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Are We There Yet?: Web Slingers & Airstreams
By Rebecca Dravis On: 12:47PM / Friday August 23, 2013
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For the last two summers, my daughter has participated in the Berkshire Children's Theatre summer production. This year, because of schedules, she missed out on participating, but that doesn't mean you should miss out on these adorable shows.

Director Kara Demler somehow always pulls together a group of Berkshire County children of all ages and levels of experience; as a "backstage mom" at these shows, I know how hard they all work to do their very best.

This summer's offering is the classic "Charlotte's Web." Shows are Friday, Aug. 23, at 11 a.m. and Saturday, Aug. 24, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Berkshire Museum. Tickets are available in advance by calling 413-443-7171, Ext. 10. berkshiremuseum.org.

Another end-of-summer treat on Friday is the finale of the Movies Under the Stars series in Adams. Last year, they did "Christmas in August," complete with an appearance by Santa Claus. This year they are doing "Halloween in August," featuring fun Halloween-y activities starting at 6 p.m. capped by a screening of "Hotel Transylvania" at dusk.

On Saturday, stay in North County and head on over to Mass MoCA for what sounds like a very cool program titled "Space: The Final Frontier." (This will be especially appealing to my 7-year-old as we recently visited the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.) At 1 p.m., families can join Michael Oatman — whose whimsical installation "all utopias fell" is always a particular hit among kids — for a Gallery Quest program as he guides them through his incredible, inventive work. Clearly fond of telling stories, it's no surprise that Oatman has recently written a children's book, "Tiny Pie," which he will read and discuss with families during the event.

In addition to the book reading and artist-led tour of the Airstream trailer, families will have the opportunity to make two art projects inspired by Oatman's work: a colored yarn "God's Eye" (which Oatman reinterprets with electrical wire in "all utopias fell"); and a cylindrical assemblage/diorama constructed within a Pringles can, reminscient of Oatman's microcosm crammed into a crashed Airstream trailer. The event also includes a snack and book-signing.

The cost is $7 and registration is requested at 413-662-2111.

And while I don't want to ignore Central and South County this week, the weekend wraps up with another fun North Adams event: Motorama on Sunday, Aug. 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Main, Holden and Eagle streets will be closed to all but pedestrian traffic as downtown North Adams fills with hundreds of cars, trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles and tractors. This vehicle show offers fun for everyone; attendees can enjoy music, 50/50 raffles, food, shopping and more.

And parents ... hang in there! Most of the kids are going back to school next week, so there is light at the end of the "I'm bored" tunnel. I will be gritting my teeth at that for a full week longer, as my daughter's school doesn't re-open until after Labor Day. (And they were among the first students out this summer, finishing on June 14, making for a very looooooooong summer.) The end is in sight ...

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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Are We There Yet?: Getting Back to School
By Rebecca Dravis On: 11:15AM / Thursday August 15, 2013
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Is summer over? It somehow feels like it, even in mid-August: You should have seen the jeans and jackets at the annual North Adams Downtown Celebration on Wednesday! I'm not convinced summer is over quite enough to take the air conditioner out of the window, but I did see a red leaf on the ground the other day.

The other way we know fall is around the corner, of course, is the thought of going back to school. Or, for our region's 5-year-olds, going to school for the first time. This week, there are two events geared toward those boys and girls who will be starting their school careers this fall.

First, on Friday, Aug. 16, the Family Resource Center is hosting its annual "I Rode the Bus" event at the Haskins Center on Route 8 in North Adams. Children will learn about school bus manners; take a 10- to 15-minute bus ride; participate in circle time; listen to a short story; and create an art project. Every child that attends will receive an "I Rode the School Bus" sticker and book.

Riding the bus for the first time can be a scary, exciting time for kids, and this is the perfect way to prepare them. My daughter attended this two years ago when she was entering kindergarten, even though we were not putting her on the bus to school that year, but it prepared her for the future possibility.

The event is free but registration is required at 413-664-4821.

The following day, on Saturday, Aug. 17, the Berkshire Museum, in collaboration with Transition Team of Pittsfield and Berkshire County Head Start, is hosting "WeeMuse: Countdown to Kindergarten" from 5 to 7 p.m.

This event also will include a school bus ride, as well as model classrooms and activities that invite children and their parents to have a typical kindergarten experience. Adults can ask staff "teachers" questions they may have about the kindergarten registration process, child development milestones, and how to help their child be ready for school.

At 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., families can watch Arthur's younger sister get help from her family and friends as she prepares to enter kindergarten. Presented by City Stage Company and in partnership with the Boston Children's Museum, the show is free but tickets are required and can be obtained beginning at 5 p.m.

The whole event is free; visit berkshiremuseum.org for details.

Not ready to think about school year? Then what better than watching the boys of summer! The Lenox Library is hosting its annual "Baseball in the Park," a large screen under the stars that will be showing the Boston Red Sox playing the New York Yankees. Families are invited to bring chairs and blankets and celebrate this famous rivalry that right now looks like maybe — just maybe — will be going Boston's way this year. (Did I just jinx them?)

First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.; the event is free and traditional ballpark food will be available for purchase.

One more taste of summer happens mid-week this coming week when the Dalton CRA hosts a "Summer Beach Party" from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20. There will be activities and games that will make you feel as if you are enjoying an evening at the beach, with waterslide fun, Frisbee competitions, games, snacks and refreshments.

The event will be held at Pinegrove Park in Dalton, which I had the pleasure of visiting earlier this summer for a Girl Scout picnic. What a lovely location for a party, and had a great way to make you think that summer really is not coming to an end — colored leafs on the ground and all!

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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Are We There Yet?: Powwow Weekend, Zucchini Fest
By Rebecca Dravis On: 06:06PM / Thursday August 08, 2013
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If there is one event I have always wanted to attend during a Berkshire summer but never seemed to make it to, it's the West Stockbridge Zucchini Festival.

Don't get me wrong: I don't actually enjoy eating zucchini, though every summer some well-meaning friend presents me with a green giant from their garden and I am left pretending that I can come up with all sorts of tasty ways to eat it, even though inside I know that it will sit on my counter until it gets mushy and gross.

(But don't get me wrong here: I do understand the impulse to dole out excess produce, as I am the proud owner of half a dozen blueberry bushes that produce pounds and pounds of the fruit that, while tasty, can get old really fast.)

No, my desire to go to the Zucchini Festival is more about wanting to experience what seems like it would be a leap back in time to an old-fashioned family street fair filled with such silly games as zucchini car races and a best zucchini costume contest. What's not to love?

This year is the event's 10th annual, and it will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, rain or shine, in "downtown" West Stockbridge, routes 41 and 102 and the center of town. This year the theme is "Fly Me to Zee Moon" and the event will feature Berkshire kids' favorites David Grover and Terry a la Berry during the day the drummers of The Berkshire Bateria later in the day. It is free, though some games have small fees for tickets. For info, visit weststockbridgetown.com. As I currently have nothing on my calendar for Saturday except cleaning my house, maybe this is the year I make it down. After all, the house will still be there and dirty on Sunday!

Alas, though, I do have something on my calendar for Sunday afternoon (a Girl Scout financial literacy program I am running for fourth- and fifth-grade girls that I will just quickly mention here, but email me if you want more details). If you are looking for something to do with the family on Sunday, you could try the second day of the eighth annual Rock, Rattle & Drum Pow Wow, to be held at the Adams Aggie Fair fairgrounds off Route 8 in Adams on both Saturday and Sunday.

I actually attended this event its first year, in 2006, when rain forced it inside the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club. While it might not have been as majestic as it would have been had it been outside, you could really feel the drums beating deep inside your soul as they echoed off the walls of a gymnasium. I have not been back to the pow wow since as it has moved all around the region over the last six years, though my husband and daughter went together last year for a few hours. (I think I stayed home and cleaned the house. Must be my annual midsummer cleaning weekend, now that I think about it.)

The powwow runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and features traditional dancing, American Indian storytellers and vendors, traditional native foods such as fry bread, corn soup and buffalo, and performances by Arvel Bird, a Nammy Award-winning Native American violinist and flute player, and Danza Azteca, an Aztec dance group. Tickets are $7 for adults and kids under 10 are free; visit healingwinds.net for all the details.

And speaking of the Adams Aggie Fair ... I apparently am now royalty. As I mentioned last week, my daughter was competing in her last Adams Aggie Fair Princess contest, desperate to win the title this year, her third year of demonstrating how to milk a cow and sharing what she would like about living on a farm.

Thank you, Hancock Shaker Village, for the annual cow-milking lessons, and thank you, Aggie Fair people, for planting this seed in her mind: Her answer to the farm question this year was that she would have a place to keep the Shetland pony she said she wanted as a pet in response to the question of what animal she would she want if she could have any she wanted. Last year's answer to the living-on-a-farm question, by the way, was that she could have fresh eggs daily, which sounded good to me, better than the pony anyway. Of course, last year's answer to why she wanted to be the Aggie Fair princess — so she could wear a tiara — beat this year's answer: "So my parents can get into the Aggie Fair for free." Nice.

Despite that answer (or maybe because if it; she got a good laugh from the judges) she won the princess title this year ... leading some friends of ours who we ran into at the SteepleCats game on Monday night to say to me, "Does that mean you are now the queen?" Um, sure, though my daughter got the official tiara and the opportunity to ride in a convertible in the Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Parade in October. I probably will have to walk behind. All hail the queen.

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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Are We There Yet?: Magic Tree Houses and Fair Princesses
By Rebecca Dravis On: 12:15PM / Thursday August 01, 2013
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My family was first introduced to Jack and Annie of the Magic Tree House series in a most unlikely way: Wendy's.

A few years ago, well before my 7-year-old could read, Wendy's gave away CDs of Mary Pope Osborne reading her popular series with their kids' meals. We scored "Good Morning Gorillas" and proceeded to listen to it in the car over and over — and over again.

Thus began her love affair with Magic Tree House. We attended a reading in Stockbridge a couple years ago of the Christmas book that Pope Osborne herself attended. We have purchased and borrowed from the library many of the other books, and they have sparked my daughter's imagination as well as questions about historical issues that the books address. (Try explaining to a kindergartner about slavery and the Civil War. Tricky!)

So we are thrilled to head south to Great Barrington to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center this Friday, Aug. 2, when the Highland Street Foundation's Free Fun Fridays brings Jack and Annie to life. (For those of you not familiar with Free Fun Fridays, click here for all the details for the rest of the summer, including many Berkshire sites.)

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the event will feature arts and crafts, movement explorations, and Spanish-language activities offered for the entire family. In addition, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., there will be a 25-minute tribute to the magic of reading involving a captivating performance by Jack and Annie with lively audience participation and original songs. Having trouble getting your child to keep reading over the summer? Maybe this is something to jump-start the fun! Visit mahaiwe.org for details.

The rest of the weekend's family fun is packaged nicely up in Adams, where the 39th annual Adams Agricultural Fair at Bowe Field right off Route 8 will feature Battle of the Bands on Thursday at 6 p.m., dancing on Friday (6 p.m.), all-day events on Saturday starting at 10 a.m., and events kicking off at 11 a.m. Sunday, including the demolition derby at 2 p.m. For more info, visit adamsfair.com.

My personal connection with this extremely kid-friendly event is the Adams Aggie Fair Princess Contest, which my daughter entered at age 5 and then again at age 6, losing both years to 7-year-olds. Now that she is 7 this year, this is her last chance, and my fingers are crossed that this will be the year. A true ham who loves to be on stage, she has been amazing both years, answering the questions in a loud, clear, confident voice — all the while looking amazingly cute, if I do say so myself! The princess (and prince, though that competition is usually less fierce, as sometimes only a couple boys enter) will be crowned Saturday at 11 a.m.

Find more county fairs around the region here.

It's hard to believe we are in August already, and while the back to school items are back on the shelves, there is still plenty of time for summer fun!

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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Are We There Yet?: The Play's The Thing For Kids
By Rebecca Dravis On: 11:34AM / Friday July 26, 2013
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My soon-to-be-second-grader and two of her soon-to-be-second-grade friends stayed up late last Friday night to watch Williamstown Theatre Festival's free outdoor performance of "Dracula."

The free glow-in-the-dark plastic fangs handed out to the kids were a nice kid-friendly touch, but I still had concerns about the children's reactions to the scary nature of the story. My fears were put to rest when the blood spurting from the body of the poor girl whose death had to be violently assured caused giggles, not screams, from the 7-year-olds. For days after, the kids chattered about how that scene was staged, with my daughter's best friend confident in her interpretation of the actress hiding red paint in her dress.

There's just something about the theater that brings out the best in children.

That's why I am using this week's column to point out how incredibly lucky we are here in the Berkshires to have such an abundance of professionally produced summer theater — and not just for grownups!

Starting up north: While the free Williamstown Theatre Festival family shows are done for the year, WTF is still doing Friday afternoon theater workshops for kids 8 to 14. This Friday's theme is "The Mystery of the Missing Mystery." The workshops run from 4 to 6 p.m. and are free, but reservations are recommended at wtfestival.org.

Heading to Central County, Barrington Stage Company's Youth Theatre is presenting "Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr." at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. The play runs from July 24 through Aug. 11; showtimes are Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. (except opening day); Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and Sundays at 3 p.m. There is also an additional matinee this Monday at 1. Tickets are $10 for kids 5 to 18 and $15 for adults. For details visit barringtonstageco.org.

Continuing to South County, both Berkshire Theatre Group and Shakespeare & Company are offering family friendly shows.

Berkshire Theatre Group is presenting "Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling on its Stockbridge outdoor stage. The play runs through Aug. 10; showtimes are Thursdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m. Tickets are $10 for children and $15 for adults; visit berkshiretheatregroup.org.

Shakespeare & Company has two great offerings: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" outdoors in the dell at The Mount in Lenox and "Les Faux Pas: or the Counterplots" in the tented Rose Footprint Theatre at its Lenox campus. "Dream" runs through Aug. 17, with shows Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children. "Les Faux Pas" runs through Sept. 1 with shows on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. Adults are $15 and kids are free. For all the details on these plays, visit shakespeare.org.

And stepping just outside the Berkshires is the Mac-Haydn Children's Theatre presentation of "The Emperor's New Clothes" over in Chatham, N.Y. Shows are at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and all tickets are $10; visit machaydntheatre.org for details.

Whew, that made me tired, wrapping up all the wonderful theater opportunities across the region this summer. Make sure you pace yourself watching all of them!

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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Adams-Cheshire First-Graders Find Success In New Reading Initiative
Mass MoCA's Festival Field Getting New Features
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Thanksgiving Greetings
North Adams Church Welcomes New Pastor & Music Director
Lanesborough Outlines 250th Celebration Calendar
'Dumb and Dumber To': It Sure Is
Williamstown Chamber Executive Director Departing
Selectmen May Seek Peer Review of Dollar General Traffic Study
Oh Be Thankful Pie Auction Raises Funds for Charities

 




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