have power up here in the Northern Berkshires — for now — let's take a look at this weekend.

Actually, let's start with Friday, July 11, and if the power goes out on this event, who cares? I'm talking about Eagle Street Beach Party in North Adams, and a lack of electricity might actually enhance this event by removing the music that's always way too loud on one end of the street.

But I digress. From 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., kids are invited to come play in the more than 250,000 pounds of sand dumped on the street. There are games and contests, and the Eagle Street merchants always get in on the fun, too. The event is only held if there is no threat of rain; after all, who wants 250,000 pounds of mud? As of this writing in Thursday, Friday looks good to go, so head north and prepare to play!

On Saturday, July 12, get thee to a library ... where electricity is always helpful. In Otis, the library fair will be held from 10 to 3:30 (OK, it's actually NOT in the library, but on the church green, but this is Otis and it's all right there anyway). This event will feature more than 50 unique artists, craftsmen and clothes vendors selling their products. There will also be a book sale, bake sale, cookout and raffle prizes. All proceeds go toward new library computers, books, videos, and expanded library operating hours.

Staying in South County, the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic will hold a program called "Robots on the Run" from 2 to 4 p.m., presented by the Rhode Island Computer Museum. This workshop aims to explain basic circuits and instructions on how to build a simple robot. Kids 10 and up Will learn programmable electronics including how to make lights blink, motors run, sounds and more.

Back to North County, the Milne Library in Williamstown will host a program on Saturday called "Fire and Ice" at 1 p.m. As party of the "Fizz Boom Read" Summer Reading Program. Mad Science of New England will present this interactive science program about states of matter. Library programs are free.

Sunday, July 13, brings another fun outdoor activity: An Appalachian Trail Family Hike from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Great Barrington. This a special kid-friendly hike is geared at helping families enjoy hiking the Appalachian Trail. The 2-mile hike (round-trip) through ice gulch to the Tom Leonard Shelter will take families into one of Berkshire County’s most interesting trail sections. Kids will be able to explore a thru-hiker shelter, eat their lunch with an awesome view, and play games that help develop good trail skills. Parents will learn great tips for successful family trail days. For more information and to register, email info@gbtrails.org. Registration is required, group size is limited.

Power or no power, our beautiful Berkshire Hills can still be hiked. Maybe next time the power goes out we all need to remember that there are plenty of ways to have downtime when you can't power up.

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires.com. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.


Are We There Yet?: Big Games & Family Fun

By Rebecca Dravis
Special to iBerkshires

It's Super Bowl Sunday weekend.

(Wait: Am I allowed to say that? I just read that the NFL won't let companies say "Super Bowl" unless they pay for it, explaining why all the Price Chopper and WalMart ads on TV say "the big game."

I think the media is exempt from the NFL copyright police ... for now!)

While I hated seeing Peyton Manning beat my beloved Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game, I have to admit I enjoy the game more when the Patriots are NOT playing in it. Too stressful. This Sunday, I can sit back and root for the Seattle Seahawks to pound Peyton into that cold, hard New Jersey turf. Hey, I can dream.

But besides the game, there's another Super Bowl tradition in Northern Berkshire County: the Williamstown Youth Center's annual family extravaganza known as Snowfest.

A few years ago they moved the date from early January to coincide with the big game also known as the Super Bowl, offering families a fun, active afternoon that benefits the youth center's programs and scholarships.

Never been to Snowfest? You are in for a treat: Activities include ice skating in the rink (rentals cost a couple bucks), Wii games, caricature artists, an inflatable obstacle course, pickup sports games facilitated by Williams College athletic teams, photo arts and crafts, and more. New activities this year include a soccer exhibition and clinic hosted by semi­professional soccer players from Vermont Voltage, and winter Olympic events to get you into the mood for the upcoming Sochi games.

Of course, I have found that the kids just enjoy running around in an indoor, contained space!

The cost is $35 per family or $5 per student. Scholarship assistance is available. Families can register online at williamstownyouthcenter.org or at the door the day of the event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. (plenty of time to get home for the big game also known as the Super Bowl) at the Williams College field house and skating rink in Williamstown.

Can't wait for Sunday to give the kids something active to do? Saturday, Feb. 1, is Kids Day Out at Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington. Parents of kids ages 2 to 12 can drop them off between 9:30 and 12:30 for a morning of swimming, games, and the all ­important gym (or outside, depending on the weather) time.

The cost is $15 for members and $17 for non­members and includes a snack; registration is requested at least 48 hours in advance at 413­528­2810, so hop to it!

One more Saturday event to mention: Berkshire Community College will host its second annual Wellness Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event, which is open to individuals of all ages and abilities, will be held at BCC's Paterson Field House, located at 1350 West St. in Pittsfield, and will feature free educational booths as well as exercise classes and chair massages ($4 per half­-hour exercise class or 10 minute chair massage). Exercise classes will include Zumba, Pilates, aikido, self­defense, creative dance and yoga.

Proceeds will benefit Empower SCI, a nonprofit corporation that serves the needs of individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Entry to the event is free; however, donations will be accepted. For more information, visit berkshirecc.edu.

I know this cold weather has caused the kids to have a lot of pent-­up energy. Hopefully these ideas will give you ways to get them to let off steam ­ and stop jumping on the couch already — especially during the big game also known as the Super Bowl.

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.


Are We There Yet?: Craft Season Begins

By Rebecca Dravis
Special to iBerkshires
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
I have a couple Berkshire family events to mention this weekend, but ...
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
The last couple of weeks were very exciting, nerve-wracking, heart-breaking, et cetera, and I feel bad that so many our kids got to see very little of it since most of the games didn't even start until the elementary school-age crowd was getting ready to head to bed. I let my daughter watch an inning or two here or there and I was very excited to tell her Thursday morning that ...
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
Who would have believed it?
OK, now that that's out of my system, let's talk about things your kids can do this weekend.
First up is an event in Pittsfield that sounds like so much fun - and educational, too! As part of November's Family Literacy Month, the Berkshire Museum will present "WeeMuse: WeeRead Pajama Night" on Friday, Nov. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Each gallery will feature different stories and storytellers, as well as story walks and family reading stations. There will also be special guests, giveaways and refreshments. Families will receive free books while supplies last. For more information, call 413-443-7171 or visit berkshiremuseum.org. While this may be the most appropriate for the emerging-reader crowd, younger and older siblings should be encouraged to participate to stoke or fan the flames of reading. And may I suggest that if the spark for reading just isn't there, try changing the material. Not everyone loves "The Cat in the Hat" ... though, seriously, if you don't, what's wrong with you? Just kidding. The point is to find something that will engage your own child's interests. Good luck!
Then on Saturday, Nov. 2, head to the Berkshire Mall... wait, isn't that where I sent you last weekend? Indeed, both my Girl Scout event last Saturday and Malloween on Sunday at the mall had large, excited crowds, so apparently, the mall is actually the family place to be! This Saturday, it's the 18th annual Community Baby Shower. Now, you may be thinking, "I am not pregnant so this is not for me." That's OK, bring the kids you already do have! This free event, co-hosted by Child Care of the Berkshires and Berkshire North WIC, will feature agencies from Berkshire County sharing info on topics related to pregnancy and parenting young children. Additional activities at the event include blood pressure screening and craft activities for children and parents. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
One more shout-out: Now that Halloween is over, the holiday craft fair season can officially begin, and begin it does this weekend with a good one in North Adams. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, between Mass. MoCA and the Big Y Plaza, hosts its big bazaar Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. The event features handmade candy, fudge, knitted and crocheted items, food and more. My daughter loves this bazaar because of the fishbowl game for kids, where for a quarter they get a scoop of folded paper out of the fishbowl and then spend the next half an hour unfolding every piece of paper to see if there is a star or dot on it to indicate they have won a prize. In the past, Santa Claus has made a very early-season appearance at this bazaar; one of my all-time favorite pictures of my daughter is one I took of her with Santa at this event when she was 3 or 4 that became the Christmas card picture that year. So if you're looking for wholesome entertainment for a good cause, head to North Adams on Friday or Saturday.
And you should be all rested for these fun events because you can go to bed earlier now that the World Series is over ... and the Boston Red Sox are world champions!
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.

Are We There Yet?: Halloween Comes Early

By Rebecca Dravis
Special to iBerkshires

Who says you can't get into the spirit of Halloween two weeks early?

That's the theory behind the last 3rd Thursday celebration of the year, set for Thursday, Oct. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Pittsfield. The theme is "Monster Mash," and the highlight for kids is the annual Greylock Children's Costume Contest and Parade, which will be held at the corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue again this year.

Greylock Federal Credit Union will be giving goodie bags to all kids in costume, who are invited to march in the parade at 6 p.m. This year, costume judging will be done by secret judges between 5 and 6 p.m. and during the parade. Fifty gift certificates to Persnickety Toys in downtown Pittsfield will be given out to kids in the most creative costumes.

Also for families, the Pittsfield Family YMCA will showcase its break dance and gymnastics students, and the Beacon Cinema will show "Beetlejuice" as part of its "Throwback Thursday" series at 7:30 p.m., with tickets only $5. All the details of 3rd Thursday can be found here.

But don't fret if you miss this event; there's more Halloween fun to be had this weekend. On Saturday, Building Blocks Early Education Center at 457 Dalton Ave. will hold a "Halloween Bash" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include ghostly games, raffles, prizes and more, and tickets are only $5 per child. And later in the day, head north of the annual Clarksburg Elementary School "Haunted Hayride" from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $6 per adult and $4 per child; there will also be a bake sale and glow necklaces available. Rain date is Saturday, Oct. 26.

This weekend is not all about Halloween, though.

On Saturday, there is a good old-fashioned fall festival — with a twist! Bradley Farm on Route 7 in Lanesborough is hosting a festival from noon to 5 that will feature miniature horses, treasure hunt, local arts and crafts, organic produce and much more — including a Children's Treasure Hunt for ages 5 to 7 and 8 to 10 right at noon.

According to local legend, British troops staying at the farmhouse on Oct. 13, 1777, after fleeing their loss at Saratoga, put $15,000 in gold into the dutch oven overnight. It was missing in the morning and never found. Kids can bring a shovel and help search for this buried treasure. Hey, you never know! For more info, visit Bradley Farm.

And on Sunday, the Berkshire Museum will host what has become a beloved annual event: a birthday party for Wally the Dinosaur, the museum mascot and my daughter's favorite Berkshire County climbing structure. This is Wally's 16th birthday, and kids are invited to bring him a birthday card.

At the museum, which is open with free admission from noon to 5 p.m., kids can participate in hands-on art and science projects from 1 to 3 p.m. At 2 p.m., everyone will gather to sing "Happy Birthday" to Wally on the front lawn (weather permitting) then cut the birthday cake! For info visit berkshiremuseum.org.

I'm sure I will be back next week with some more Halloween fun — and a fun event that is near and dear to my heart!

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.


Are We There Yet?: Fine Fall Offerings

By Rebecca Dravis

Last weekend, we officially welcomed fall to the Berkshires, but this weekend features a few events that really usher in the season.

First up is the annual Country Fair at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, which celebrates the bounty of the harvest with agricultural demonstrations, wagon rides, a farmers' market, family activities and more. The fair is free with regular admission of $18 for adults and $8 for children 13 to 17 (kids 12 and under with an adult are always free!) and runs both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Then there is the 34th annual Lenox Apple Squeeze & Harvest Festival, which transforms downtown Lenox into a giant seasonal street fair. The festival features food, rides, shopping, live music and family fun galore from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29. Lenox is one of the prettiest towns on the planet in the fall, so don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the season in style.

I may be partial, since I live in Williamstown, but if Lenox is ONE of the prettiest towns in the fall, I have to say that Williamstown is THE prettiest town in the fall. As hokey as it may sound, I catch my breath every time I drive along the stretch of Route 7 between South Williamstown and downtown Williamstown. On a clear day, now not only can you see Mount Greylock and its Veterans War Memorial Tower, but you can also see in the distance the wind turbines of the Hoosac Range. Leaving aside the politics and problems surrounding the turbines, I believe they make the long-distance view of this picture-perfect spot even better.

So what's in Williamstown this weekend, besides the lovely views? It's the annual Hopkins Forest Fall Celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. The celebration will take place within the forest, located at the junction of Northwest Hill Road and Bulkley Street. The event is free and will feature traditional woodworking demonstrations, music, apple butter and cider production, refreshments, a canopy walkway and children's activities. The forest is owned by Williams College, and this is one of the nice ways the college reaches out to the community.

Of course, these are all outdoor activities, and while crisp, cool and dry fall weather is always appreciated, I do have a fun family suggestion for Saturday, Sept. 28, should it rain.

Anyone who has been to Washington, D.C., knows that the Smithsonian Museums boast free admission, which is awesome and made my own recent trip to the Air and Space Museum even sweeter. Am I suggesting you head south this weekend? Not at all — free museum admission is coming to us! Smithsonian magazine is sponsoring Museum Day Live!, an annual event in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket - for free. (You can get the tickets emailed to you by going online to smithsonianmag.com.)

Here in the Berkshires, there are several options. In Massachusetts, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield and Chesterwood in Stockbridge are participating. Just north of the border in Vermont, the Bennington Battle Monument (which has an elevator up to what promises to be a gorgeous view this time of year), the Bennington Center for the Arts and the Bennington Museum are participating.

You can also stop by one of the Trustees of Reservations historic homes on Sunday for their annual Home Sweet Home open houses from 1 to 3.

So rain or shine, it's a great fall weekend for families. Enjoy!

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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