Downtown Celebration Entices Party CrowdBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, August 24, 2006
North Adams - The Aug. 23 Mayor's Downtown celebration lured hundreds of people to the city's Main Street core for an evening of food, entertainment, and social connection.
|Anna Singer was among the children who received "face art" at an Aug. 23 Mayor's Downtown Celebration.
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Eagle, Holden, and Main streets and a northern section of Ashland street were closed to vehicle traffic at about 4:45 p.m. so that game and vendor booths and entertainment venues could set up in time for the 5:30 p.m. festival kick-off.
Food, Friends,And Frolic
As the official opening approached, folks began to fill the streets and excited cries of greeting began, with versions of "I haven't seen you since last year's celebration!" echoing along the festival arena.
North Adams Mayor John Barrett III joined the downtown crowd.
Yearly favorites mixed with new offerings; the Boston Seafood restaurant prepared a traditional chicken barbecue complete with fixin's' including corn-on-the-cob and street performers, including the Berkshire Dance Theater and the Drury High School dance team, again drew applause and cheers from spectators.
A very popular Hoosac Bank money tornado was in hourly business during the event and those with the good fortune to be selected from a random drawing entered a vinyl-enclosed chamber and plucked [and pocketed!] air-swirled paper currency.
Samir Abdallah and Charlotte Sumner operated a "Hot Harry's Burritos" booth from Main Street for the first time. Abdallah and Sumner traveled from Pittsfield to participate, Adballah said.
"We heard that this was a great festival and a good time," he said. "We decided to come up."
Entertainment is traditionally offered from beneath the Mohawk Theater marquee; this year, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art sponsored "Magic by Atticus" performances. Just around the corner on Eagle Street, Colter Suters, 14, and Brian Dowling, 16, scooped ice cream flavors such as "Cake Batter" into cones or cups. The ice cream sales booth was set up by the Sugar Llama Cafe.
Mayor John Barrett III, whose 1996 idea to organize a one-time celebration of specific city accomplishments was the catalyst for the yearly summer celebration, strolled the streets and mixed and mingled with the crowds. Numerous people approached Barrett to offer their praise of the event.
Mary Jensen and Kristen Demarco helped serve up a Boston Seafood Restaurant chicken barbecue dinner.
Candidates On The Street
There was political activity as well; with the state's primary election less than a month away, state Democratic Senate candidates Christopher Hodgkins and Margaret Ware moved through the crowds.
Ware said that she was pleased to see the activity in the city's hub.
"This is a great event," she said. "It brings a lot of people to the downtown. And since I am the Northern Berkshire candidate, this downtown is very important to me."
Williamstown resident Ware noted that her family has shopped and supported the city's downtown for just over 27 years.
Hodgkins, who lives in Lee, said that he's visited with numerous downtown merchants prior to the celebration and is a believer in downtown economies. He's been involved in downtown betterment projects in the past, including an effort that focused on Great Barrington, he said.
"I love downtowns, they are the heart and soul of communities," he said.
Hodgkins said that Barrett has demonstrated tenacity and leadership throughout his mayoral tenure; something Hodgkins said he admires.
"It takes leadership, to hang onto something and not let go, and I'd like to follow in that," he said.
Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless, who faces a challenge from attorney Judith Knight, met with area residents accompanied by City Councilor Marie Harpin and city Commissioner of Public Safety E. John Morocco.
Drury Dance Team members performed for a large and appreciative crowd.
A children's area was created by groups including the Brien Center, Child Care of the Berkshires, the Massachusetts WIC Nutrition Program, Berkshire Family and Individual Resources, the Family Life Support center, and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
City fire department firefighters and fire department Director Stephen Meranti staffed a Kid's Safety House, which allows children an opportunity to experience "smoke" conditions and learn escape techniques. The hands-on teaching has been popular during past celebrations and this year was no exception. By 7:45 p.m., over 150 children had passed through the "house," and a long line of families waited for a turn inside.
City police officers patrolled the streets on foot and on bicycles and police department Director Michael Cozzaglio successfully and quickly reunited one tearful little girl with her mother after the two became separated in the crowds.
Police officers and members of the North Adams Lodge of Masons offered a "Child Indentification Program" service, which included fingerprinting and photographing children during the event.
Music was offered by bands such as the Dixie Cats, Champagne Jam and the Brave Brothers. Each band was stationed at a different street locale and each drew its' own group of dancers and fans.
St. John's Players performers delivered songs from an upcoming presentation of "Godspell."
The Mayor's Downtown Celebration charges no admission and the entertainment is free. Food is sold and a variety of organizations host raffles and other fundraisers during the festival.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or 802-823-9367.