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Are We There Yet?: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
By Rebecca Dravis On: 05:20AM / Friday December 06, 2013
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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
 
My favorite radio station, B95.5 out of Albany, N.Y., has been playing Christmas music since the beginning of November. Some people think that is crazy, but it's perfectly fine with me. "Jingle Bells" and all of the other classics just make my heart melt, even in November. 
 
Family holiday events are catching up with the music this coming weekend, the first full weekend of December, where there is no shortage of seasonal fun. 

First up on Friday night, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. is the annual tree lighting ceremony in Park Square Pittsfield. I drove through Pittsfield one evening earlier this week and downtown was sparkling with holiday lights and cheer, just waiting for the tree to join. Before the ceremony, the Berkshire Hills Chorus will perform from 5:30 to 5:50 p.m. The Taconic High School Chorus will also perform a variety of carols, Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive following the tree lighting, and free hot chocolate will be available, courtesy of Patrick's Pub.

For a smaller ­town atmosphere on Friday, head south to West Stockbridge, where the Holiday Stroll along Main, Center, Depot and Harris streets will happen between 4 and 8 p.m., and feature appearances by Santa and his sleigh, downtown shops open late, luminaria, hayrides, live music and edibles in various venues, and birdseed­-ornament-making and gingerbread-­cookie-decorating at Six Depot Coffee Shop from 4:30 to 6 p.m. At 6 p.m. the tree will be lit.

On Saturday, Dec. 7, head north to Williamstown for my adopted hometown's lovely Christmas celebration, Holiday Walk. This year marks the 30th year of the event, which features the ever­popular Reindog Parade. If you have never seen this or taken the kids to this, this is the year to do it. If you have a dog, slap some antlers or a sweater on him or her and join the parade. If you just want to watch, head to Spring Street and pick a spot. After, head inside the Lasell Gym for the Penny Social, featuring a huge raffle and local nonprofits with giveaways, activities and information. Across the street from 2 to 5 p.m. check out the Habitat for Humanity Christmas Tree Showcase and bid to win a tree or two. From 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. Santa Claus will be at The Log on Spring Street (a change from previous years when he was at the bank). There are many, many more activities if you are in Williamstown earlier in the day (including story time at 10 a.m. at Water Street Books) or Sunday (including the craft fair at the Williamstown Elementary School from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a free screening of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" at 1 p.m. at Images Cinema). For all the details, visit the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce website
 
On the other end of the county on Saturday is the Holiday Stroll in downtown Great Barrington. The Mason Library will host storytelling at 3 p.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. there will be shopping and other activities around the Main Street area. Wrap up the weekend on Sunday, Dec. 8, in Lenox for the annual Gingerbread Contest at the Lenox Library. Sponsored by the Lenox Chamber of Commerce, this year's theme is "Berkshire Gingerbread Houses," and will include edible entries by professional chefs, groups of all ages and individuals. A panel of judges will announce prizes in all three categories, and the public will award People's Choice prizes in all categories as well -- so get the family down there between 1 and 3 p.m. and share your opinions. All proceeds benefit the library. Visit the library's website for more details.
 
It's the most wonderful time of the year!
 
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?: Sunday Holiday Celebrations
By Rebecca Dravis On: 06:44AM / Thursday November 28, 2013
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You've eaten all the stuffing. You've secured a few Black Friday weekend bargains.
 
You've entertained the kids for a couple days despite some cold and sloppy weather.
 
Now what?
 
This week, my friends, Sunday is your savior.
 
Starting at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1 (yes, it's December already, if you can believe it), bring the family to the town of Adams for an old­fashioned New England Christmas kick­off.
 
One of my favorite holiday events of the season, the afternoon features music, caroling, hayrides, hot cocoa and more. Santa Claus will arrive at 3:30 p.m. and help count down to the official lighting of the Town Common tree at 4 p.m. Immediately following the tree lighting ceremony at the Town Common (the park with the gazebo right next to the McDonald's), Santa will light the tree on Summer Street, located on the corner of Summer and Victory streets. 

While I've always found the effect of lighting a tree while there it is still daylight to be admittedly less than spectacular, as a parent of a young child I appreciated the family­ friendly afternoon time slot of this event. But if you are game for bundling the kids up in the cold darkness, the tiny town of Clarksburg lights its tree on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. 
 
If you don't celebrate Christmas, or want to expose the children to a different culture, consider Sunday's other big event: the annual Hanukkah Family Festival at the Berkshire Mall (Macy's Court) at 4 p.m. I found it interesting that the first full day of Hanukkah coinciding with Thanksgiving this year ­ leading some to dub it "Thanksgivukkah" ­ will not happen again for thousands of years, if ever. (If you're a numbers person and want to read a funny story about why that is so, click here. Just don't blame me if it gives you a headache.)
 
In any case, the event at the mall features the lighting of a giant menorah, children's crafts, live music, food, face paintings and the family highlight: "Bubblemania" with Casey Carle. According to his website, you will see: giant floating spheres up to 4 to 6 feet in diameter; bubbles that bounce; a bubble cube; fog­ filled bubbles; a bubble "volcano" and more! I attended this event a couple years ago with my daughter and we found Carle's bubble antics to be pretty hilarious. The whole event is free; click here for all the details.
 
One last event I will mention this week since I won't post again until next Thursday: The city of North Adams, in anticipation of the big storm expected Wednesday, Nov. 27, moved its annual Thanksgiving­-eve Christmas tree lighting ceremony to Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 5 p.m. (I never liked it on Thanksgiving eve, anyway!) Gather at the east end of Main Street (up by the library) for songs, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the lighting of the large downtown tree. Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate more on Dec. 4. Until next week: Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to 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?: Hungry, Hungry Weekend
By Rebecca Dravis On: 07:49AM / Friday November 22, 2013
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As I write this, I am having my first taste of turkey this fall. This early Thanksgiving treat came courtesy of my mother, who cooked a 16-pound bird for the potluck dinner for the residents of the apartment building she lives in. When she offered me some of the leftovers, I eagerly accepted, not only because it was my roasting pan she had borrowed to prepare it in so I felt entitled but also because I just love turkey. It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving ­ and the weeks that follow. Turkey soup, turkey tetrazzini, turkey and gravy... yum!

Speaking of food, I also am a big fan of milkshakes. (Nice transition, huh?) So my top family pick of this weekend is a concert at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams on Saturday, Nov. 23, that features the Grammy­-nominated band Milkshake, which claims to be "on a mission to create great rock music for kids." Led by singer Lisa Mathews and guitarist Mikel Gehl, formerly of the indie rock outfit Love Riot, the band has appeared everywhere from PBS Kids to Nick Jr. to the Emmy Award­-winning cartoon "Todd World." The concert is at 11:30 a.m. and tickets are $8. Click here for details.
 
Keeping on the food theme on Saturday, you will find lots of Polish treats at the annual St. Stanislaus Kostka School Bazaar, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Adams. In addition to the food, there will be auctions, crafts and more, with all proceeds benefiting St. Stanislaus Kostka School. For more information, call Lorry Delomolino at 413­-743-1091. 
 
While I'd love to keep the food theme going, I just can't figure out how to tie in trains with food. That's right, trains. The Norman Rockwell Museum is hosting a family day from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23, titled, simply, "Trains." Visitors are invited to celebrate trains and the wonders of rail travel during this afternoon inspired by the museum’s current exhibit, "Wendell Minor’s America." Activities especially geared toward families include "Songs of the Railroad: Music by Gordon Titcomb" at 2 p.m. and the opportunity all afternoon for kids to design their own locomotive with educator Beverly Thompson. All of the activities are free with museum admission; click here for details.
 
One last food note (yep, going back to food here): This weekend marks the fifth anniversary of the Berkshire Grown Holiday Farmers Markets. Everyone is invited to celebrate and buy locally grown and produced foods, including fruits and vegetables, cheese, eggs, meat, poultry, bread, pies, pickles, jams, and more. There also will be lunch food vendors, live music and children's activities. The market runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Monument Valley Middle School in Great Barrington and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Williams College Towne Field House in Williamstown. Click here for details.
 
I bet you will be able to buy a local turkey at one of the farmers markets. If you do, and you have some leftovers, let me know!

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?: Raking Leaves, Crafts and Dancing
By Rebecca Dravis On: 05:42AM / Friday November 15, 2013
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We are approaching one of those weekends that I love to embrace: one with very little to do! I mean that on a personal level, though I do have to work a little on Sunday, but I also mean that on a public level. There are not a ton of family events this weekend, a kind of break between harvest and Halloween festivals and the upcoming holiday season offerings. I am hoping for a nice Saturday where I can rake some leaves, watching my daughter jump in them, and then rake them some more.
 
What says fall better than that?
 
But if the kids are aching to get out of the house, I have a couple of suggestions for family fun this weekend.

First, on Saturday, Nov. 16, is the chance to have the kids do something creative while you shop — at Micheal's in Berkshire Crossing in Pittsfield, a store near and dear to the hearts of many parents, teachers and Scout leaders. Between 10 and 11:30 a.m., kids can join in a "Rudy the Reindeer Craft" session every half an hour for only $2. That's right, $2 for half an hour of "I want that"-free shopping time. Resist the temptation to hover over your child and embrace the alone time. Really, your child will be OK without you. (Of course, that last time I said that was to a friend of mine as we let our about-to-be-second-graders go down the Lazy River at Six Flags without us this past summer, only to moments later watch her child being pulled by lifeguards back to "shore" terrified and in tears. So maybe I'm not the best judge of that kind of thing.)
 
Then, on Sunday, Nov. 17, if your child is a fan of dancing, you can take her (yes, being slightly sexist here and assuming the majority of interest for this will come from girls) to a "Nutcracker" tea at 2:30 p.m. at the First Church of Christ at 27 East St. in Pittsfield. A benefit for the Albany Berkshire Ballet's annual "Nutcracker" tour, the event will feature a silent auction, "Nutcracker" excerpts, sweet treats and more. The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children; call 413-445-5382 for details.
 
Want to put the dates of the actual performance of "The Nutcracker" on your calendar? Here are the Berkshire County dates (visit berkshireballet.org for all the regional dates): Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington; Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. at The Colonial in Pittsfield; and Sunday, Dec. 8, at 1:30 and 4:30 at The Colonial.
 
If raking leaves says fall, "The Nutcracker" says Christmas. Embrace that!
 
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?: Santa Season Starts Early
By Rebecca Dravis On: 12:45AM / Friday November 08, 2013
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"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
 
Those famous words are recounted every holiday season, especially when a child questions the existence of Jolly Old Saint Nick. I myself printed out a copy of the 1897 New York Sun editorial last Christmas when my daughter, having just turned 7, began expressing some doubt. I was beside myself; how can a 7 year old not believe in Santa Claus? I blamed her friends with older siblings. I blamed TV and the Internet and all those silly apps she has filled my iPad's memory with. I especially blamed myself for recounting within her earshot the story of how I purchased something that went into her stocking, which is supposed to be from Santa. ("Sometimes Mommy helps Santa fill the stocking," I backpedaled quickly to her suspicious gaze. "Here, have a cookie. Or another app.")

I thought I was older before I started wondering, but maybe 7 is truly the age of not believing. That's one of the things that drew me to the movie "The Child King," which will be screened this Saturday, Nov. 9, at 10 a.m. at the North Adams Movieplex. In the movie, when 7-year-old Jarret West questions the existence of Santa Claus, his teenage older brother Jeremy, a young man with Down Syndrome, takes him on a quest to the North Pole to prove Santa is real. The free screening is being sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County, an organization that has dedicated itself to offering supports and advocacy for any individual, regardless of disability, to pursue a fulfilling, self-determined, high-quality community life. The film will be followed by a meet-and-greet reception with Peter Johnson, the young man who played the lead role of Jeremy and who has Berkshire County ties, at UCP's North Adams office, located at 535 Curran Highway; there is a $5 suggested donation for the reception. 
 
To watch the trailer, click here. The film is made by a crew of Massachusetts residents who wanted to make "an inspirational and adventurous tale that shows us those with intellectual disabilities are not to be underestimated, but rather looked to as examples of how to love unconditionally and transcend the stereotypes in our society," according to Special Olympics International. If the trailer is in any indication, it will put you and your family into a warm holiday mood in this early holiday season.
 
And it is early, despite that I happily heard the first Christmas songs of the season on the radio on Wednesday and despite the advertisements and store displays and mailbox full of catalogs from stores I have never heard of. But if you attend the screening of "The Child King" and find yourself beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, head south or east for some more holiday cheer.
 
Head south and you will find the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School Holiday Handcraft Fair, which runs Saturday, Nov. 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the school, located at 35 West Plain Road in Great Barrington. Highlights include carnival games, maple sugar cotton candy, a photo booth with dress-up costumes, the children's craft room where youngsters can make presents themselves, and the Pocket Lord and Lady, whose many pockets are filled with small gifts.
 
The Handcraft Room, the centerpiece of the Fair, offers a large selection of warm, soft handmade items, including baby booties, winter accessories, soft toys and classic Waldorf dolls. And at the Little People's Shop, children in third grade and younger can choose gifts for friends and family. Admission and parking are free; visit gbrss.org for more details.
 
Head east and you will find the Handmade for Kids Holiday Fair at Berkshire Trail Elementary School on Route 9 in Cummington (which I recently learned is technically outside of Berkshire County but interestingly is still a part of the Central Berkshire Regional School District). The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., also on Saturday, and features local vendors selling beautiful commercial-free, handmade items for kids of all ages, drop-in crafts for the kids, raffles, lunch and more to benefit the Cummington Family Center. Admission is also free; for information, visit cummingtonfamilycenter.org.
 
And if Santa should happen to drop in to any of these events, set a good example and embrace him completely and sincerely, no matter what the ages of your children are. Why? I'll let The Sun's editorial answer that: "Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world."
 
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
Region Already Feeling Impact of Clark Art Reopening
Cheshire Police Seeking Suspect in Car Break-ins
North Adams Council Mulls Speed Limit at Mobile Home Park
Early Closing Restrictions Lifted for Pittsfield Bar
National Weather Service Transmitter Slated to Return Oct. 1
Lanesborough Administrator Wants More Resources For Road Drainage
Pittsfield Community Meeting Looks At Local Youth Violence
Greylock Community Club Wins in Torchia League Playoffs
Pittsfield: Veterans Agent Fired
Western Summit Gift Shop Reopens on Mohawk Trail

 




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