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Are We There Yet?: Halloween Comes Early

By Rebecca DravisSpecial to iBerkshires

Who says you can't get into the spirit of Halloween two weeks early?

That's the theory behind the last 3rd Thursday celebration of the year, set for Thursday, Oct. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Pittsfield. The theme is "Monster Mash," and the highlight for kids is the annual Greylock Children's Costume Contest and Parade, which will be held at the corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue again this year.

Greylock Federal Credit Union will be giving goodie bags to all kids in costume, who are invited to march in the parade at 6 p.m. This year, costume judging will be done by secret judges between 5 and 6 p.m. and during the parade. Fifty gift certificates to Persnickety Toys in downtown Pittsfield will be given out to kids in the most creative costumes.

Also for families, the Pittsfield Family YMCA will showcase its break dance and gymnastics students, and the Beacon Cinema will show "Beetlejuice" as part of its "Throwback Thursday" series at 7:30 p.m., with tickets only $5. All the details of 3rd Thursday can be found here.

But don't fret if you miss this event; there's more Halloween fun to be had this weekend. On Saturday, Building Blocks Early Education Center at 457 Dalton Ave. will hold a "Halloween Bash" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include ghostly games, raffles, prizes and more, and tickets are only $5 per child. And later in the day, head north of the annual Clarksburg Elementary School "Haunted Hayride" from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $6 per adult and $4 per child; there will also be a bake sale and glow necklaces available. Rain date is Saturday, Oct. 26.

This weekend is not all about Halloween, though.

On Saturday, there is a good old-fashioned fall festival — with a twist! Bradley Farm on Route 7 in Lanesborough is hosting a festival from noon to 5 that will feature miniature horses, treasure hunt, local arts and crafts, organic produce and much more — including a Children's Treasure Hunt for ages 5 to 7 and 8 to 10 right at noon.

According to local legend, British troops staying at the farmhouse on Oct. 13, 1777, after fleeing their loss at Saratoga, put $15,000 in gold into the dutch oven overnight. It was missing in the morning and never found. Kids can bring a shovel and help search for this buried treasure. Hey, you never know! For more info, visit Bradley Farm.

And on Sunday, the Berkshire Museum will host what has become a beloved annual event: a birthday party for Wally the Dinosaur, the museum mascot and my daughter's favorite Berkshire County climbing structure. This is Wally's 16th birthday, and kids are invited to bring him a birthday card.

At the museum, which is open with free admission from noon to 5 p.m., kids can participate in hands-on art and science projects from 1 to 3 p.m. At 2 p.m., everyone will gather to sing "Happy Birthday" to Wally on the front lawn (weather permitting) then cut the birthday cake! For info visit berkshiremuseum.org.

I'm sure I will be back next week with some more Halloween fun — and a fun event that is near and dear to my heart!

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?: Ramble Weekend

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist
As I sit here writing this, I am in the throes of a nasty fall cold. My brain is muddled (that's a fair warning to my editor) but somewhere in the back of my head I seem to remember being sick last year right around Columbus Day Weekend. Is it something about the change of the seasons? The fact that my daughter is back in school surrounded by germs — or that I recently chaperoned a school field trip to Jaeschke's Orchard in Adams with 60-plus of the little germ carriers themselves? Or is it just my body's way of saying slow down, as fall is an extremely busy time of year for me in my "day job"?
Maybe it's all of the above, but I do hope I'm feeling up to some fun fall activities this Columbus Day Weekend. And since I was already speaking of Adams, let's start there, because, as the Facebook page flier says, "Adams is Columbus Day Weekend."

On Sunday, Oct. 13, Ramblefest kicks off with a party from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Adams Visitors' Center on Hoosac Street. There will be food, vendors, music, games and activities for the kids, and more — all to gear folks up for main event. And what's that? The Ramble itself, when thousands of people climb Mount Greylock via the Cheshire Harbor Trail all at once — well, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here's the scoop on that: There will be a free shuttle from the Adams Free Library to the trailhead from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with return shuttles running through 4 p.m. The first 2,000 hikers will receive certificates of accomplishment, and there will be awards for the first, the youngest and the oldest hiker to reach the summit, and to the hiker who has traveled the greatest distance to participate. Leashed pets permitted. The walk, by the way, is about 6.6 miles, takes about four to five hours and is considered moderately strenuous — but the views at the top will be worth it!
(And while you're in Adams, do try to visit Jaeschke's. Four-foot-tall germ-carriers aside, I had a lot of fun, and the orchard is teeming with delicious, juicy apples, and apple-picking is one of the best ways I know how to spend the holiday weekend! There are other places to pick; visit www.pickyourown.org/massveg.htm for some other local options.)
There are other things to do this weekend that aren't in Adams. On Saturday, kids can decorate pumpkins at the Berkshire Co-Op Market in Great Barrington. Kids should dress to get messy as they will be using acrylic paints to decorate the pumpkins. To sign up or for more information, call 413-528-9697, ext. 10, or visit berkshire.coop. And on Monday, a free Public Safety Day will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Dower Square Community Center at 253 Wahconah St. There will be a display of an array of the police's and fire department's vehicles. For more information, call 413-499-9367.
Whatever you do this long holiday weekend, stay healthy. Believe me ... you don't want what I have!
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?: Harvest & Foliage Festivals Abound

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

What a great weekend to live in northern Berkshire County!

The Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Festival offers myriad fun opportunities for families, starting with the Children's Parade at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4. Children should arrive at 5 p.m. in costume and then march to City Hall, where they will receive a ribbon just for participating.

Then there's the dog parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at the corner of Eagle Street and Route 2, in which owners are encouraged to make costumes and enter their dogs into this parade. Also on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is the Children's Fair and Road Race, located at the playground of Noel Field on Route 8. And Sunday, Oct. 6, of course, brings the main event: the 58th annual parade, which starts on Route 8 south of downtown North Adams and continues up Route 8 and across Main Street and then down Ashland Street. This year's theme is "Haunts, Legends and Ghost Stories" and is bound to be fun for the thousands of spectators of all ages who come out to watch this highlight of the fall season. For more information, visit the parade website.

But lest you think all of the action is in North County this weekend, here are a few more options for family fun this weekend, which as of this writing appears to be another good one, weather-wise. (Did I just jinx us?)

On Saturday and Sunday in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Botanical Garden is hosting its annual Harvest Festival. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., features live music, crafts showcasing local artisans, silent auction, plant sale, gigantic tag sales, farmers market showcasing the best of Berkshire-grown foods, and fall fun for kids. Parking is free and so is admission for children under 12; adults will pay $5.

Also on Saturday, the Pittsfield Fire Department will hold its open house, held annually in recognition of Fire Prevention Week, at its headquarters at 74 Columbus Ave. This free event will feature an opportunity to meet local firefighters and learn fire and life safety practices. There will be a display by County Ambulance as well as information about child-find retinal scan and TRIAD for Seniors offered by the Berkshire County sheriff's department. Pizza will be offered as a special bonus. For more information, email aferin@pittsfieldfd.org or call 413-448-9754.

And lastly, I have a special shout-out for another Saturday event, the Buddy Walk of the Berkshires. This event is sponsored by Berkshire County Arc and aims to create awareness about people with Down syndrome and to raise money for programming or other needs for children and adults.

This is a cause close to my heart, as I have had the pleasure of serving on the Board of Directors of BFAIR, another Berkshire County agency dedicated to helping people of all ages with development disabilities. And now this is a cause close to my daughter's heart, as one of the classmates in her second-grade class has Down syndrome and has rallied her class to walk with him. She has taken him up on the offer and will be proudly walking next to her own "buddy" on Saturday in this walk, which starts at Craneville Elementary School in Dalton, wends its way through Dalton and ends back at the school for a party. Registration is at 10 a.m. and the walk begins at 11 a.m.; visit the website for details.

Who says we need to wait until Columbus Day Weekend to enjoy fall fun? Get out there this weekend!

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?: Fine Fall Offerings

By Rebecca Dravis

Last weekend, we officially welcomed fall to the Berkshires, but this weekend features a few events that really usher in the season.

First up is the annual Country Fair at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, which celebrates the bounty of the harvest with agricultural demonstrations, wagon rides, a farmers' market, family activities and more. The fair is free with regular admission of $18 for adults and $8 for children 13 to 17 (kids 12 and under with an adult are always free!) and runs both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Then there is the 34th annual Lenox Apple Squeeze & Harvest Festival, which transforms downtown Lenox into a giant seasonal street fair. The festival features food, rides, shopping, live music and family fun galore from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29. Lenox is one of the prettiest towns on the planet in the fall, so don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the season in style.

I may be partial, since I live in Williamstown, but if Lenox is ONE of the prettiest towns in the fall, I have to say that Williamstown is THE prettiest town in the fall. As hokey as it may sound, I catch my breath every time I drive along the stretch of Route 7 between South Williamstown and downtown Williamstown. On a clear day, now not only can you see Mount Greylock and its Veterans War Memorial Tower, but you can also see in the distance the wind turbines of the Hoosac Range. Leaving aside the politics and problems surrounding the turbines, I believe they make the long-distance view of this picture-perfect spot even better.

So what's in Williamstown this weekend, besides the lovely views? It's the annual Hopkins Forest Fall Celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. The celebration will take place within the forest, located at the junction of Northwest Hill Road and Bulkley Street. The event is free and will feature traditional woodworking demonstrations, music, apple butter and cider production, refreshments, a canopy walkway and children's activities. The forest is owned by Williams College, and this is one of the nice ways the college reaches out to the community.

Of course, these are all outdoor activities, and while crisp, cool and dry fall weather is always appreciated, I do have a fun family suggestion for Saturday, Sept. 28, should it rain.

Anyone who has been to Washington, D.C., knows that the Smithsonian Museums boast free admission, which is awesome and made my own recent trip to the Air and Space Museum even sweeter. Am I suggesting you head south this weekend? Not at all — free museum admission is coming to us! Smithsonian magazine is sponsoring Museum Day Live!, an annual event in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket - for free. (You can get the tickets emailed to you by going online to smithsonianmag.com.)

Here in the Berkshires, there are several options. In Massachusetts, Naumkeag in Stockbridge, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield and Chesterwood in Stockbridge are participating. Just north of the border in Vermont, the Bennington Battle Monument (which has an elevator up to what promises to be a gorgeous view this time of year), the Bennington Center for the Arts and the Bennington Museum are participating.

You can also stop by one of the Trustees of Reservations historic homes on Sunday for their annual Home Sweet Home open houses from 1 to 3.

So rain or shine, it's a great fall weekend for families. Enjoy!

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.


FreshGrass Kicks Off at Mass MoCA

By John DurkaniBerkshires Staff
Cassandra Cleghorn of The Wandering Rocks, a Williamstown-based band, performs at FreshGrass on Friday evening.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — FreshGrass — it's the bluegrass music festival at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art that just keeps growing.
At its third year, Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson expects around 3,500 festivalgoers on Saturday, which will double last year's figure of around 1,600.
"There's an interest in bluegrass," Thompson said. "The lineup, I think, is super."
Thompson credits the festival's growth with the word-of-mouth circulation, the reasonable price ($78 for the entire festival), the family-friendly atmosphere and the entire museum open for view.
Friday night kicked off with the Williamstown-based group The Wandering Rocks at the Courtyard D stage and will continue all the way into Sunday evening, featuring the Wood Brothers, Leftover Salmon, the Del McCoury Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, and many more.
"We know their songs, it's fantastic," Thompson said Friday night during The Wandering Rocks set.
Single-day tickets, regular admission for Saturday and Sunday is $38 dollars for adults, $28 for students and $18 for children from ages 7 to 16. Children under 7 can enter for free.
There's also a handful of local vendors, including Desperados, How We Roll, Village Pizza and Spice Root.
"We're hoping for a good, good response," said Vijay Narula, who operates Spice Root with his family. Narula said they'll be offering a wide variety of food, including vegetarian options all weekend.
Residents also took the opportunity to volunteer and work at the festival, including City Councilor Nancy Bullett, who was introduced to FreshGrass previously by her friend Richard Taskin.
"I couldn't go to a better one," Bullett said. "People are laid back, it's great, it's a good night."
For more information on the festival, visit FreshGrass.com.
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