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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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Are We There Yet?: Science, Sand, Circus and Sales
By Rebecca Dravis On: 09:30AM / Friday July 12, 2013
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My 7-year-old daughter's pediatrician just advised us to avoid bubble baths for a while. I explained to him that her baths don't start out as bubble baths, in that I don't dump three capfuls of Mr. Bubble under running water. No, her baths turn into soapy affairs because I buy her cheap shampoo to do experiments with in the tub. It's pretty amazing what the child can come up with with a bottle of V05, a couple cups, an old bulb syringe from when she was a baby, an ice cube tray and some rubber bands.
 
"She's going to be a scientist!" her doctor said in amazement as I shared this with him.

Quite possibly, which is why I am thrilled to have an opportunity to let her experiments take shape someplace other than my bathroom. On Friday, July 12, the Berkshire Museum is hosting "WeeMuse: Night of Science" from 5 to 7 p.m. This free event, presented in partnership with TD Charitable Foundation, the Transition Team of Pittsfield and Sabic Innovative Plastics, will fill the museum with "Wacky, mystifying and fun science experiments," according to the museum's website. Kids can spend the evening walking on water, snacking on liquid nitrogen ice cream, making glow-in-the-dark slime, creating their own hover craft and more family-friendly experiments. Visit berkshiremuseum.org for details.
 
There is, of course, another event on Friday that allows kids to experiment, albeit with a different medium -- sand. That's right, it's time for the annual Eagle Street Beach event. Originated by artist Eric Rudd in 1999, the event will run from 3:30 to 6:30 and features more than 250,000 pounds of sand, donated by Specialty Minerals and delivered by the city, spread curb-to-curb down the entire length of Eagle Street in downtown North Adams. (The rain date is next Friday, July 19, so check the forecast and iBerkshires for updates, as the city will not run the event if there is a threat of rain, because really, who wants an Eagle Street mud party?) After the beach party the fourth annual Mexican Fiesta will follow at 7 p.m. I have to admit I liked this event better when it was a two-hour Wednesday afternoon affair just for kids, but either way, youngsters of all ages seem to have a good time sculpting and creating and competing.
 
If you're looking for some weekend entertainment for the kids, the Dalton Lions Club is having its annual circus fundraiser on Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14, at the American Legion Field on Route 9 in Dalton. The event features the Kelly Miller Circus, which has been around since 1938 and is the country's second-largest big top show. (That big top, FYI, has a seating capacity of 1,100 and is made of waterproof vinyl. The tent is 120 feet by 120 feet and is 40 feet high and is supported by more than a quarter of a mile of heavy gauge aluminum tubing as well as several miles of rope, steel cable and chain. Who knew?)
 
The circus is a fundraiser, so it's for a good cause, but if you have any concerns about the welfare of the animals, check out Kelly Miller's website, http://kellymillercircus.com/. There is some good information that may put your mind at ease and allow you to support the wonderful work the Lions Club does while giving the kids a thrill. Shows are 2 and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 and 5 p.m. on Sunday. Advance tickets are available prior to circus day at Big Y World Class Markets, the Dalton General Store, the Dalton CRA, Greenridge Variety, Val's Variety and Harry's Supermarket.
 
One more fundraiser (well, OK, two!) to mention: library book sales! There are two this weekend -- the Berkshire Atheneum in Pittsfield and the Stockbridge Library. Bring the kids and let them browse the children's sections while you stock up on some summer novels that you will find time to read -- honest! The Pittsfield sale is inside the library on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Stockbridge sale is under the big tent out front on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. I hit as many of these sales as I possibly can, hoping to find a John Irving book I haven't read yet but usually settling for a Dean Koontz or two or some of those soft-back British novels that I enjoy. These are two great sales, and keep a look out for the Lenox Library's sale in August. Happy reading!
 
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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News Headlines
The Meat Market Offers Offal Dinner for All Hallow's Eve
'St. Vincent': Absolved of All its Sins
These Mysterious Hills: Pittsfield's Downtown Awash in Ghostly Legends
Pittsfield Debates Control Over School Department Budget
Lenox Calling Special Town Meeting
Community Bids Farewell to MCLA's Grant & Canavan
Adams COA Loads Up 'Buckets of Sand' for Local Senior Citizens
BRPC Concludes Train Station Study, Encourages Towns To Stay Involved
2014 Bazaars & Craft Fairs
Berkshire County Arc Launches 2014 Annual Campaign

 




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