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Are We There Yet?: Strawberries Abound

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

Last summer my daughter and I planted one tiny strawberry plant in our back yard. We dug out a small square space, put bricks around it so Daddy wouldn't run over it with the lawn mower, and hoped for the best.

One strawberry grew, the plant itself withered and we thought it was a lost cause. But then last week, much to our surprise, another solo strawberry had grown. One strawberry a year is not exactly what I had in mind when we planted it, but one is better than nothing, right?

If your family loves strawberries and all of the delicious ways to eat them as much as my family does, this is a good weekend for you.

If you read this before 5 p.m. Thursday, June 20, head north just above the border to the Pownal United Methodist Church, which will host its annual strawberry shortcake supper. The menu includes cold ham and roast beef, scalloped potatoes, jello salad and coleslaw, rolls, coffee, iced tea, or lemonade and homemade strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream. Tickets will be available at the door; the cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children 4 to 10 years, and free for children 3 years and younger.

On Saturday, June 22, Second Congregational Church, located on Route 43 in south Williamstown, will hold its annual Strawberry Festival. The event will feature homemade strawberry shortcake, lunch, a bake sale, a jewelry table, a plant sale, a tag sale, and a Chinese auction. My daughter and I have attended this festival in the past and I have to say the shortcakes are a sight to behold.

Right down the road at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, this weekend marks the annual Strawberry Pancake Weekend. From 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday you can enjoy their locally grown strawberry treats and the kids can enjoy Ioka's Uncle Don’s Barnyard playground free for this weekend only as a customer appreciation celebration.

If you don't like strawberries — and I have to be honest: I prefer the shortcake and whipped cream myself — you can still have a sweet weekend with your family. A lot of the libraries are kicking off their summer reading programs this weekend, and my best bet is to head to Cheshire to learn about geocaching. At 10 a.m. Saturday, June 22, Kathy Gwozdz will talk about how geocaching works and then take participants on a hunt down Depot Street.

Also on Saturday, June 22, the "Science for Kids" series at Dorothy Amos Park in Pittsfield kicks off from 10 to noon. This free event invites kids to learn about water and the environment and why keeping our parks clean is important. All ages are invited.

On Sunday, June 23, I'm going to give a quick shout-out for an event I am helping to plan as part of my "day job" working for the Girl Scouts: A Daisy Girl Scout Day for girls entering kindergarten and first grade in the fall. Two sessions will be held, 11:30 to 1 p.m. and 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, where girls can come learn about being a Daisy Girl Scout, complete with crafts, games and snacks. The program is free.

Also on Sunday, June 23, the Piston Poppers will hold their second annual car show at Eastover in Lenox from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spectators cost $5; all proceeds of car entry fees will benefit HospiceCare in the Berkshires.

Spring is officially turning to summer this weekend, so stay tuned to this column for all the fun your family can have in the Berkshires this 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.

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Are We There Yet?: Get Outdoors This Weekend

By Rebecca DravisSpecial to iBerkshires

I learned a valuable lesson last week with my new family events column here at iBerkshires.com: Always offer an indoor suggestion in case the weekend is a washout, like last weekend.

So with that in mind, my first pick for this weekend is something indoors. On Friday, May 31, at 6:15 p.m. at the Mason Library on Main Street in Great Barrington, "Monsters Inc." will be shown. If you haven't seen it, it's a fun flick for kids of all ages about a place called Monstropolis that is powered by the screams of human children. And watching it now will prepare the family for the prequel coming out this summer, "Monsters University," in theaters on June 21. The screening is free and kids can wear their pajamas if they want.

Moving north — and moving outdoors — is the fifth annual Fred B. Windover Memorial youth fishing derby for children ages 4 to 11 from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 1. The free derby is sponsored by the South Williamstown Community Association and is held at Wendling Farm on Oblong Road (just off the Five Corners intersection of Routes 7 and 43 in South Williamstown). I did suggest the Pittsfield fishing derby in my column last week, and for those of you who opted not to sit in the pouring rain, consider this a second chance to introduce the kids to the joys of fishing. For information, email swca32@gmail.com.

Also up north on Saturday morning is the second annual 5K trail Race/Take sponsored by Youth Center Inc. and Adams Friends of Animals. The race and walk will begin and end at the Russell Field portion of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Adams and is for families and their pets. There is a fee to participate — $35 for the 5-kilometer run, $15 for walk — but the money will benefit programming at the Youth Center and scholarships for Northern Berkshire students in a veterinary field. After the race, activities will include food, raffles, bounce house, face painting, tennis games/instruction, youth obstacle course and games. For more information, call the Youth Center at 413-743-3550.

In the central/southern part of the county on Saturday, a free spring guided hike to support National Trails Day will begin at 10 a.m. at Berkshire Naturals/Outdoors, located at 12 Housatonic St. in Lenox. Hikers will receive a bottle of spring water and hike through the village into the popular Kennedy Park, led by Holly Brouker and associates. The walk will end at the Overlook with a campfire and marshmallow roasting, because who says you can't have a campfire in the morning? For details, email hollyallsports@gmail.com or 413-281-2028.

And if it does rain on Saturday, here's a shout-out to a tried and true (albeit corporate) event: the monthly Kids Workshops at Home Depot. A friend introduced me to these last summer, and I have tried to bring my daughter every month to build everything from a bird feeder to a fire truck. The workshops are great for 5- to 12-year-olds, and they teach children do-it-yourself skills and tool safety and at the same time they help to instill a sense of accomplishment. In addition to the newly constructed project kit, each child receives a kid-sized orange apron, similar to The Home Depot associates' aprons, and an achievement pin for every project. The workshops run from about 9 to noon; in our area there is a Home Depot at Berkshire Crossing in Pittsfield and another just north of the border on Northside Drive in Bennington, Vt.

Wrapping up the weekend on Sunday, June 2, you can stay inside with the Berkshire International Film Festival's annual Kids Shorts screening at 10 a.m. Flicks include "Diversity," an instructive cartoon that teaches important lessons of life, like how to do the happy dance, and "Balloon Moon," in which a cardboard boy and his ladybug friend set sail into a deep blue moonlit sea and have a dream adventure. It's all free and held at the lovely Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Castle Street in Great Barrington.

And if you want to end the weekend outside? Head up — as in, up to Mount Greylock. While I saw that the reservation had to be closed and evacuated last weekend because four inches of snow fell (gulp), it's a reasonable assumption that this will be a better weekend. At the Bascom Lodge at the summit, celebrating 75 years this year, check out the traditional Irish music of Dublin Porter at 6 p.m. and watch the kids dance the evening away on top of Berkshire County.

Stay dry — and entertained. The season is just heating up!

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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Are We There Yet?: Activities for the Whole Family

By Rebecca DravisSpecial 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.

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Berkshire Town Cracks Top 100 'Wealthy' ZIP Codes

Boston Business Journal's quest to find where the wealthy live in the Bay State has resulted in its latest data collection of income and housing values in the state's 490 ZIP codes. Using information from the Department of Revenue, BBJ's identified the toniest ZIP codes, and the not-so tony.

Using income and other demographic data provided by Esri, a California-based provider of database-mapping software, the BBJ has identified a handful of candidates to potentially carry the crown as the wealthiest ZIP code in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, most of the communities in the running are located in Boston's western suburbs.

At the top is Weston, with a median household income of $200,001 and median home value $1 million.

So how did the Berkshires do? Well, we might think certain areas are "wealthy" but they came up short compared to the rest of the state (with the caveat that rich and poor are relative).

We did crack the top 100, No. 80 to be exact. Our 90210 is 01258, better known as South Egremont.

The village, population 167, boasts a median household income of $72,768, a median home value of $292,500 and an average net worth of $1.05 million.

Also with an average net worth of a $1 million is Richmond, coming in at spot 105. (Richmond was also ranked No. 42 in the state with the most millionaires per residents; Alford was 18.) The top six in the Berkshires are all small towns, the biggest being West Stockbridge with a population of 1,678. Hmmm, do second-home owners get counted twice?

The county's two cities are in the 400 range, but they're not last in the state. Springfield, Lawrence and Lynn make up the bottom.

Try the interactive database here to find out where your ZIP code ranks.

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Sandy Cancels Governor's Visit to Florida Turbines

Staff ReportsiBerkshires

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.
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