Preparations for the city's annual Downtown Celebration began this afternoon, despited the continued construction at each end of Main Street. We're particularly eager to see what happens on Holden Street, where Sidewalk Sam was overseeing the layout of grid lines on the pavement.
The Boston icon is leading a group of volunteers — pretty much anyone who stops by to paint — to recreate a colorful Matisse painting that he says symbolizes the life and light of the Hoosic River that flows through the city.
Sidewalk Sam, center, speaks with Glenn Maloney and Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco.
The blue river "runs through a landscape and full of life and organisms that are full of the bounty of life, bursting out in color and variety on the ground," said Sam. "We're going to have hundreds of people creating this symbol of life and succulence."
The project, known as Holden StArt, is preparation for a much bigger project planned next year.
Also on tap will be entertainment, food and sales. A dunk tank will be set up and we hear some city councilors will be in the wet seat.
The streets shut down at around 4:30 p.m.; Holden has been partially closed since noontime.
Anyone driving down Main Street knows when the city's annual neighborhood block party happens this year: it's prominently displayed on the Mohawk marquee. But if you haven't ventured downtown (and why not?), the date's Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Main, Holden, Eagle and upper Ashland streets will be shut down from 5:30 to 9 on Wednesday evening so more than 45 vendors, merchants and organizations (nearly half of which are restaurants or food servers) can set up shop along the city's main drags.
Entertainment will be provided throughout the evening on Eagle Street and different locations along Main Street. Visit iBerkshires at 106 Main St. for free popcorn.
North Adams historian Paul W. Marino will lead a historical walk of Main Street at 5. Those interested should meet at the foundry works marker across the street from the Office of Tourism and above Subway Restaurant. At the Berkshire Plaza, the Drury High School band, directed by Christopher Caproni, will perform beginning at 6. At 7, the popular Berkshire County Line Dancers will take the stage in front of the plaza.
In front of Greylock Federal Credit Union at 66 Main St., Karen's School of Dance will perform at 6 followed by a show presented by the Berkshire Dance Theater at 6:15. Next to TD Bank and iBerkshires, Otha Day will perform with approximately 30 drummers at 7. Also at 7, Traci Kittler and Champagne Jam, sponsored by the North Adams Transcript, will play at 85 Main St. Miss Guided will also play at 7 at the corner of Holden and Main streets.
The duo Whirlwind will play near 15 Eagle St., beginning at 6. The popular Loose Change, sponsored by Adams Cooperative Bank, will perform in front of 31 Eagle St. beginning at 7.
One of the more interesting attractions of the night will be the Holden Street Art, or "Holden StArt." Volunteers led by Boston sidewalk artist Sidewalk Sam will use 1,000 square feet of pavement as a canvas for a chalk painting. The event is a preliminary effort to a larger public art project being developed by Art About Town for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's excess parking lot behind the Big Y.
To volunteer or for any other questions about the installation, call 413-664-0197.
The public is also invited to tour DownStreet Art galleries, which will be gearing up for the Aug. 26 "Last Thursday" gallery openings. Other evening attractions include a first-ever Downtown Celebration dunk tank, provided by Drury band boosters, at 48 Main St. near American Legion Drive and displays and sales from downtown merchants.
The celebration was originated in 1996 as a way to celebrate downtown beautification efforts and became an annual event. Rain date for the celebration is the next night, Thursday, Aug. 26. For more information on the celebration or the Holden Street Art project, contact the Office of Tourism at 413-664-6180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Wilco fans were on their best behavior this past weekend.
On Sunday night, North Adams Police Sgt. James Burdick said there were no arrests linked to the three-day Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA, which drew more than 5,000 people from across the United States.
"We've had a very uneventful weekend for an event of this magnitude," he said. "We had a couple minor traffic glitches and a couple minor accidents, but nothing of anything significance whatsoever."
Burdick said there were arrests made in the city during the weekend, but they were on par with the "normal course of duty" and were, in no way, connected to the festival or its attendees.
"This was a very easy-going crowd," Burdick said. "They were very impressed with North Adams, and this puts the city in a great light. Who knows what this will bring?"
The humidity wasn't a problem this weekend, which helped keep first-aid tents empty.
Fans kept the peace this weekend and also stayed healthy. First-aid tents were set up at Mass MoCA, but they were mostly empty.
A.J. Jusino, of North Adams Ambulance, said there were requests for "basic stuff" like Band-Aids and ice packs, but no serious emergencies.
"Fortunately the humidity wasn't bad because, going into this weekend, our major concern was dehydration," he said.
Local businesses benefited from the festival, which happened to coincide with the state's tax-free weekend. City Councilor Keith Bona, who owns Creations on Main Street, said his Saturday business was double that of a typical Saturday in August. Lines formed outside of downtown eateries like The Hub, while bars like The Mohawk were packed with thirsty patrons.
Bona, on the board of directors with Develop North Adams, spent most of Saturday at MoCA in an effort to promote the downtown attractions.
"I was getting questions about the cost of property and the schools systems around here," he said. "It wouldn't surprise me if some of these people come back, whether it's on a vacation or if they're looking for a place to move."
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.
Nearly 8,000 people are arriving in two weeks for the Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA and the city is putting its best foot forward to help those visitors leave as much of their spending money behind as possible.
Develop North Adams has just launched a website with everything North Adams to direct the thousands of concertgoers to restaurants, shops and alternative entertainment (you have to give your ears a rest sometime).
We're excited about the idea of the midnight madness on Aug. 14. The downtown will reopen at 9 and go until 2 a.m.! Joe Thompson had expressed his hope that city would take advantage of the festival and, in the process, help slow the traffic heading out of the city on the Saturday night after Wilco plays. The idea is to get the concertgoers to linger, drop some cash, and then leave, mitigating any traffic jams.
:: 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.