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Are We There Yet?: Harvest & Foliage Festivals Abound
By Rebecca Dravis On: 07:45PM / Thursday October 03, 2013
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What a great weekend to live in northern Berkshire County!

The Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Festival offers myriad fun opportunities for families, starting with the Children's Parade at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4. Children should arrive at 5 p.m. in costume and then march to City Hall, where they will receive a ribbon just for participating.

Then there's the dog parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at the corner of Eagle Street and Route 2, in which owners are encouraged to make costumes and enter their dogs into this parade. Also on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is the Children's Fair and Road Race, located at the playground of Noel Field on Route 8. And Sunday, Oct. 6, of course, brings the main event: the 58th annual parade, which starts on Route 8 south of downtown North Adams and continues up Route 8 and across Main Street and then down Ashland Street. This year's theme is "Haunts, Legends and Ghost Stories" and is bound to be fun for the thousands of spectators of all ages who come out to watch this highlight of the fall season. For more information, visit the parade website.

But lest you think all of the action is in North County this weekend, here are a few more options for family fun this weekend, which as of this writing appears to be another good one, weather-wise. (Did I just jinx us?)

On Saturday and Sunday in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Botanical Garden is hosting its annual Harvest Festival. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., features live music, crafts showcasing local artisans, silent auction, plant sale, gigantic tag sales, farmers market showcasing the best of Berkshire-grown foods, and fall fun for kids. Parking is free and so is admission for children under 12; adults will pay $5.

Also on Saturday, the Pittsfield Fire Department will hold its open house, held annually in recognition of Fire Prevention Week, at its headquarters at 74 Columbus Ave. This free event will feature an opportunity to meet local firefighters and learn fire and life safety practices. There will be a display by County Ambulance as well as information about child-find retinal scan and TRIAD for Seniors offered by the Berkshire County sheriff's department. Pizza will be offered as a special bonus. For more information, email aferin@pittsfieldfd.org or call 413-448-9754.

And lastly, I have a special shout-out for another Saturday event, the Buddy Walk of the Berkshires. This event is sponsored by Berkshire County Arc and aims to create awareness about people with Down syndrome and to raise money for programming or other needs for children and adults.

This is a cause close to my heart, as I have had the pleasure of serving on the Board of Directors of BFAIR, another Berkshire County agency dedicated to helping people of all ages with development disabilities. And now this is a cause close to my daughter's heart, as one of the classmates in her second-grade class has Down syndrome and has rallied her class to walk with him. She has taken him up on the offer and will be proudly walking next to her own "buddy" on Saturday in this walk, which starts at Craneville Elementary School in Dalton, wends its way through Dalton and ends back at the school for a party. Registration is at 10 a.m. and the walk begins at 11 a.m.; visit the website for details.

Who says we need to wait until Columbus Day Weekend to enjoy fall fun? Get out there this weekend!

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?: Fine Fall Offerings
By Rebecca Dravis On: 12:10PM / Friday September 27, 2013
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Last weekend, we officially welcomed fall to the Berkshires, but this weekend features a few events that really usher in the season.

First up is the annual Country Fair at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, which celebrates the bounty of the harvest with agricultural demonstrations, wagon rides, a farmers' market, family activities and more. The fair is free with regular admission of $18 for adults and $8 for children 13 to 17 (kids 12 and under with an adult are always free!) and runs both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Then there is the 34th annual Lenox Apple Squeeze & Harvest Festival, which transforms downtown Lenox into a giant seasonal street fair. The festival features food, rides, shopping, live music and family fun galore from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29. Lenox is one of the prettiest towns on the planet in the fall, so don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the season in style.

I may be partial, since I live in Williamstown, but if Lenox is ONE of the prettiest towns in the fall, I have to say that Williamstown is THE prettiest town in the fall. As hokey as it may sound, I catch my breath every time I drive along the stretch of Route 7 between South Williamstown and downtown Williamstown. On a clear day, now not only can you see Mount Greylock and its Veterans War Memorial Tower, but you can also see in the distance the wind turbines of the Hoosac Range. Leaving aside the politics and problems surrounding the turbines, I believe they make the long-distance view of this picture-perfect spot even better.

So what's in Williamstown this weekend, besides the lovely views? It's the annual Hopkins Forest Fall Celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. The celebration will take place within the forest, located at the junction of Northwest Hill Road and Bulkley Street. The event is free and will feature traditional woodworking demonstrations, music, apple butter and cider production, refreshments, a canopy walkway and children's activities. The forest is owned by Williams College, and this is one of the nice ways the college reaches out to the community.

Of course, these are all outdoor activities, and while crisp, cool and dry fall weather is always appreciated, I do have a fun family suggestion for Saturday, Sept. 28, should it rain.

Anyone who has been to Washington, D.C., knows that the Smithsonian Museums boast free admission, which is awesome and made my own recent trip to the Air and Space Museum even sweeter. Am I suggesting you head south this weekend? Not at all — free museum admission is coming to us! Smithsonian magazine is sponsoring Museum Day Live!, an annual event in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket - for free. (You can get the tickets emailed to you by going online to smithsonianmag.com.)

Here in the Berkshires, there are several options. In Massachusetts, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield and Chesterwood in Stockbridge are participating. Just north of the border in Vermont, the Bennington Battle Monument (which has an elevator up to what promises to be a gorgeous view this time of year), the Bennington Center for the Arts and the Bennington Museum are participating.

You can also stop by one of the Trustees of Reservations historic homes on Sunday for their annual Home Sweet Home open houses from 1 to 3.

So rain or shine, it's a great fall weekend for families. Enjoy!

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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FreshGrass Kicks Off at Mass MoCA
By John Durkan On: 12:24PM / Saturday September 21, 2013
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Cassandra Cleghorn of The Wandering Rocks, a Williamstown-based band, performs at FreshGrass on Friday evening.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — FreshGrass — it's the bluegrass music festival at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art that just keeps growing.
 
At its third year, Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson expects around 3,500 festivalgoers on Saturday, which will double last year's figure of around 1,600.
 
"There's an interest in bluegrass," Thompson said. "The lineup, I think, is super."
 
Thompson credits the festival's growth with the word-of-mouth circulation, the reasonable price ($78 for the entire festival), the family-friendly atmosphere and the entire museum open for view.
 
Friday night kicked off with the Williamstown-based group The Wandering Rocks at the Courtyard D stage and will continue all the way into Sunday evening, featuring the Wood Brothers, Leftover Salmon, the Del McCoury Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, and many more.
 
"We know their songs, it's fantastic," Thompson said Friday night during The Wandering Rocks set.
 
Single-day tickets, regular admission for Saturday and Sunday is $38 dollars for adults, $28 for students and $18 for children from ages 7 to 16. Children under 7 can enter for free.
 
There's also a handful of local vendors, including Desperados, How We Roll, Village Pizza and Spice Root.
 
"We're hoping for a good, good response," said Vijay Narula, who operates Spice Root with his family. Narula said they'll be offering a wide variety of food, including vegetarian options all weekend.
 
Residents also took the opportunity to volunteer and work at the festival, including City Councilor Nancy Bullett, who was introduced to FreshGrass previously by her friend Richard Taskin.
 
"I couldn't go to a better one," Bullett said. "People are laid back, it's great, it's a good night."
 
For more information on the festival, visit FreshGrass.com.


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Are We There Yet?: Founders' Fun
By Rebecca Dravis On: 10:17AM / Friday September 20, 2013
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After a hot and humid last gasp of summer a week ago, fall came roaring back — and even brought with it a hint of winter with a frosty morning earlier this week. Ah, gotta love Berkshire weather!

But as the calendar indeed officially turns to autumn this weekend, one of my favorite Berkshire events is back: Lee Founders Weekend. Billed as "the town of Lee's annual birthday celebration," the event features three days of fun for the entire family.

The celebration kicks off on Friday, Sept. 20, with vendors and events running from 3 to 10 p.m., in the middle of which is the "Taste of Lee" event featuring more than a dozen local restaurants showing off their goods from 5 to 8 p.m. For the kids is a bounce house, pumpkin decorating, face paintings, music and more, including the "Lee Idol" talent competition at The Spectrum at 7:30 p.m.

That's a big day in itself. But wait ... there's more! On Saturday, events run from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., including the highlight of the weekend for many: the Hometown Parade along Main Street at 11 a.m. Immediately after the parade will be the fireman's muster at the Athletic Field, which is especially popular with little boys, and more children's entertainment on the Lee Library lawn. Wrap up the day by giving the family a taste of culture from 4 to 8 p.m. with the Latino Festival under the tent on the green.

The fun continues on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with a pancake breakfast, walking tour of Lee and the ever-popular Duck Race to benefit the Lee Youth Association. A new Sunday addition this year will be a magic show under the tent on the Green at 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.

For all the details and more information, visit Lee Founders Weekend.

So what if you have spent the entire weekend in Lee with the kids, and by Sunday night you are tearing your hair out because the kids. Just. Won't. Listen. Consider a Monday evening salve of a Child Care of the Berkshires program titled "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk." Really, what parent among us hasn't needed something like this at some point?

The workshop runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Haskins Center in North Adams. It is based on the classic book by Faber and Mazlish and aims to teach parents common sense ways to help them and their children become better listeners and how to gain their child's cooperation and resolve family conflicts peacefully.

Parents will receive workbooks that follow the series and a "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen" book at course completion. Registration is required at 413-664-4821, so I guess you can't wait until the kids misbehave all weekend before you realize how helpful this workshop might be. It's OK. You can admit it now. No one is judging you. Pick up the phone. You can do it.

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?: Summer's Last Weekend
By Rebecca Dravis On: 03:26PM / Friday August 30, 2013
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If your kids are among the lucky ones who haven't started school yet (and you are among the unlucky parents stuck trying to entertain them for one more week; see my hand waving madly here) then mark this Friday, Aug. 30, on your calendar.

This is the last day of the Highland Street Foundation's Free Fun Fridays around the state, and it features two Berkshire County institutions this week: The Mount in Lenox and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. I highly recommend taking advantage of the free admission at both of these South County cultural venues, for several reasons.

First, free is always better than paying. That's a no-brainer.

Second, when admission is free, it doesn't matter if the kids don't get as much out of it as you would want if you paid for it. While the Norman Rockwell Museum does aim to be family-friendly, and the current exhibit "Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic" certainly will appeal to many youths, I have found from personal experience that kids don't always have the attention span for museums, even really good ones. And while The Mount is certainly beautiful and worth a visit, the charm and history of the mansion and its famous denizen might be lost on the kids pretty quickly.

And third, lest you think I'm less than ecstatic to be raising a child in an area ripe with cultural opportunities like these, and while I know these are indeed world-class venues that everyone should visit whenever possible, it's just different when you bring kids. So free is good; the pressure is off. For all the details, visit highlandstreet.org.

Ending the day Friday is what looks to be a hip-hopping good time at the Berkshire Mall. From 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, "Back to School the Healthy Way" is being sponsored by Yarmosky Pediatric Dentistry and the local Newspapers In Education program. The event, which will be held in the space of the former Old Navy store at the Sears end of the mall, will feature music by David Grover, Ayana George, Nostalgia, Zion and Destiny Music Group. There will also be performances by Youth Alive and The Y Gymnastics team. The Pittsfield YMCA also will be conducting break-dancing and gymnastics workshops. (Oh, and you can come on over and visit me at this event; I will be there with information on Girl Scouts, perhaps wearing my daughter's Hello Kitty headphones if the music gets too loud. It is indeed a sign that you have grown old when you constantly complain, "The music is so loud. I can't hear myself think!") The event is free, but donations will be accepted to help provide backpacks to be distributed by agencies that include the United Way and Kid Zone.

There is, of course, a long holiday weekend ahead, and since the weather looks to be good and everyone is taking their last gasps of summer, there are not a ton of events planned. I recommend getting out in the fresh air, taking a swim of it's not too chilly, or just taking a walk in the woods. If you have to have some structured family fun, on Saturday, Aug. 31, the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington is having one of its monthly "Kids Can Cook" series for kids to come ... well, cook, this time making summer squash roll-ups with herbs. It's at 10 a.m. and is free; information can be found at berkshirecoop.com.

For those of you back in the classroom, good luck. For those of you not heading back until next week, enjoy the remains of summer!

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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Holiday Raffle to Benefit Berkshire County Arc, NAMI Berkshire County
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