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Are We There Yet?: Founders' Fun

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

After a hot and humid last gasp of summer a week ago, fall came roaring back — and even brought with it a hint of winter with a frosty morning earlier this week. Ah, gotta love Berkshire weather!

But as the calendar indeed officially turns to autumn this weekend, one of my favorite Berkshire events is back: Lee Founders Weekend. Billed as "the town of Lee's annual birthday celebration," the event features three days of fun for the entire family.

The celebration kicks off on Friday, Sept. 20, with vendors and events running from 3 to 10 p.m., in the middle of which is the "Taste of Lee" event featuring more than a dozen local restaurants showing off their goods from 5 to 8 p.m. For the kids is a bounce house, pumpkin decorating, face paintings, music and more, including the "Lee Idol" talent competition at The Spectrum at 7:30 p.m.

That's a big day in itself. But wait ... there's more! On Saturday, events run from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., including the highlight of the weekend for many: the Hometown Parade along Main Street at 11 a.m. Immediately after the parade will be the fireman's muster at the Athletic Field, which is especially popular with little boys, and more children's entertainment on the Lee Library lawn. Wrap up the day by giving the family a taste of culture from 4 to 8 p.m. with the Latino Festival under the tent on the green.

The fun continues on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with a pancake breakfast, walking tour of Lee and the ever-popular Duck Race to benefit the Lee Youth Association. A new Sunday addition this year will be a magic show under the tent on the Green at 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.

For all the details and more information, visit Lee Founders Weekend.

So what if you have spent the entire weekend in Lee with the kids, and by Sunday night you are tearing your hair out because the kids. Just. Won't. Listen. Consider a Monday evening salve of a Child Care of the Berkshires program titled "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk." Really, what parent among us hasn't needed something like this at some point?

The workshop runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Haskins Center in North Adams. It is based on the classic book by Faber and Mazlish and aims to teach parents common sense ways to help them and their children become better listeners and how to gain their child's cooperation and resolve family conflicts peacefully.

Parents will receive workbooks that follow the series and a "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen" book at course completion. Registration is required at 413-664-4821, so I guess you can't wait until the kids misbehave all weekend before you realize how helpful this workshop might be. It's OK. You can admit it now. No one is judging you. Pick up the phone. You can do it.

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.


Are We There Yet?: Summer's Last Weekend

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

If your kids are among the lucky ones who haven't started school yet (and you are among the unlucky parents stuck trying to entertain them for one more week; see my hand waving madly here) then mark this Friday, Aug. 30, on your calendar.

This is the last day of the Highland Street Foundation's Free Fun Fridays around the state, and it features two Berkshire County institutions this week: The Mount in Lenox and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. I highly recommend taking advantage of the free admission at both of these South County cultural venues, for several reasons.

First, free is always better than paying. That's a no-brainer.

Second, when admission is free, it doesn't matter if the kids don't get as much out of it as you would want if you paid for it. While the Norman Rockwell Museum does aim to be family-friendly, and the current exhibit "Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic" certainly will appeal to many youths, I have found from personal experience that kids don't always have the attention span for museums, even really good ones. And while The Mount is certainly beautiful and worth a visit, the charm and history of the mansion and its famous denizen might be lost on the kids pretty quickly.

And third, lest you think I'm less than ecstatic to be raising a child in an area ripe with cultural opportunities like these, and while I know these are indeed world-class venues that everyone should visit whenever possible, it's just different when you bring kids. So free is good; the pressure is off. For all the details, visit highlandstreet.org.

Ending the day Friday is what looks to be a hip-hopping good time at the Berkshire Mall. From 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, "Back to School the Healthy Way" is being sponsored by Yarmosky Pediatric Dentistry and the local Newspapers In Education program. The event, which will be held in the space of the former Old Navy store at the Sears end of the mall, will feature music by David Grover, Ayana George, Nostalgia, Zion and Destiny Music Group. There will also be performances by Youth Alive and The Y Gymnastics team. The Pittsfield YMCA also will be conducting break-dancing and gymnastics workshops. (Oh, and you can come on over and visit me at this event; I will be there with information on Girl Scouts, perhaps wearing my daughter's Hello Kitty headphones if the music gets too loud. It is indeed a sign that you have grown old when you constantly complain, "The music is so loud. I can't hear myself think!") The event is free, but donations will be accepted to help provide backpacks to be distributed by agencies that include the United Way and Kid Zone.

There is, of course, a long holiday weekend ahead, and since the weather looks to be good and everyone is taking their last gasps of summer, there are not a ton of events planned. I recommend getting out in the fresh air, taking a swim of it's not too chilly, or just taking a walk in the woods. If you have to have some structured family fun, on Saturday, Aug. 31, the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington is having one of its monthly "Kids Can Cook" series for kids to come ... well, cook, this time making summer squash roll-ups with herbs. It's at 10 a.m. and is free; information can be found at berkshirecoop.com.

For those of you back in the classroom, good luck. For those of you not heading back until next week, enjoy the remains of summer!

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.


Are We There Yet?: Web Slingers & Airstreams

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

For the last two summers, my daughter has participated in the Berkshire Children's Theatre summer production. This year, because of schedules, she missed out on participating, but that doesn't mean you should miss out on these adorable shows.

Director Kara Demler somehow always pulls together a group of Berkshire County children of all ages and levels of experience; as a "backstage mom" at these shows, I know how hard they all work to do their very best.

This summer's offering is the classic "Charlotte's Web." Shows are Friday, Aug. 23, at 11 a.m. and Saturday, Aug. 24, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Berkshire Museum. Tickets are available in advance by calling 413-443-7171, Ext. 10. berkshiremuseum.org.

Another end-of-summer treat on Friday is the finale of the Movies Under the Stars series in Adams. Last year, they did "Christmas in August," complete with an appearance by Santa Claus. This year they are doing "Halloween in August," featuring fun Halloween-y activities starting at 6 p.m. capped by a screening of "Hotel Transylvania" at dusk.

On Saturday, stay in North County and head on over to Mass MoCA for what sounds like a very cool program titled "Space: The Final Frontier." (This will be especially appealing to my 7-year-old as we recently visited the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.) At 1 p.m., families can join Michael Oatman — whose whimsical installation "all utopias fell" is always a particular hit among kids — for a Gallery Quest program as he guides them through his incredible, inventive work. Clearly fond of telling stories, it's no surprise that Oatman has recently written a children's book, "Tiny Pie," which he will read and discuss with families during the event.

In addition to the book reading and artist-led tour of the Airstream trailer, families will have the opportunity to make two art projects inspired by Oatman's work: a colored yarn "God's Eye" (which Oatman reinterprets with electrical wire in "all utopias fell"); and a cylindrical assemblage/diorama constructed within a Pringles can, reminscient of Oatman's microcosm crammed into a crashed Airstream trailer. The event also includes a snack and book-signing.

The cost is $7 and registration is requested at 413-662-2111.

And while I don't want to ignore Central and South County this week, the weekend wraps up with another fun North Adams event: Motorama on Sunday, Aug. 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Main, Holden and Eagle streets will be closed to all but pedestrian traffic as downtown North Adams fills with hundreds of cars, trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles and tractors. This vehicle show offers fun for everyone; attendees can enjoy music, 50/50 raffles, food, shopping and more.

And parents ... hang in there! Most of the kids are going back to school next week, so there is light at the end of the "I'm bored" tunnel. I will be gritting my teeth at that for a full week longer, as my daughter's school doesn't re-open until after Labor Day. (And they were among the first students out this summer, finishing on June 14, making for a very looooooooong summer.) The end is in sight ...

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.


Are We There Yet?: Getting Back to School

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

Is summer over? It somehow feels like it, even in mid-August: You should have seen the jeans and jackets at the annual North Adams Downtown Celebration on Wednesday! I'm not convinced summer is over quite enough to take the air conditioner out of the window, but I did see a red leaf on the ground the other day.

The other way we know fall is around the corner, of course, is the thought of going back to school. Or, for our region's 5-year-olds, going to school for the first time. This week, there are two events geared toward those boys and girls who will be starting their school careers this fall.

First, on Friday, Aug. 16, the Family Resource Center is hosting its annual "I Rode the Bus" event at the Haskins Center on Route 8 in North Adams. Children will learn about school bus manners; take a 10- to 15-minute bus ride; participate in circle time; listen to a short story; and create an art project. Every child that attends will receive an "I Rode the School Bus" sticker and book.

Riding the bus for the first time can be a scary, exciting time for kids, and this is the perfect way to prepare them. My daughter attended this two years ago when she was entering kindergarten, even though we were not putting her on the bus to school that year, but it prepared her for the future possibility.

The event is free but registration is required at 413-664-4821.

The following day, on Saturday, Aug. 17, the Berkshire Museum, in collaboration with Transition Team of Pittsfield and Berkshire County Head Start, is hosting "WeeMuse: Countdown to Kindergarten" from 5 to 7 p.m.

This event also will include a school bus ride, as well as model classrooms and activities that invite children and their parents to have a typical kindergarten experience. Adults can ask staff "teachers" questions they may have about the kindergarten registration process, child development milestones, and how to help their child be ready for school.

At 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., families can watch Arthur's younger sister get help from her family and friends as she prepares to enter kindergarten. Presented by City Stage Company and in partnership with the Boston Children's Museum, the show is free but tickets are required and can be obtained beginning at 5 p.m.

The whole event is free; visit berkshiremuseum.org for details.

Not ready to think about school year? Then what better than watching the boys of summer! The Lenox Library is hosting its annual "Baseball in the Park," a large screen under the stars that will be showing the Boston Red Sox playing the New York Yankees. Families are invited to bring chairs and blankets and celebrate this famous rivalry that right now looks like maybe — just maybe — will be going Boston's way this year. (Did I just jinx them?)

First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.; the event is free and traditional ballpark food will be available for purchase.

One more taste of summer happens mid-week this coming week when the Dalton CRA hosts a "Summer Beach Party" from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20. There will be activities and games that will make you feel as if you are enjoying an evening at the beach, with waterslide fun, Frisbee competitions, games, snacks and refreshments.

The event will be held at Pinegrove Park in Dalton, which I had the pleasure of visiting earlier this summer for a Girl Scout picnic. What a lovely location for a party, and had a great way to make you think that summer really is not coming to an end — colored leafs on the ground and all!

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.


Are We There Yet?: Powwow Weekend, Zucchini Fest

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

If there is one event I have always wanted to attend during a Berkshire summer but never seemed to make it to, it's the West Stockbridge Zucchini Festival.

Don't get me wrong: I don't actually enjoy eating zucchini, though every summer some well-meaning friend presents me with a green giant from their garden and I am left pretending that I can come up with all sorts of tasty ways to eat it, even though inside I know that it will sit on my counter until it gets mushy and gross.

(But don't get me wrong here: I do understand the impulse to dole out excess produce, as I am the proud owner of half a dozen blueberry bushes that produce pounds and pounds of the fruit that, while tasty, can get old really fast.)

No, my desire to go to the Zucchini Festival is more about wanting to experience what seems like it would be a leap back in time to an old-fashioned family street fair filled with such silly games as zucchini car races and a best zucchini costume contest. What's not to love?

This year is the event's 10th annual, and it will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, rain or shine, in "downtown" West Stockbridge, routes 41 and 102 and the center of town. This year the theme is "Fly Me to Zee Moon" and the event will feature Berkshire kids' favorites David Grover and Terry a la Berry during the day the drummers of The Berkshire Bateria later in the day. It is free, though some games have small fees for tickets. For info, visit weststockbridgetown.com. As I currently have nothing on my calendar for Saturday except cleaning my house, maybe this is the year I make it down. After all, the house will still be there and dirty on Sunday!

Alas, though, I do have something on my calendar for Sunday afternoon (a Girl Scout financial literacy program I am running for fourth- and fifth-grade girls that I will just quickly mention here, but email me if you want more details). If you are looking for something to do with the family on Sunday, you could try the second day of the eighth annual Rock, Rattle & Drum Pow Wow, to be held at the Adams Aggie Fair fairgrounds off Route 8 in Adams on both Saturday and Sunday.

I actually attended this event its first year, in 2006, when rain forced it inside the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club. While it might not have been as majestic as it would have been had it been outside, you could really feel the drums beating deep inside your soul as they echoed off the walls of a gymnasium. I have not been back to the pow wow since as it has moved all around the region over the last six years, though my husband and daughter went together last year for a few hours. (I think I stayed home and cleaned the house. Must be my annual midsummer cleaning weekend, now that I think about it.)

The powwow runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and features traditional dancing, American Indian storytellers and vendors, traditional native foods such as fry bread, corn soup and buffalo, and performances by Arvel Bird, a Nammy Award-winning Native American violinist and flute player, and Danza Azteca, an Aztec dance group. Tickets are $7 for adults and kids under 10 are free; visit healingwinds.net for all the details.

And speaking of the Adams Aggie Fair ... I apparently am now royalty. As I mentioned last week, my daughter was competing in her last Adams Aggie Fair Princess contest, desperate to win the title this year, her third year of demonstrating how to milk a cow and sharing what she would like about living on a farm.

Thank you, Hancock Shaker Village, for the annual cow-milking lessons, and thank you, Aggie Fair people, for planting this seed in her mind: Her answer to the farm question this year was that she would have a place to keep the Shetland pony she said she wanted as a pet in response to the question of what animal she would she want if she could have any she wanted. Last year's answer to the living-on-a-farm question, by the way, was that she could have fresh eggs daily, which sounded good to me, better than the pony anyway. Of course, last year's answer to why she wanted to be the Aggie Fair princess — so she could wear a tiara — beat this year's answer: "So my parents can get into the Aggie Fair for free." Nice.

Despite that answer (or maybe because if it; she got a good laugh from the judges) she won the princess title this year ... leading some friends of ours who we ran into at the SteepleCats game on Monday night to say to me, "Does that mean you are now the queen?" Um, sure, though my daughter got the official tiara and the opportunity to ride in a convertible in the Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Parade in October. I probably will have to walk behind. All hail the queen.

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.

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