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Are We There Yet?: Stay Empowered This Weekend
By Rebecca Dravis On: 11:16AM / Thursday July 10, 2014
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So now that we have power up here in the Northern Berkshires — for now — let's take a look at this weekend.

Actually, let's start with Friday, July 11, and if the power goes out on this event, who cares? I'm talking about Eagle Street Beach Party in North Adams, and a lack of electricity might actually enhance this event by removing the music that's always way too loud on one end of the street.

But I digress. From 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., kids are invited to come play in the more than 250,000 pounds of sand dumped on the street. There are games and contests, and the Eagle Street merchants always get in on the fun, too. The event is only held if there is no threat of rain; after all, who wants 250,000 pounds of mud? As of this writing in Thursday, Friday looks good to go, so head north and prepare to play!

On Saturday, July 12, get thee to a library ... where electricity is always helpful. In Otis, the library fair will be held from 10 to 3:30 (OK, it's actually NOT in the library, but on the church green, but this is Otis and it's all right there anyway). This event will feature more than 50 unique artists, craftsmen and clothes vendors selling their products. There will also be a book sale, bake sale, cookout and raffle prizes. All proceeds go toward new library computers, books, videos, and expanded library operating hours.

Staying in South County, the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic will hold a program called "Robots on the Run" from 2 to 4 p.m., presented by the Rhode Island Computer Museum. This workshop aims to explain basic circuits and instructions on how to build a simple robot. Kids 10 and up Will learn programmable electronics including how to make lights blink, motors run, sounds and more.

Back to North County, the Milne Library in Williamstown will host a program on Saturday called "Fire and Ice" at 1 p.m. As party of the "Fizz Boom Read" Summer Reading Program. Mad Science of New England will present this interactive science program about states of matter. Library programs are free.

Sunday, July 13, brings another fun outdoor activity: An Appalachian Trail Family Hike from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Great Barrington. This a special kid-friendly hike is geared at helping families enjoy hiking the Appalachian Trail. The 2-mile hike (round-trip) through ice gulch to the Tom Leonard Shelter will take families into one of Berkshire County’s most interesting trail sections. Kids will be able to explore a thru-hiker shelter, eat their lunch with an awesome view, and play games that help develop good trail skills. Parents will learn great tips for successful family trail days. For more information and to register, email info@gbtrails.org. Registration is required, group size is limited.

Power or no power, our beautiful Berkshire Hills can still be hiked. Maybe next time the power goes out we all need to remember that there are plenty of ways to have downtime when you can't power up.

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires.com. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.



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Are We There Yet?: Summer Is Here
By Rebecca Dravis On: 10:07PM / Thursday June 19, 2014
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Summer is officially here on Saturday, even if it feels like we didn't have much of a spring. Up here in my corner of the Berkshires, school is still in session for another week, which means I'm not in the "oh my God it's summer what do I do with the kids" mode for another week. Is a shorter summer a good thing or a bad thing? Only time will tell.

But there are some fun ways to embrace the beginning of summer this weekend, most of them in Great Barrington on Saturday morning, June 21 ... so if you're ambitious, try to hit them all!

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Great Barrington Fair Grounds, Berkshire Co-op Market is throwing a family fun bash at the Great Barrington Farmers Market to celebrate the beginning of summer. The farmers market will run as usual with 25-plus vendors and a selection of vegetables, cheese, meats and more. The Co-op will be adding family fun activities to the event to bolster the fun.  There will be a mini Bio Blitz, hosted by Greenagers, a nonprofit working to help young people engage with their environment. The Blitz is a fun list of nature related games and scavenger hunts for kids.  There will also be a non-toxic tie dye table for all ages (some whites will be provided, but bringing your own is recommended), a local farmers market raffle, a silent auction of products from around town and a used clothing pop up shop.  All proceeds will benefit Greenagers, The Farmers Market and The Fair Grounds. For more information, visit www.berkshire.coop or call 413-528-9697.

From 10:30 a.m. to noon, Project Native will host a Bug and Butterfly Safari, weather permitting. With nets, bug boxes, magnifying glasses and field guides at the ready, participants will leave a on safari to find eggs, caterpillars and butterflies to relocate into the Butterfly House. Participants will learn to identify host plants, tricks for finding eggs/caterpillars and ecologically harvest food for caterpillars in the Butterfly House.  All ages are welcome to participate and it is free.

At 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., The Zoo in Forest Park returns to the Mason Library for another what promises to be a spectacular show. Families will learn about the zoo animals and get to pet them. There are limited spots available; there will be two shows and families must register for either 11:45 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. at gblibraries.org. All ages are welcome.

Of course, Saturday is the first day of summer, so it's a perfect day for ice cream. (Although really, what day is a BAD day for ice cream?) From 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Wild Oats Market in Williamstown will hold an Ice Cream Social to benefit the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition’s Mass in Motion program, which is currently overseeing the North Adams Mayor’s Fitness Challenge. The Fitness Challenge, which began May 5 and continues to July 11,  is a 10-week program that challenges residents of the North Adams and surrounding communities to improve their overall health by setting and meeting doable fitness goals. There will be a face painter for kids of all ages, and a spin art machine for children to make unique and colorful artwork. The price per sundae is $5 for adults; and $3 for children 12 and under. While it may seem counterintuitive to serve ice cream for a fitness program, one of my favorite things about this program (we have an iBerkshires team in the challenge, though I have to admit the record-keeping is not going very well) is that it rewards for good behavior but does not punish for bad behavior. Love that positive reinforcement! And anyway, Amanda Chilson, coordinator for the Mass in Motion, will be there to share her tips on how to get fit and stay fit, while still enjoying an ice cream sundae or two along the way. Because life would be awfully dull without ice cream.

One quick event on Sunday, June 22, to mention: From 3 to 6 p.m., Egremont Village Inn (formerly Weathervane Inn) will host "The Family Show (Story #1)" featuring Lizzie West’s “Legend of the Golden Thread,” with special guests Sauerkraut Seth, Killington Bird Man, percussionist Baba Buffalo and more. The afternoon includes a 45-minute interactive performance with live music, outdoor fun and mask-making. The event is free. For more information, call 413-528-9580 or go to www.egremontvillageinn.com.

 

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.



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Are We There Yet?: Digging Disney
By Rebecca Dravis On: 09:59PM / Thursday June 12, 2014
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Disney's "The Little Mermaid" came out when I was around 16 years ago. I very clearly recall rolling my eyes in typical teenage fashion when my mother asked if I wanted to watch it. Watch a Disney movie? That was so for babies.

But I watched it anyway ... and fell in love with everything Disney. Within a few years I had amassed a collection of Disney VHS videos, videos that I still have, videos that are the reason I might be one of the two people left in Massachusetts with a couple VCRs still in my house, videos that I could not wait to show my own daughter. "The Jungle Book." "The Fox and the Hound." "Aladdin."

Magical.

I have continued that collection since my daughter was born, only now my personal copies are on DVDs (though I feel like I might be one of the 10 people left in Massachusetts with a regular DVD player, as Blue Ray is all the rage, at least until something even better comes out and they try to make us think we need to buy copies of everything we already own in whatever format that ends up being). The latest in my collection is "Frozen," which I wasn't prepared to love as much as I did. It's not only the amazing music, it's the story and its message. I love that in the end, it's the love between sisters that saves the day, not a prince. Awesome!

This Saturday, June 14, at 7:30 p.m., Images Cinema, our cool local movie house in Williamstown, will show "Frozen." Images doesn't typically show Disney movies, but there is a special reason for this one: It's Williams College reunion weekend, and the movie's Oscar-winning hit song “Let it Go” was co-written by Williams alum Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Regular ticket prices apply, but lest you think it's silly to pay to see a movie you own (and I know most of the people reading this column probably DO own it), I guarantee watching it in Images with an intimate crowd sure to include children singing along will be an amazing experience. How do I know? My fellow Girl Scout leaders and I showed it to a group of 25 second-graders and listening to all of them belt out "Let it Go" together was extraordinarily cool to hear. Images is located, by the way, at 50 Spring St. in downtown Williamstown, which should be hopping this weekend with alumni.

And speaking of Disney princesses, there is, of course, Cinderella. Remember how she has nothing to wear to the ball until the fairy godmother swoops in to save the day? Mill City Productions in North Adams is debuting a show this weekend in which Cinderella has nothing to wear to the ... disco??? Yes, "Cinderalla Goes Disco" will play Fridays, June 13 and 20 at 7 p.m., Saturdays, June 14 and 21 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sundays, June 15 and 22, at 2 p.m. at the Mill City Theatre in Building 4N (next to the Visitor's Center) of the Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams.

Mill City promises this to be an interactive play that will allow children from the audience to shine on stage with the actors and is fun for the whole family. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for students/seniors and will be available at the door. For more information, visit www.millcityproductions.org.

Not sure if your child would like "Cinderella Goes Disco"? Look this weekend as my 8-year-old and I kick off a yet-to-be-named series of summer family theater reviews in which she and I will see family plays all around the Berkshires and then discuss the pros and cons for the kiddos. "Cinderella" is our first stop, and we are excited to work on this project together this summer. Beats sitting around the couch moaning "I'm borrrred" all summer!

 

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.



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Are We There Yet?: Summer on Stage
By Rebecca Dravis On: 10:26PM / Thursday June 05, 2014
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I promised you a column of summer family fun. First I'm going to start with theater, not only because there is so much family theater in a Berkshire summer but also because I live with a little actress who likes nothing more than being on stage.

One of our favorites is Shakespeare & Company's Rose Footprint productions, outdoor theater under the big round tent, where the audience sits in lawn chairs and the actors run around and through the audience and interact with them. This year, the production is "The Servant of Two Masters," billed on S&Co's website as "a comical blend of the Italian classic Commedia dell’arte and contemporary performance styles that tells the story of the outrageous and wily servant, Truffaldino, who secretly signs on with two masters simultaneously."

The actors are young, colorful and funny, and kids of all ages will love this show, which runs three times a week from June 25 through Aug. 23.

From July 23 through Aug. 10, Barrington Stage Company will present "Hairspray Jr." at the theater in the Berkshire Museum. Based on the film and Tony Award-winning stage musical of the same name, "Hairspray Jr." follows spunky plus-sized teen Tracy Turnblad as she pursues her dream of dancing on national television and navigates the racial tensions and stereotypes of the 1960s. Please note that children under 5 are not allowed into the theater.

Just over the border in Chatham, N.Y., the Mac-Haydn Theatre — the very cool theater in the round — will host another season of children's theater on Friday and Saturday mornings starting June 27. This year's productions are "Wilbur the Not-So-Big, Not-So-Bad Wolf," "Aladdin," "The Pied Piper" and "Rumplestiltskin." Every show we've seen in this theater has been amazing, and I highly recommend the short drive across state lines.

Back in Massachusetts, Berkshire Theatre Group presents "Seussical the Musical" at The Colonial in Pittsfield from Aug. 7-17. On its website, BTG says actors will be "flown" through the theater for the second year. I missed "Peter Pan" last summer but apparently that was such a big hit they're flying again this year. Pretty cool.

The last production I will mention is the free outdoor theater that Williamstown Theatre Festival presents every year. While I miss the colorful on-stage show the young actors used to present, I will admit that last year's production of "Dracula" was awesome. In fact, I liked it so much I read the book over the winter. (Well, by "read" I actually mean "listen to on CD" but whatever.) Anyway, this year WTF is presenting "Robin Hood" from July 16-25. The WTF website says "the Williamstown woods are magically transformed into Sherwood Forest as sought-after director Stella Powell-Jones enlivens this legendary swashbuckling adventure on the outdoor free theater stage." Magic, yes, but also buggy so don't forget the spray!

If I've missed any family theater fun, I'll catch up on it next week. For this weekend, enjoy what looks like gorgeous weather with two fishing derbies. On Saturday, June 7, the 22nd annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby takes place at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Onota Lake in Pittsfield from 6 a.m. to noon to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. Fee is $10 adults, $5 for children ages 14 and younger. On Sunday, June 8, the 20th annual Fishing Derby at Lake Mansfield in Great Barrington will be held for youth up to age 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. No fishing experience necessary. Prizes and souvenirs for all participants will be provided through generous community donations. Funds raised will support the Action Adventures Out-Of-School Financial Assistance Program.

Summer is coming!

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.



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Are We There Yet?: Remembering Harley
By Rebecca Dravis On: 11:14PM / Thursday May 15, 2014
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No one should ever have to suffer the pain of losing a child.

As a parent of a child with two autoimmune diseases, I face that terror perhaps more often than most parents. But I'm sure anyone reading this column, any parent, would feel nothing short of sheer despair should something happen to their child.

That's why I cried when I heard about Harley Ogle.

I heard about the death of this Pittsfield second-grader from my mother, who used to work with Harley's grandmother. She hesitated when telling me, obviously sensitive to my own situation with my daughter. Harley died in his sleep; my daughter has type 1 diabetes, and most type 1 kids who die do so in their sleep. When she told me, my heart ached for this family. She told me how she and Harley's grandmother had become grandmas around the same time: He was born just a few months after my own daughter, and while they worked together they shared pictures and stories of their beautiful grandbabies as they grew into infants and toddlers and little kids. This year, they both entered second grade, my daughter with her health issues and Harley with some of his own.

But my daughter made it to her 8th birthday. Harley died this spring just a couple weeks before his own 8th birthday. My mother went to the wake and cried hard, both for Harley and for the fear she feels as the grandmother of my daughter. In fact, she cried so hard that Harley's grandmother came to check on HER the following week to make sure SHE was all right.

I share this story not to be have a depressing column this week. I share it to urge you to help turn Harley's death into something positive. 

This Sunday, May 18, Harley will be remembered with a benefit at the Back Nine Bar & Grill, 303 Crane Ave., Pittsfield, from 3 to 10 p.m. There will be food, raffles and live music by Rev Tor, Domino Theory, B.A. Dario, Longview Gunslingers, and Chris Merenda. All proceeds will support the Pittsfield Family YMCA licensed elementary school-age programs, which Harley attended at Williams Elementary School. Attendees who provide school supply donations will receive two free raffle tickets; supplies that are needed include board games, arts and crafts, markers, scissors, UNO cards, Jenga, paper, books, sidewalk chalk, glue/glue sticks, pencils and erasers and Legos.

Tickets are $10 and are available at Nichols Package Store, Wheeler's Market in Lanesborough and at the Pittsfield Family YMCA. For more information, contact family friend Lindsay Dambrauskas at 413-212-1479.

If you want to know more about Harley and the lives he touched in his short time on Earth, visit the Facebook page set up in his honor. Be sure to have a box of tissues handy, and hug your own kids a little harder tonight.

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.



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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
North Adams Edward Jones Office Supports Toys for Tots Drive
Adams Selectmen Updated on Park Street, Town Projects
Visitors Bureau: Tourists Spent $161 Million In Lenox Last Year
Clarksburg Seniors Have Deadline for Cable Discount

 




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