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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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Are We There Yet?: Craft Season Begins
By Rebecca Dravis On: 02:08PM / Friday November 01, 2013
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The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
 
I have a couple Berkshire family events to mention this weekend, but ...
 
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
 
The last couple of weeks were very exciting, nerve-wracking, heart-breaking, et cetera, and I feel bad that so many our kids got to see very little of it since most of the games didn't even start until the elementary school-age crowd was getting ready to head to bed. I let my daughter watch an inning or two here or there and I was very excited to tell her Thursday morning that ...
 
The Boston Red Sox are world champions!
 
Who would have believed it?
 
OK, now that that's out of my system, let's talk about things your kids can do this weekend.
 
First up is an event in Pittsfield that sounds like so much fun - and educational, too! As part of November's Family Literacy Month, the Berkshire Museum will present "WeeMuse: WeeRead Pajama Night" on Friday, Nov. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Each gallery will feature different stories and storytellers, as well as story walks and family reading stations. There will also be special guests, giveaways and refreshments. Families will receive free books while supplies last. For more information, call 413-443-7171 or visit berkshiremuseum.org. While this may be the most appropriate for the emerging-reader crowd, younger and older siblings should be encouraged to participate to stoke or fan the flames of reading. And may I suggest that if the spark for reading just isn't there, try changing the material. Not everyone loves "The Cat in the Hat" ... though, seriously, if you don't, what's wrong with you? Just kidding. The point is to find something that will engage your own child's interests. Good luck!
 
Then on Saturday, Nov. 2, head to the Berkshire Mall... wait, isn't that where I sent you last weekend? Indeed, both my Girl Scout event last Saturday and Malloween on Sunday at the mall had large, excited crowds, so apparently, the mall is actually the family place to be! This Saturday, it's the 18th annual Community Baby Shower. Now, you may be thinking, "I am not pregnant so this is not for me." That's OK, bring the kids you already do have! This free event, co-hosted by Child Care of the Berkshires and Berkshire North WIC, will feature agencies from Berkshire County sharing info on topics related to pregnancy and parenting young children. Additional activities at the event include blood pressure screening and craft activities for children and parents. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
 
One more shout-out: Now that Halloween is over, the holiday craft fair season can officially begin, and begin it does this weekend with a good one in North Adams. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, between Mass. MoCA and the Big Y Plaza, hosts its big bazaar Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. The event features handmade candy, fudge, knitted and crocheted items, food and more. My daughter loves this bazaar because of the fishbowl game for kids, where for a quarter they get a scoop of folded paper out of the fishbowl and then spend the next half an hour unfolding every piece of paper to see if there is a star or dot on it to indicate they have won a prize. In the past, Santa Claus has made a very early-season appearance at this bazaar; one of my all-time favorite pictures of my daughter is one I took of her with Santa at this event when she was 3 or 4 that became the Christmas card picture that year. So if you're looking for wholesome entertainment for a good cause, head to North Adams on Friday or Saturday.
 
And you should be all rested for these fun events because you can go to bed earlier now that the World Series is over ... and the Boston Red Sox are world champions!
 
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?: Halloween Fun at the Mall
By Rebecca Dravis On: 09:45AM / Friday October 25, 2013
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It's not every week I can say the center of the family universe this weekend is the Berkshire Mall.
 
That's right — this weekend, there are two events at the mall that I want to mention, one that I have been involved in planning through my "day job" and another that my own daughter absolutely adores every year.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, come to the Berkshire Mall for a Funtastic Family Funday hosted by my employer, Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. This event is for the whole family to come experience what Girl Scouts is all about in 2013. (Yes, even brothers are welcome!) We will have stations with activities appropriate for each level of Girl Scouts, as well as fun camp game, a simple science table and more. We are hoping to bring families to the mall to show them all the fun they can have if they get involved in Girl Scouts, from joining one of the many troops available in the Berkshires to participating in some neat programs to attending one of our fabulous summer camps. The event runs from 1 to 3:30; look for us in center court, outside of JCPenney. For details visit yourtimewellspent.org.
 
Then on Sunday, the mall will host its annual "Malloween" event, where children in costume can come trick-or-treat at the stores in a safe, warm and dry environment. The kids love the candy, of course, but my favorite is the stores who very savvily hand out coupons to parents, as well. A discount is always a great incentive to come shop there again, and we should all be mindful about supporting the businesses who do nice things like participate in trick-or-treating for our kids. This event runs from noon to 2 p.m. and is always busy, though I have always found the crowd fairly well-behaved. Don't miss the radio station fun in the food court area, too!
 
After Malloween, there is still time to head north 20 miles or so to the Clark Art Institute, where the museum will host a "Building's in the Air Family Day" starting at noon and running through 4 p.m. In honor of all the building and construction that has been going on at the Clark for the last few years, the event will feature the chance for kids to build a large-scale building of their own using, according to the museum's website, "more cardboard than you’ve ever seen, masking tape galore, and plenty of adults on hand to help with cutting." These Clark family days are always not only fun, but also educational. Visit clarkart.edu for more information.
 
And, of course, Halloween itself is Thursday, Oct. 31. Click here for the iBerkshires list of trick-or-treating times by town. And click here  for some great tips straight from the government for making sure this Halloween is a safe one.
 
I'll end on this note: My mother never allowed my sister and I to go trick-or-treating. This used to be a memory I wanted to repress, but now that I am a parent, I can understand her desire to keep us safe inside the house. We always made the most fun out of the holiday by participating in school and Scouting Halloween events, handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters at our own front door (never candy, always McDonald's french fry gift certificates) and then hitting the Halloween clearance sales on Nov. 1 for a little candy selection of our choice. This was in the 1980s at the height of the "needles in the candy" scares, but there may be even scarier things out there in the 2010s. All I'm saying is it never killed a kid to NOT go trick-or-treating. Use good judgment and stay safe this week!
 
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?: Halloween Comes Early
By Rebecca Dravis On: 04:24PM / Thursday October 17, 2013
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Who says you can't get into the spirit of Halloween two weeks early?

That's the theory behind the last 3rd Thursday celebration of the year, set for Thursday, Oct. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Pittsfield. The theme is "Monster Mash," and the highlight for kids is the annual Greylock Children's Costume Contest and Parade, which will be held at the corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue again this year.

Greylock Federal Credit Union will be giving goodie bags to all kids in costume, who are invited to march in the parade at 6 p.m. This year, costume judging will be done by secret judges between 5 and 6 p.m. and during the parade. Fifty gift certificates to Persnickety Toys in downtown Pittsfield will be given out to kids in the most creative costumes.

Also for families, the Pittsfield Family YMCA will showcase its break dance and gymnastics students, and the Beacon Cinema will show "Beetlejuice" as part of its "Throwback Thursday" series at 7:30 p.m., with tickets only $5. All the details of 3rd Thursday can be found here.

But don't fret if you miss this event; there's more Halloween fun to be had this weekend. On Saturday, Building Blocks Early Education Center at 457 Dalton Ave. will hold a "Halloween Bash" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include ghostly games, raffles, prizes and more, and tickets are only $5 per child. And later in the day, head north of the annual Clarksburg Elementary School "Haunted Hayride" from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $6 per adult and $4 per child; there will also be a bake sale and glow necklaces available. Rain date is Saturday, Oct. 26.

This weekend is not all about Halloween, though.

On Saturday, there is a good old-fashioned fall festival — with a twist! Bradley Farm on Route 7 in Lanesborough is hosting a festival from noon to 5 that will feature miniature horses, treasure hunt, local arts and crafts, organic produce and much more — including a Children's Treasure Hunt for ages 5 to 7 and 8 to 10 right at noon.

According to local legend, British troops staying at the farmhouse on Oct. 13, 1777, after fleeing their loss at Saratoga, put $15,000 in gold into the dutch oven overnight. It was missing in the morning and never found. Kids can bring a shovel and help search for this buried treasure. Hey, you never know! For more info, visit Bradley Farm.

And on Sunday, the Berkshire Museum will host what has become a beloved annual event: a birthday party for Wally the Dinosaur, the museum mascot and my daughter's favorite Berkshire County climbing structure. This is Wally's 16th birthday, and kids are invited to bring him a birthday card.

At the museum, which is open with free admission from noon to 5 p.m., kids can participate in hands-on art and science projects from 1 to 3 p.m. At 2 p.m., everyone will gather to sing "Happy Birthday" to Wally on the front lawn (weather permitting) then cut the birthday cake! For info visit berkshiremuseum.org.

I'm sure I will be back next week with some more Halloween fun — and a fun event that is near and dear to my heart!

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?: Ramble Weekend
By Rebecca Dravis On: 11:19AM / Friday October 11, 2013
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As I sit here writing this, I am in the throes of a nasty fall cold. My brain is muddled (that's a fair warning to my editor) but somewhere in the back of my head I seem to remember being sick last year right around Columbus Day Weekend. Is it something about the change of the seasons? The fact that my daughter is back in school surrounded by germs — or that I recently chaperoned a school field trip to Jaeschke's Orchard in Adams with 60-plus of the little germ carriers themselves? Or is it just my body's way of saying slow down, as fall is an extremely busy time of year for me in my "day job"?
 
Maybe it's all of the above, but I do hope I'm feeling up to some fun fall activities this Columbus Day Weekend. And since I was already speaking of Adams, let's start there, because, as the Facebook page flier says, "Adams is Columbus Day Weekend."

On Sunday, Oct. 13, Ramblefest kicks off with a party from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Adams Visitors' Center on Hoosac Street. There will be food, vendors, music, games and activities for the kids, and more — all to gear folks up for main event. And what's that? The Ramble itself, when thousands of people climb Mount Greylock via the Cheshire Harbor Trail all at once — well, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here's the scoop on that: There will be a free shuttle from the Adams Free Library to the trailhead from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with return shuttles running through 4 p.m. The first 2,000 hikers will receive certificates of accomplishment, and there will be awards for the first, the youngest and the oldest hiker to reach the summit, and to the hiker who has traveled the greatest distance to participate. Leashed pets permitted. The walk, by the way, is about 6.6 miles, takes about four to five hours and is considered moderately strenuous — but the views at the top will be worth it!
 
(And while you're in Adams, do try to visit Jaeschke's. Four-foot-tall germ-carriers aside, I had a lot of fun, and the orchard is teeming with delicious, juicy apples, and apple-picking is one of the best ways I know how to spend the holiday weekend! There are other places to pick; visit www.pickyourown.org/massveg.htm for some other local options.)
 
There are other things to do this weekend that aren't in Adams. On Saturday, kids can decorate pumpkins at the Berkshire Co-Op Market in Great Barrington. Kids should dress to get messy as they will be using acrylic paints to decorate the pumpkins. To sign up or for more information, call 413-528-9697, ext. 10, or visit berkshire.coop. And on Monday, a free Public Safety Day will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Dower Square Community Center at 253 Wahconah St. There will be a display of an array of the police's and fire department's vehicles. For more information, call 413-499-9367.
 
Whatever you do this long holiday weekend, stay healthy. Believe me ... you don't want what I have!
 
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
College, Criminal Processes for Sexual Assault Cases Not in Conflict
Pittsfield Board Approves Expansion For Pediatric Devleopment Center
MCLA Women's Soccer Falls to Albertus Magnus
Larabee, Giorgi Honored With 'Frankie' Awards
Former Finance Director Returns to Williamstown as Pastor
Armory Takes Lead in Torchia Softball League Final
Legislative Q&A: State Rep. William 'Smitty' Pignatelli
MCLA Women's Soccer Ties; Tennis, Volleyball, Men's Soccer Win
Holiday Hours: Labor Day
Clarksburg Weighing Bridge Plans, Preparing Special Town Meeting

 




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