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.
Neither rain nor sun keep Vinnie Melito, left, and David Lewis from serving up hot dogs to hungry tourists and residents alike.
If you've driven down Marshall Street the last few Saturdays, you might have caught the city's newest eatery — parked on the side of road.
It's a hot dog cart and one of the first in recent memory to be seen about the city. The entrepreneurs of this wheeling weinie roaster are Vincent Melito and David Lewis, both former educators who were looking to do something in the retirement.
We caught up with them last Saturday in front of Gramercy Bistro's old location but didn't get a chance to try any of their dogs — the rain had them closing up a little earlier than usual.
Melito and Lewis, who've dubbed their enterprise "Guys and Dogs," have gone through the ServeSafe course and received their state and local permits for being open for special events. In North Adams, that's pretty much every weekend at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art but they've also be at the Mayor's Downtown Celebration on Aug. 25 and for other regional and local events. They're also available for private events.
But what made Melito, a former city councilor, and Lewis, a longtime garage owner, decide to start grilling? The retirees said they wanted something to do.
Melito said he'd been thinking about a small business for awhile, and a hot dog cart is pretty small. He found a willing partner in Lewis and support from both their wives, Margo and Rhea.
Besides, said Melito, it brings life to an often empty city street and creates a reason walk toward the downtown.
"We obviously enjoy meeting people, promoting our city and creating a vibrant city image with our cart," he said. One of the important community benefits that occurs is that our location is close to Mass MoCA and our business, along with the information we provide, contributes to drawing more tourists to the downtown area."
Both men said they had received a lot of positive response about the cart. They've also received a permit to operate in Adams.
They may have started something. At this week's City Council meeting, Mayor Richard Alcombright introduced Adams' lengthy and recently enacted vendor bylaw and asked the council to consider adopting. The bylaw, which is now under review, was taken up in Adams because one successful vendor last year turned into four or more looking to set up shop this year in the Mother Town.
Alcombright said Guys and Dogs wasn't the reason for the ordinance request, but rather a flurry of vendors looking to cash in on the upcoming Solid Sound Festival in August. The city's current ordinance is expected to suffice for now but the mayor wants to be ready for events in the future.
Meanwhile, you can catch the city's sole hot dog cart (for now, at least) on Marshall Street between the hours of 11 and 2 on Saturday and later in the evening on occasions when MoCA might have performances. The cart offers up all-beef Angus hot dogs, traditional condiments plus sauerkraut, chili and spicy cheese sauce, chips, soda, water and lemonade.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.