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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Beach Party Blast on Eagle Street

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Melissa Fortini,11, carved this hippopotamus during a July 13 Eagle Street Beach Party in North Adams.
View Slide Show
North Adams- In this city, if families can’t get to the beach, the beach will come to the families.

On July 13, historic Eagle Street was smothered in fine, soft sand from end to end and curb to curb, and at 4 p.m., the Eagle Street Beach Party got underway.

The Beach Is Open

By 6 p.m., attendance estimates ranged from 800 to over 1,000 people, and the “beach” was swarming with children of all ages, their parents and grandparents, and folks from as far away as Alaska. Crowds were at the elbow-to-elbow stage along the sidewalks, and street merchants were busy serving patrons. Adults and children joined forces on the "beach" and carved clever and colorful sand sculptures using donated plastic buckets, shovels, and other beach toys. Older children scampered about in bathing suits and flip-flop style footwear, diaper-clad babies scrunched curious fingers deep into the sand, and amidst the festive atmosphere was event founder Eric Rudd.


Seven-month-old Joseph Kirk of Eagle River, Alaska, may not talking yet, but his beach party body language spelled out his delight.
“I think this is the biggest one yet,” Rudd said as the party passed its' mid-point. “We called it right.”

Rudd was referring to a discussion earlier in the afternoon – when the skies were gray and rain was a possibility- about postponing the party to a scheduled rain date. He and city Mayor John Barrett III opted against postponement, and by party time, the sun was casting bright light on over 250,000 pounds of sand and hordes of revelers.

A Ton of Fun

Tami and Tom Daley of Adams have brought their family to the party for several years.

“I love it,” said Tom Daley. “The party lets everyone be a kid.”

“You see families together, the moms and the dads, and I like to see that,” said Tami Daley.

Most street merchants offered sidewalk service; Village Pizza and Moulton’s Pizzeria sold pizza on the street, and the Sugar Llama Café sold frozen confections. A lemonade stand was set up in front of Gideon’s Luncheon and Nightery. Jack’s Hot Dogs kept the eatery door opened and crowds streamed in to buy hot dogs, hamburgers, and French fries.

“I love this,” said Sugar Llama Café owner Whitney Suters, who also owns the Hairpin Tune shop. His wife Monique Suters operates the Persnickety toy and gift shop on Eagle Street.

“For the past two years, Monique has had the best days of the summer during the beach party,” Suters said.

“It’s so nice to see the kids out and having such a good time in the community,” said Christina Randall, who owns Village Pizza with her husband Keith. “I just love it, and just like the Mayor’s Downtown Celebration [an August event], it gets bigger every year.”

Ethan Daley,1, and Gianna Daley,4, were beach-ready with bright orange beach balls.


The Plum Crazy band performed live music this year, as they have during previous beach parties. Band member Jamie Choquette said the group looks forward to the event.

“It’s a ton of fun and it’s the most fun we have performing outside,” Choquette said. “It’s about the only time we get to play for kids, and we really love it.”

Elizabeth Morine brought her family from Petersburg, N.Y..

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s great and our town should do something like this.”

Kristi Kirk, of Eagle River, Alaska, said her family is visiting relatives in Stamford, Vt.. Kirk said that she was thoroughly enjoying herself and added that there are no “street beach parties” in her community.

Imaginations Run Wild

For the second consecutive year, four generations of the Fortini family met at the “beach” to socialize and sculpt. This year, Melissa Fortini, 11, wowed family members by creating a sand-carved hippopotamus without any assistance.

“I just saw a pile of sand and started making things with it,” Melissa said.

Kari Fortini sat alongside Melissa and concentrated on sculpting a detailed flower with a pixie perched in the center.


There's nothing like a bucket, a shovel, and yards of sand to play in.
As the hours passed, sea horses, alligators, a fire-breathing dragon with a fairy princess companion, octopus, bunnies, castles, frogs, turtles, and a patriotic sculpture complete with American flags, soldiers, and yellow ribbons rose from the sandy surface.

If You Build It, They Will Come

The mix of sand, sun, families and art is exactly what Rudd had in mind when he initiated the first beach party in 1999.

Speaking earlier in the day, Rudd said that he remembered feeling a bit apprehensive about the first event.

“The trucks were bringing the sand and I thought ‘what if nobody comes,’” he said. “Then it was time to start, and some people showed up, and then some more showed up, and pretty soon, we had a lot of people here.”

Rudd launched the event as part of the Contemporary Artist Center’s “Downtown Installations” project. The event and Rudd are now independent of the CAC; the event is now a downtown summertime tradition.

“I was talking to someone who works with a social service agency who told me that for some people, this party is the only chance they have to visit a beach,” Rudd said. “It’s so interesting; when you live in North Adams and you do something like this, you see the results. It’s like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ [a movie] or something.”

The sand was donated by Specialty Minerals Inc. of Adams, and the city donated the trucks and manpower used to deliver and spread the sand. Beach toys were donated by the Adams Co-operative Bank. Additional sponsors include the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Hunters Grill, of Bennington, Vt., and all Eagle Street merchants. Among the prizes this year were 100 Steeplecats baseball game tickets, goodie bags from Persnickety, and gift certificates and items from the Eagle Street shop owners.

Emma Kirk,6, of Eagle River, Alaska, worked on her sand art.


“Everybody donates,” Rudd said. “We do have a lot for the kids.”

Local artist and Native American story-teller “Walking Catamount,” also known as Beverly Goodell, articulated her beach party perspective.

“The kids have a lot of fun and so do I,” she said. “You’re never too old to play in the sand.”

A multi-photograph Eagle Street Beach Party slideshow will be posted at www.iberkshires.com soon.

Susan Bush can be reached by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or by calling 802-823-9367.


RELATED

•See some 360 degree tours of the Beach Party on our Testing Technology Page here


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