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.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — DownStreet Art kicked off its third year with another successful launch on Thursday.
Some 37 galleries, double the number of the freshman year, opened to the hundreds of visitors drawn downtown. There was music at both ends of the street and people lingered in the restaurants and — on the benches.
It's not graffiti, it's a sign of the times.
The long-anticipated benches arrived earlier in the day and were quickly installed along the south side of the streets. They were rarely empty and aided the flow of people along the main drag. In the past, people have tended to cluster at both ends of the street: around the Berkshire Bank plaza up to Holden Street and again around the gallery at 107 Main.
The benches weren't the only changes — bright green footsteps led the way east along the sidewalk with the occasional "Art This Way" signs to keep people going in the right direction. But the sight of some young people stenciling the sidewalk Thursday morning led to several calls to City Hall reporting graffiti.
Expect to see more sidewalk art because once completed, the footsteps will mark a trail from Mass MoCA to Main. There's also plans for signs (and maybe even some footprints) on the pillars of the Veterans Memorial Bridge if the state gives the OK. The idea is to make sure motorists and Mass MoCA visitors know where the art is.
What else can we say? One fellow we ran into was driving by and wondered what everyone was doing out. "I stopped and all these art galleries were open."
That's pretty much the point — giving people a reason to stop.
Have you been to Western Gateway Heritage State Park lately? The volunteers at the North Adams Museum of History and Science are inviting the community to come by on Saturday - and bring a friend.
Sure, there's a lot of construction going on around the Hadley Overpass, but don't let that deter you. The North Adams Trolley will be picking up and dropping off from 12:30 to 3:30 on Saturday afternoon at the park and from Main Street, the St. Anthony's Municipal Parking Lot, City Hall, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sons of Italy.
The North Adams Historical Society is encouraging residents and visitors to tour all the venues in the state park. Along with the museum, which features the golden, refurbished J.J. Newberry letters installed on their traditional red background, a number of other events are occuring throughout the day:
• "Furniture That Talks," an exhibit with creator/collector Don Trimarchi at the museum, runs from 10 to 4
• Talk at the park Visitors' Center in Building 4 at 2
• Mill City Productions highlights past performances and preps for upcoming caberet from noon to 3
• Tunnel City Coffee will be offering samples from 10 to 11:30 under the Freight Yard Pub tent and during the Mill City event
• Tony Pisano will discuss beekeeping in the morning
• Tala's Quilt Shop will offer quilting demonstrations
• Freight Yard Pub is offering a special lunch
:: 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.