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Employees from Berkshire Bank volunteered their time on Wednesday to assemble the dozen bikes that will be raffled off.

Volunteers Prep For Third Annual Children's Extravaganza

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The bank purchased the bicycles from Plaines and donated them to the event.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Children's Holiday Extravaganza returns for the third year on Nov. 26 with a record high number of tickets reserved.
 
The extravaganza was the brainchild of Kathy Amuso, who three years ago reached out to Berkshire Theatre Group CEO Kate Maguire about throwing a free holiday party for the community.
 
Since then, the Colonial Theatre has hosted the family-friendly event each year and more and more people are attending.
 
"It is mirrored after the GE parties that GE and the union would put on. It would be free and there'd be Santa Claus and raffles," Amuso said on Wednesday.
 
The event is put on by a small group of volunteers and is entirely supported by donations. The 750 tickets that were reserved this year were free for attendees and there will be some 40 different raffle prizes, goodie bags for children, and an array of activities. 
 
A dozen bicycles will be raffled as well. Berkshire Bank sponsors the bicycle raffles and purchased them from Plaines. On Wednesday, volunteers from the bank assembled them as part of a team-building exercise.
 
"We will have several raffles from the stage throughout the day. We raffle off these beautiful bikes. Thanks to Berkshire Bank and Plaines, we have 12 bikes and helmets," said Berkshire Theater Group's Director of Education Allison Rachele Bayles.
 
At 11:30, the doors at the Colonial Theatre open at 11:30 on Saturand inside Santa and Mrs. Claus, an elf, and entertainers await. There will be singers and dancing. Mcguire will perform a reading. Actors from A Christmas Carol will be on site. There will be a photo booth, clowns, crafts, and food.
 
"It is for the kids and their families so they can enjoy an afternoon with their children at the theater. We wanted to do something to invite the community into the theater. A lot of the people who come have never been here before," Bayles said.
 
The pair doesn't really ask for anything in return, except maybe some non-perishable food donations that they can give to the St. Joseph's Food Bank. But otherwise, the idea is to just bring the community together for a family-friendly event.
 
"We just wanted it to be a gift to the community," Bayles said.
 
Whether it be the pizza and hot dogs or the bicycles or the entertainment, all of that is donated by various community organizations. Even the raffles are free.
 
"We have a small team and we divide and conquer. We go out to community members we know and sometimes they donate services, food, money, raffle prizes," Amuso said.
 
And the event has been well received. Each year more and more people are attending and shortly after tickets had been released in August, this year's event already has a waiting list.
 
"We kind of go year to year and see how it goes. The first year, I think there were a little bit less than 600 tickets reserved, a little bit more last year, and this year it kind of exploded," Amuso said.

Tags: Christmas story,   Colonial Theatre,   holiday event,   holiday story,   

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