ADAMS, Mass. — The signs have been around the area for weeks: tiny doors to enchanted realms, fairy princesses, visits from the Fairy Queen Deidre and wardings from the Wizard Grulaach.
It's all leading up to the Berkshire Mountains Faerie Festival this Saturday at Bowe Field for a day filled with music, magic, parades and activities that will be capped off that night around a dragon fire pit. And, of course, fairies.
The idea for those tiny doors that have been appearing in businesses and municipal buildings around the area literally opened the way for the festival that organizers are hoping will become at tentpole attraction for the area on par with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts' music festivals.
"It's to create greater awareness of the arts, the growing arts community here," said Grulaach, also known as Richard Tavelli, a retired economic development adviser when he isn't protecting the area from evil fairies. "Most of the people involved, except for myself, are artists and entrepreneurs."
It's one part branding for Adams to link it into the cultural and artistic renaissance happening in North Adams and Williamstown, and to create a new attraction for the general community, he said.
"This is not only just about Adams," said Gail Sellers, who operates River Hill Pottery in North Adams. "We think of our population not just as Adams but as the whole 130,000 there is in Berkshire County."
The festival has taken over a large part of the space in the former Simmons Furniture building on Park Street owned by artists William and Francie Anne Riley. A few weeks ago, sections of the gateway and other elements for the festival's backdrop were being painted by William Riley, a professional scenic designer whose resume includes the Metropolitan Opera. On the floor below, an impromptu costume shop was filled with donated garments and material for turning into fairy and other costumes by a range of volunteers of all ages from around the area.
"It really has brought people together — all sorts of groups from all sorts of areas in town," said Francie Anne Riley, who with her husband is turning his family's former store into a home and studio. "People I'd never met have brought over stuff to donate."
Artist George LeMaitre, another recent resident who, with his wife, Pat Fietta, is renovating an old mill as work/live space, has been "scavenging junkyards," she said to create a fantastical Pedal Float the group hopes to feature at the Big E and local parades and events. Lemaitre and his group of volunteers were also creating the metal dragon mouth that may be a permanent fixture at Bowe Field.
The community of artists that have come together to make this whole thing happen grew out of the town's Arts Advisory Board, a brainstorming, loosely organized committee that takes ideas and runs with them. And they're not just limited to Adams: artists and interested observers like Tavelli, of Williamstown, come from around North County for a mix of art and economic development.
It was back in January that the fairy doors were first proposed as a way to draw some attention to the downtown (the group has also been behind the window displays in some of the vacant buildings on Park Street.) Before the end of the board's meeting, a full-fledged festival was planning with the doors as the introduction and fundraising portion to get the whole enterprise off the ground.
Six months later and the little — and not so little — fairy doors have spread as an advertisement for this weekend's festival. Each one is unique and handmade by various artists. State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi took one featuring Mount Greylock to Boston; a light up one is in the Park Street branch of Adams Community Bank, which is sponsoring the Pedal Float, and iBerkshires even has one — complete with little laptops.
"When you do an event like this it has an exponential effect for the entire year — you're fundraising, you're building the awareness that this is coming again," said Fietta. A fairy festival in Pennsylvania started "as a dribble" and now attracts thousands. "It's just a whole family event."
The festival has also been reaching out to the younger generation with fairy related crafts and coloring books in local libraries built around its cornerstone book, local author Jana Laiz's "The Twelfth Stone." Winner of the MoonBeam Children's Book Award Silver Medal, the young adult novel is a fantasy about a fading fairy world. Laiz will be on hand for the festival, which will feature a storytellers' tent.
The daylong event opens at 10 a.m. Saturday at the main gate, 371 Old Columbia St., with a Grand Procession at 11:30 lead by Good Queen Deirdre and Grulaach, keeper of time and space. Roving buskers will entertain the crowd and performances by musical groups will be staged in the pavilion; there will also be vendors and other activities. And lots fairies.
The cost is $5; free for ages 12 and younger. Parking is also free.
This festival isn't even over yet but the group already is thinking ahead to next year.
"This has been done in such a short period of time," said Riley. "I think next year we'll have more people interested in doing stuff. Especially when people come and see it."
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