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Are We There Yet?: Start Vacation With Indoor, Outdoor Options
By Rebecca Dravis On: 04:40AM / Friday February 14, 2014
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Another week, another snow day — or maybe even two.

How fabulous, right before February vacation.

Happy Valentine's Day to us!

We're now facing 10 days of sheer boredom... or, how about 10 Days of Play? For the second year, the Berkshire Museum is transforming its Crane Room into anything a child might imagine, using readily available and recyclable materials from cardboard to fabric and tape. Presented in partnership with the Transition Team of Pittsfield and Pop­-Up Adventure Play, this is the epitome of child­-directed play, something pretty much everyone agrees that today's kids don't get enough of. Haven't you ever been tempted to just throw your kids into a room with no screens, just lots of random stuff, and see what they can come up with? Here's your chance!

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Feb. 14 through Feb. 23 and is free with museum admission. For more information, visit berkshiremuseum.org.

That is my definite stay-inside choice for the weekend and upcoming vacation week. But if you are game for going outside, consider a North County tradition: Winter Fest in downtown North Adams on Saturday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature ice sculpting, music, pony rides, a fun run/walk at 10:30 a.m., the annual Chowder Cook­-Off from noon to 2 p.m., horse­-drawn wagon rides and more. It's a fun day out for the whole family... even though the weather forecast right now shows a high of only 20 degrees. Or maybe the cold is a good thing for Winter Fest. It depends on how you look at it, I guess! For more details and a specific schedule of events, click here.

And if you're looking for more vacation week fun, beyond the Berkshire Museum, check out another area museum: the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. They are running drop-­in workshops in which all ages can explore how the art of Norman Rockwell, Ruth Sanderson, and Wendell Minor tell stories in pictures, and create artworks in mixed media that express their own ideas. These run from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and are free with museum admission. For more details, visit nrm.org.

Stay warm, stay sane ... and I'll be back next week with some ideas on making it through the last few days of vacation!

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?: Animals Everywhere!
By Rebecca Dravis On: 12:57PM / Friday February 07, 2014
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After a recent snowstorm, my husband beckoned our daughter to the front door and told her to look out on the front sidewalk. There, clear as day in the fresh snow, was a trail of animal prints.

Noelle was delighted, and we spent the next few minutes from the warmth of the house guessing what animal could have left those prints. It was a probably a cat, we decided, although we rarely see stray cats in our neighborhood. We do have woods behind our house so we regularly see rabbits and deer and a woodchuck every now and then.

Say what you want about winter and snowstorms and snow days from school (oh, joy!), but the opportunity fresh snow presents in seeing the wildlife around us is amazing. That's why this weekend I am recommending a family tracking day at Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, families with kids ages 6 and up are invited to join Flying Deer Nature Center instructors for a day of mystery, intrigue and family fun in the forest.

At the Family Track Detective Workshop, families will learn to identify common animal tracks and trails and embark on a journey that will hone their skills of awareness and observation. This day will be filled with fun and learning for everyone in the family.

Space is limited, so registration is required at berkshiresouth.org. The cost is $50 per adult/child pair, with $20 per additional family member, and there is a maximum of two children per adult. Saturday's weather looks to be cold but sunny, a perfect day for an educational hike through the woods!

If your kids would rather see some live animals -- not just their prints -- in an indoor setting, head on over to Berkshire Community College on Sunday, Feb. 9, for the 13th annual Not Your Average Dog Show. The family­-oriented event, which is open to all dogs (not just purebreds), is free for both human and canine spectators. Donations are encouraged and will benefit students through the college’s annual fund. State Representative William Smitty Pignatelli will emcee the show and Gene Dellea, president of the BCC Foundation, will serve as ringmaster. Contests include Best Trick, Best Dressed, Best Smile and more.

The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For registration forms, event rules and regulations, visit www.berkshirecc.edu/dogshow or contact Ann at aphillips@berkshirecc.edu or 413­236­2185.

One last note, looking a little past the weekend: For those Red Sox fans out there, the 2013 World Series trophy is coming to the Berkshires on Monday, Feb. 10. There will be public viewings from 1 to 2 p.m. at St. Mary's Elementary and Middle School in Lee, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Mingo's Sports Bar & Grill in North Adams (inside Greylock Bowl), and from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Infield, an indoor multi­-sports complex located at 10 Lyman St. in Pittsfield.

Even with this snow and cold, let's remember our boys of summer!



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Are We There Yet?: Big Games & Family Fun
By Rebecca Dravis On: 12:24PM / Friday January 31, 2014
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It's Super Bowl Sunday weekend.

(Wait: Am I allowed to say that? I just read that the NFL won't let companies say "Super Bowl" unless they pay for it, explaining why all the Price Chopper and WalMart ads on TV say "the big game."

I think the media is exempt from the NFL copyright police ... for now!)

While I hated seeing Peyton Manning beat my beloved Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game, I have to admit I enjoy the game more when the Patriots are NOT playing in it. Too stressful. This Sunday, I can sit back and root for the Seattle Seahawks to pound Peyton into that cold, hard New Jersey turf. Hey, I can dream.

But besides the game, there's another Super Bowl tradition in Northern Berkshire County: the Williamstown Youth Center's annual family extravaganza known as Snowfest.

A few years ago they moved the date from early January to coincide with the big game also known as the Super Bowl, offering families a fun, active afternoon that benefits the youth center's programs and scholarships.

Never been to Snowfest? You are in for a treat: Activities include ice skating in the rink (rentals cost a couple bucks), Wii games, caricature artists, an inflatable obstacle course, pickup sports games facilitated by Williams College athletic teams, photo arts and crafts, and more. New activities this year include a soccer exhibition and clinic hosted by semi­professional soccer players from Vermont Voltage, and winter Olympic events to get you into the mood for the upcoming Sochi games.

Of course, I have found that the kids just enjoy running around in an indoor, contained space!

The cost is $35 per family or $5 per student. Scholarship assistance is available. Families can register online at williamstownyouthcenter.org or at the door the day of the event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. (plenty of time to get home for the big game also known as the Super Bowl) at the Williams College field house and skating rink in Williamstown.

Can't wait for Sunday to give the kids something active to do? Saturday, Feb. 1, is Kids Day Out at Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington. Parents of kids ages 2 to 12 can drop them off between 9:30 and 12:30 for a morning of swimming, games, and the all ­important gym (or outside, depending on the weather) time.

The cost is $15 for members and $17 for non­members and includes a snack; registration is requested at least 48 hours in advance at 413­528­2810, so hop to it!

One more Saturday event to mention: Berkshire Community College will host its second annual Wellness Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event, which is open to individuals of all ages and abilities, will be held at BCC's Paterson Field House, located at 1350 West St. in Pittsfield, and will feature free educational booths as well as exercise classes and chair massages ($4 per half­-hour exercise class or 10 minute chair massage). Exercise classes will include Zumba, Pilates, aikido, self­defense, creative dance and yoga.

Proceeds will benefit Empower SCI, a nonprofit corporation that serves the needs of individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Entry to the event is free; however, donations will be accepted. For more information, visit berkshirecc.edu.

I know this cold weather has caused the kids to have a lot of pent-­up energy. Hopefully these ideas will give you ways to get them to let off steam ­ and stop jumping on the couch already — especially during the big game also known as the Super Bowl.

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?: Snakes and Swords and Fish, Oh My!
By Rebecca Dravis On: 05:44AM / Friday January 24, 2014
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This one's for the boys!
 
My own life is all about girls. I have a daughter. She plays with girls. I work for the Girl Scouts. So I think I naturally gravitate toward events that will please the girls in my life.
 
But this week I stumbled across a couple of weekend events that should be particularly appealing to the boys out there: swords and snakes. (Not to say girls won't like them, too; I think my daughter could do without the snakes but she loves swords!) Unfortunately, they are both at the same time, the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 25, so you will have to pick one or the other.

First up is the sword presentation at the Mason Library, which is aimed at those ages 9 and up. Jeff Goodhind and Jeff Lord from the Association for Renaissance and Medieval Swordsmanship will demonstrate the art of Western European swordsmanship over the centuries from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Then you can try your hand at (blunt) sword combat in a fun, hands-on activity. The Mason Library is located on Main Street in Great Barrington; for details visit gblibraries.org.
 
The snake presentation is also at a library: the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield. Tom Tyning, professor of environmental science at Berkshire Community College, will present a talk titled "Snakes: Biology, Conservation & Stories" at 2 p.m. For more information, visit pittsfieldlibrary.org.
 
It's worth noting here that both of these events are free, which is almost always the case when one of our local libraries hosts a program. These wonderful facilities located in almost every town in the Berkshires offer so much to the community -- fun programs like these, books and DVDs, computer and Internet access and even just a warm, fun place to hang out on a cold winter afternoon. There is actually a National Library Week in April, but really, every week should be library week.
 
I have one more event to mention, if you're looking for something for younger kids or something to do on Sunday: The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia will present Leo Lionni's "Swimmy & Federick Inch by Inch" at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26. Using whimsical puppets, imaginative lighting and original music, the group will tell the tale of Swimmy, a tiny fish who uses ingenuity to fend off danger; Frederick, a poetic mouse who makes everyday life an artful experience; and a third story about a lovable inchworm who shares his facility for measuring absolutely everything. Tickets are $10; find more information here.
 
Snakes and swords and fish, oh my!


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Are We There Yet?: Winterfest or Thaw-fest?
By Rebecca Dravis On: 04:47AM / Friday January 17, 2014
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What happened to winter?
 
I'm not really complaining, mind you, as that recent bout of sub-zero temperatures left my middle-aged bones chilled through and through. But my daughter is not happy about the possible cancellation of a Winterfest activity of outdoor fun at Girl Scout camp this weekend — though that event is now interfering with the Patriots game, which I wasn't happy about. After all, what is a Winterfest without snow? January Thaw-fest, I guess.
 
As an aside, this thaw actually gave me a really nice half an hour. On Wednesday, I was left in charge of waiting for some volunteers to pick up Girl Scout cookies (yes, it's that time of year again; look for the girls all over the region in the next few weeks!). It was such a nice day that I sat outside in the sun, by myself, with no cell phone or iPad or kids or anything to distract me. I just sat there doing nothing. It truly was a magical 30 minutes.

But I digress ... 
 
The lack of snow might change the plans of an event this Saturday, Jan. 18, at one of my favorite places in Berkshire County: Sheep Hill. This nature preserve just south of the heart of Williamstown is run by the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation and is one of the most family-friendly ways to get outdoors in the area. This Saturday, there are two Winter Snow Animal Tracking programs, led by naturalist Dan Yacobellis. The 9 to 11:30 a.m. program is for beginners and young children and will encompass a family friendly walk around the lower Sheep Hill slopes identifying tracks and signs of animals such as squirrels, rabbits, mice, fox, deer and birds that have been through. From noon to 4 p.m., the program is for adults and kids 8 and up who want to take tracking a little further. This program venture up into the forest and look for some of the more secretive creatures like fisher and bobcat and will look a bit more closely at the tracks. Space is limited and registration is required. The suggested donation for the program is $5 per person or $10 per family. To register or for more information, email lre@wrlf.org.
 
But even if a period of January thaw is too cold for you to be outdoors, here's an indoor suggestion for Saturday: the "Our Big World" cultural fair at Haskins Gym in North Adams. This event, sponsored by the Family Resource Center, runs from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and will include children's games, activities, music and food from cultures around the world! Registration is required by calling 413-664-4821. More details at can be found at ccberkshire.org.
 
Sunday, Jan. 19, is all about football, so I recommend just staying inside and watching the Patriots (hopefully win, but my hopes are not high), which is where I will be if Winterfest is "grassed" out. But as this is a long holiday weekend, I have a Monday, Jan. 20, recommendation: the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Day of Service in North Adams. This event offers community members the chance to do volunteer projects around the area. This 21st annual event will begin at 9 a.m. with coffee and refreshments at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center. Around 9:15 a.m., participants start their choice of a community project with either on-site tasks at MCLA's Church St. Center or off-site at various community locations. Service projects for all ages and abilities include tasks such as painting, cleaning, organizing, building, winterizing or sewing. Last year my then 7-year-old daughter colored cards to include on packages to military personnel serving overseas. Every age can make a difference! For more information, email Kathy Keeser at kathykeeser@gmail.com or call her at 413-346-7196.
 
So whatever the weather, weather it well!
 
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
North County Residents Question Health-Care Needs Report
Williams Men's Soccer Ties RPI
MCLA Women's Tennis Rolls, Men's Soccer Falls
Clarksburg to Decide Spending, Bylaw at Special Town Meeting
Annual Fall Run Fundraiser Roars From Adams on Sunday
Lanesborough Eyeing Police Station Renovation
North Adams Housing Authority Accepts $3.5M Budget for 2015
Butler Takes Over As Chamber President
Williamstown Selectmen Seek Flag Submissions, Set Tax Rate
Williams Seniors Urged to Be Open to New Experiences

 




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