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Are We There Yet?: Activities for the Whole Family

By Rebecca Dravis
Special to iBerkshires
The weather forecast for the weekend isn't great, but what's a little rain if you're in the river anyway? The annual Riverfest runs from 11 to 4 on Saturday.

Memorial Day kicks off summer, so what better way to kick off a new family events column here on iBerkshires.com than with holiday happenings?

Sure, there are parades ... lots of parades, and you can find a list of them here. But the region is teeming with other family-friendly activities this long weekend if you want to do something besides relax and grill some burgers.

Staying in North County, Saturday, May 25, brings one of my all-time favorite family events: Riverfest in Williamstown. I have been bringing my now-7-year-old to this since she was a toddler, and we have loved it every time. Every year is a little different, but in the past there has been a children's race, pony rides, a raft to climb around in, crafts and other fun activities, as well as the chance to actually ride a raft down the Hoosic. Best of all: kids under 10 are free! Adults pay $5 in advance and $8 at the gate at Cole Field; the festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit hoorwa.org.

Heading south on Saturday, and staying with the outdoor theme, the city of Pittsfield is holding a youth fishing derby. Now, fishing is not my thing, and while my daughter always seems eager to participate in youth derbies, her lack of patience seems to get the best of her, too. (I say "too" because I have no patience for fishing, hence why it's "not my thing.") But if you have a kid who can sit still and doesn't mind the (potentially) delayed payoff of (potentially) catching a fish, head down to Wild Acres on South Mountain Road in Pittsfield from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Trophies will be awarded to those who catch a tagged fish. Bait will be provided, and a limited amount of fishing poles will be available for use on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, contact Rebecca Tefft at 413-499-9370.

For those kids who can't sit still, harness that energy by having them run in a race. While no one expects the little ones to run a marathon, they are still invited to participate in the fourth annual Memorial Day Marathon Races at Tanglewood in Lenox on Saturday. The big event is billed as "the toughest marathon in the east," but kids 6 and under can run a .25-mile course and kids 7 to 10 can run a .5-mile loop, all on the grounds of Tanglewood. That doesn't sound so tough! All kids will receive medals, which should make moms and dads happy. The race starts at 9 a.m. and you can register your kids here. There is a $12 fee, but getting the kids some exercise? Priceless.

Moving on to Sunday, May 26, I am liking the looks of the Vintage Motorcar Festival at Chesterwood in Stockbridge. Not because I like antique cars, per se, but because the list of family-friendly activities at the festival is pretty impressive for a facility that, while beautiful, is not necessarily a place one would think about taking young children. But from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this day, bring them down!

First, up to 15 children between the ages of 8 and 16 can participate in Hagerty Insurance's Operation Ignite! Youth Judging Program. The idea is to let the kids vote and get them interested in the cars themselves. Register ahead of time to make sure your child is one of the 15 judges. Another way to get kids interested in cars is through the scavenger hunt, in which car owners will submit a photo of a detail of their car and kids 4 to 10 can hunt them down to win a prize. And new this year is that kids will be able to build their own vehicle out of Legos and race it against other kids. No one loses, and kids and their parents can get a complimentary picture taken with their creation and the digital photograph will be emailed to them. All of those kid-specific activities, on top of live music, food and, of course, the cars should make for a pretty fun day. Kids are admitted free; adults are $15. Plus, it's rain or shine.

And, of course, if you still have energy left on Monday, check out those parades — and take the chance to teach your kids about why we really celebrate Memorial Day. Happy holiday!
 

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.
 

     

Sandy Cancels Governor's Visit to Florida Turbines

Staff Reports
iBerkshires

Massachusetts is cut off on this graphic but it looks like rain for sure is headed our way.
Fourteen months after Irene deluged the region, another hurricane is headed our way. The sweetly named Sandy (now dubbed "Frankenstorm") is expected to arrive early next week just in time for Halloween.

We'll be meeting with North Adams officials this afternoon about emergency preparations and checking in with other towns. We'll do our best to keep everyone as up-to-date as possible on cancellations and closures around the county.


Sandy could did dampen the opening of the Hoosac Wind Project, which has had its own stormy path to completion over the past decade.

Gov. Deval Patrick and EOEEA Secretary Richard Sullivan Jr. were scheduled to arrive on Florida mountain with other state and local officials on Monday morning to celebrate with turbine-developer Iberdrola the near completion of the state's largest utility-scale wind power project. We learned Friday morning shortly after posting this that the press conference has been been canceled and will be rescheduled at a later date.


Meanwhile, the governor is warning state utiltities to have their ducks in row for this storm after complaints during last year's disasters of delays and poor communication with local officials. He's holding a press avail at noon to talk about the storm but no word yet on whether we'll be able to listen in.


Berkshire Orthopaedic Associates has informed its patients some of the medications it has used were made at the Framingham facility now under investigation after two dozen deaths and more than 300 reported cases from fungal meningitis, reports The Eagle.

None of the contaminated steroids linked to the outbreak are known to have been used in the area, Berkshire Medical Center and North Adams Regional Hospital told us several weeks ago; since then, all products from the New England Compounding Center (now under criminal investigation) have been removed from their stock.


Remember Tom Finneran, once the most powerful man in the state? He's not getting that taxpayer-funded pension.


Oops. Gene Shalit's being charged after hitting a pole in Lenox on Wednesday and ending up  in someone's front yard. Shalit, 86, reportedly told police he dozed off. No one was hurt.


Diana Bonneville of Becket is the new principal of South Hadley High School.


A reminder that tonight is the Halloween parade in Pittsfield; road closures can be found here. If you're looking for a scare, try the North Adams Movieplex, which is offering a raft of horror movies and two Halloween-themed comedies.
     

Wag .. or Watch ... the Dog

Nichole Dupont

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society's new monthly television talk show, "Purr, Wag, Adopt ... with the Berkshire Humane Society" debuted on Tuesday on Pittsfield Community Television.

The 30-minute show, which is scheduled to run on Tuesdays at 4:30 and 8:30 p.m and Wednesdays at 4:30  and 8:30 a.m. on Channel 16 is hosted by Executive Director John Perrault. 

"This is something that we've wanted to do for a long time," Perrault said in a phone interview. "Our hope is that you'll learn something new every time you tune in. We'll be addressing current events issues, basic pet health and behavioral health plus we'll be highlighting animals available for adoption."

Different pet themes such as Adopt-a-Bunny and Prevent-a-Litter will be the focus of each new episode as will individual pets in need of good homes.

"We want to bring more awareness to people about the animal situation and, of course, we'd like to promote more adoptions," Perrault said. "People want to do the right thing with their pets but in this economy many can't afford it. Last year, we served more than 700 families from our food bank. That's not including our satellite locations. We're not going to hide behind this."

Since 1992, the BHS has placed more than 16,000 animals into new homes. While it has had no trouble bringing awareness to the younger generation of school-aged pet owners, Perrault said it is time to reach the "the grown-ups" and the best medium for this is television.

"This is definitely going to reach more adults," he said. "We hope to be able to air the show on CTSB and other local stations as well. We want to stay relevant."

Tags: humane society, PCTV      

EPA Postpones Housatonic River Update

Nichole Dupont

Update: The meeting for Wednesday night has been canceled because of weather concerns, also known as snow. The EPA says it is rescheduling and we'll post the new time as soon as possible.

LENOX, Mass. — Just a reminder to concerned citizens, sportsmen, environmentalists and anyone else whose life will be impacted by the Housatonic River cleanup (namely all of us), that there is a meeting Wednesday night, Jan. 26, at 5:30 at the Lenox Town Hall auditorium.

The EPA Housatonic River Citizens Coordinating Council, which includes representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, GE, the state Department of Environmental Protection and local environmentalists and officials will meet to discuss the status of the Rest of the River Project.

The purpose of the meeting is to provide updates since the last meeting in October on several proposed projects surrounding the PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, dumped into the river by GE. These options include dredging the river to remove PCBs, proposed dump sites for PCBs, dredging and destroying PCBs using a new bacteria technology and letting the river remain as is, to name a few.

While several area organizations, including Berkshire Creative and the Berkshire Visitors Bureau are advocating for the "low-impact solution" that does not involve extensive dredging, still other groups, especially environmentalists, are demanding that the river be completely dredged and the PCBs removed and destroyed.
 
All opinions and suggestions are welcome as the EPA plans to move forward soon. In addition to this meeting, the EPA will continue to take public input and suggestions regarding GE's plan for Phase II of the cleanup until Jan. 31. To submit comments, you can visit the EPA website or e-mail Susan Svirsky, project manager for the EPA Rest of the River.

Tags: EPA, cleanup, Housatonic      

Homeless Day Center to Open Next Month

By Nichole Dupont

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Co-Act and other area human service organizations are moving forward with a plan to open a day center for the homeless at the United Methodist Church on Fenn Street. According to Co-Act Director Paul Deslaurier, the day center will open on February 3 and will be open from roughly 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. two days a week.

"There's a lot happening in terms of the day center," he said in a phone interview. "Anyone who needs support can come during the day and use the resources there. We're having a training for intakers and greeters on February 1 and then on the third, that will be our dry run. We're trying to coordinate with other facilities and existing organizations which offer meals and services and shelter. We're trying to find the best way to address and support the needs that people have."

These needs have increased as the temperature drops to brutal lows and the state unemployment rate stays steady.

"There are about 20 people here who are chronically homeless and who, for one reason or another, have been blackballed from the shelters here. Sometimes they can hang out at Dunkin' Donuts or the library, or maybe the hospital corridors," Deslaurier said. "This number does not include people who are in shelters and trying to stay clean, people who are couch hopping or living four to six families to an apartment and people who are living in their cars."
 
The day center will offer basic literacy and computer support and training as well as access to other support services in the area. It will be staffed by trained volunteers including retired social workers, college students studying social services as well as an intake clinician. Yet even in its intitial phases, he said that he knows that more is needed, especially from the city itself.

"We have 14 organizations that are participating in this effort. We're really drawing on the support of the faith-based community," he said. "This kind of collaboration has been uplifting. Unfortunately, I've been very disappointed in my city. In September I asked if there were some place they could propose that we could have a shelter. The mayor pointed me to the old prison on Second Street where we could only use the cell blocks in the basement. This was unacceptable. Where we are located is right across the street from City Hall. We're practically right in their face and there has been no support from the backdoor politicians. I've petitioned the city to pay for the utilities on the building, so far I haven't gotten a good response."

Utilities are not the only necessity required by the center, which Deslaurier and others had hoped to turn into an emergency night shelter as well. In addition to heating costs, the center (and possibly the shelter) also requires more volunteers, furniture, computers, printers and, of course, money.
 
"We are definitely going to need more staff and we need to be prepared for it to evolve," he said. "We have no funding and so we are reaching out to the community for help."
 

Tags: day center, homeless      
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