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Are We There Yet?: Late-Summer Outdoor Fun

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff

Fall is in the air, folks, even if it's not on the calendar yet. Fall is my favorite time of year - not too hot, not too cold. So in that vein, I present four late-summer outdoor activities for this weekend, which except for the possibility of some showers on Saturday afternoon is supposed to be a good one.

Before the rain hits on Saturday, Sept. 13, head over to Williamstown for the Williamstown Community Chest's annual Fun Run. This community event consists of two races: 5K Run and a 1-mile Kid’s Run/ Family Walk. The Fun Run races are open to everyone, veteran runners or first-time runners, along with daily walkers or occasional walkers. Families with pets and strollers are also welcome to join the fun. Both race events begin at 10 a.m. at the Williamstown Youth Center, 66 School St. Sign-in and registration will begin at 9 a.m. The cost for the 5K race is $10 per runner and for the one-mile Walk/Run $10 per individual or per walking family. For additional information, call 413-458-2443 or visit williamstowncommunitychest.org.

Stay in Williamstown in the afternoon and head over to Bonnie Lea Farm at 511 North St. (Route 7) for an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Even if it's raining a little, a farm is still a neat place to visit. Guests can get details on lessons, the BLF Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Team and the adult lesson schedule, as well as meet the farm's horses, cows, goats, chickens, ducks - and this year’s foals. Don’t forget to wear your boots - especially if it's raining!

On Sunday, Sept. 14, rise with the chickens to help the dogs and cats. The Berkshire Humane Society will host “Woofstock,” the shelter’s annual dog walk, at Camp Russell in Richmond. The day kicks off with a pancake breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. in a pavilion overlooking the lovely Richmond Pond. Registration for the walk is at 10 a.m. with the walk beginning at 11 a.m. Great prizes will be awarded to individual walkers and teams of walkers who collect the most pledges. Throughout the day, there also will be a full schedule of vendors, demonstrations, raffles, games and classes for dogs and their people, such as Musical Sits and Downs, Recall Races, Costume Contest, Best Tricks. Marki’s French Fries and Fried Dough will be providing delicious snacks as well as a bounce house for kids. For more information, call 413-447-7878, ext. 31, or visit berkshirehumane.org.

Wrapping up what hopefully will be a sunny Sunday is the Berkshire Food Festival on Main Street in North Adams from noon to 4 p.m. The event, one of the largest festivals of its kind in Berkshire County, features the cuisine of at least 20 restaurants, along with micro-brewed beer and wine tasting, an eclectic mix of live music and drawings for gift certificates from participating eateries. Come hungry, leave happy.

What more can you ask for in a weekend?

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.


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Are We There Yet?: Fun on the Weekends

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff

Ah, is that a collective sigh of relief I hear that the kids are back in school?

My daughter started third grade, where they were told they will have nightly homework for the first time. Wow. Which means weekends are going to be the time to play now that weeknights will be spent doing somework (after Girl Scouts meetings and religious education and karate class and viola lessons, that is).

In the spirit of embracing weekends, this Saturday, Sept. 6, offers a chance to check out two gems in the Berkshires for free.

First, Berkshire County residents and people who work in Berkshire County are invited to visit Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox free of charge. The sanctuary grounds are open dawn to dusk, and the office and gift shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The sanctuary offers a well-maintained and clearly marked seven-mile trail system that takes visitors around beaver ponds, through hardwood forest, and to the summit of Lenox Mountain. Pleasant Valley also offers an All Persons Trail that makes the sanctuary universally accessible. Special introductory half-price memberships will be available, and the gift shop (where members receive a 10 percent discount) will be open as well. Registration is not required, and even though the weather is not looking great, it's something to consider.

Alternatively, if your family is more into art and history, consider Family Day at Chesterwood, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Chesterwood is the former summer home, studio and gardens of America’s foremost public sculptor Daniel Chester French, who sculpted the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Visitors are requested to enter the Barn Gallery for free admission stickers and site and exhibition guides. Chesterwood is located at 4 Williamsville Road. Along with free admission to the historic studio, residence and grounds, which feature woodland walks and formal perennial gardens, special activities for children and families throughout the day will include a clay modeling hands-on art activity and a self-guided scavenger hunt. Visitors are encouraged to bring picnics to enjoy on the grounds. Again, watch the weather.

If you'd rather stay inside on Saturday, it's the first Saturday of the month, so there's always the kids do-it-yourself workshop at Home Depot from 9 a.m. to noon and Bowey the Clown at the First Saturdays at the Spectrum in Lee at 11 a.m.

If the storm does blow through on Saturday, look for the sun to shine for a fun (and educational and delicious!) family festival on Sunday, Sept. 7. From noon to 5:30 p.m., the Festival of Sharing Roots is held at St. Joseph Church on North Street in Pittsfield. Booths representing seven international cuisines highlight the cultures that comprise the community. Entertainment on the stage will feature music and dance by local players. Kiddy Land, face painting and games will be fun for the family. Crafts and tagged items will be on sale starting at 9 a.m.

Stay cool, stay dry and stay busy!


Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.

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Are We There Yet?: The End of Summer Stinks

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff

On Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, the heat in my house kicked on in the overnight hours.

Say what?

With the exception of a semi-uncomfortable warm day here or there, August was a mild, lovely month, filled with temperatures in the 70s and blue skies. Twice in August I ventured to evening shows at Tanglewood and ended up needing long pants and jackets.

Lovely. As someone who hates extreme weather - on both ends - I have enjoyed this month immensely. And this last weekend of August, Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of the summer, looks like it will start off just as perfect, with bue skies and temperatures in the 70s predicted for Saturday, Aug. 30.

So why not get out and about on Saturday? I have two suggestions on where to take the family.

First, in Pittsfield is the fourth annual Berkshire Dream Center neighborhood block party at Morningside Community School. Morningside holds a special place in my heart, as I am a "graduate" of the school, though I won't date myself and divulge what year I wore an ultra-fashionable two-piece polka dot dress and sang "The Rainbow Connection" with my fellow fifth-graders. This event, which runs from noon to 3 p.m., aims to bring the community together with free food, face painting, raffles, bounce house, hair cuts, balloon animals, pictures with Alex the Lion, a hula hoop demonstration and participation for children, games, music and more. For more information, call 413-522-3495 or visit berkshiredreamcenter.blogspot.com.

Or, you could head north, just across the border into Bennington, Vt., where the annual "Vermont Stinks" Garlic Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and again on Sunday, if you want to brave the possibility of rain showers). Admission is $5 per adult and $1 per child under 12; the festival features food and crafts from more than a100 different vendors all made from garlic and herbs, as well as music, children's activities and more. The festival is held just 1.5 miles west of the four corners in Bennington at Camelot Village on Route 9. I went one year and still remember trying garlic ice cream ... I'm not sure I have ever gotten that memory out of my mind. More info can be found at lovegarlic.com.

If local food (not necessarily made with garlic) is more your thing, here's something for Sunday, Aug. 31: You can feel young again and join Williams College students at the second annual Spring Street Food Fair in Williamstown from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Students get vouchers to try out local eateries offerings but the community can join in on the tasting fun with cold hard cash, too. Note that Spring Street will be closed to cars during this time.

And as for the holiday Monday ... well, if the kiddos already have started school, make them do some homework. If they start next week, make them get some sleep before all the homework comes. And enjoy your holiday weekend!

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.

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Are We There Yet?: Holding On To Summer

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff

This can't possibly be the last weekend before Labor Day weekend ... can it?

Boy, the summer flew by, especially with the kiddos out of school so late. There was hardly any "Mom, I'm bored" time at all. (Hope I didn't just jinx myself for next week!)

But with another nice weekend on the horizon, there's still time to enjoy some summer fun.

If you don't mind a little drive, the epitome of summer fun is happening just over the mountain to our east in Cummington: the 146th annual Cummington Fair. The fair actually starts tonight, Thursday, Aug. 21, and runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 22-24, though this weekend's weather looks better than tonight or tomorrow's for sure. Gates open at 4 p.m. Thursday and will be open 4-9:30 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

What's at the Cummington Fair? All the usual fair stuff: midway rides, fried food, agriculture, craft barn and exhibit halls, as well as a comedian, classic cars and much more. Visit the fair's website for more details.

If you're looking to stay closer to home, wherever in the Berkshires "home" may be, on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23 and 24, the Lenox Library holds its annual book sale. Yes, I know, books make you think of back to school, but there's bound to be a lot of good beach reads in the thousands of books the library will have for sale. The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the library is right on Main Street in Lenox.

Also on Saturday, Aug. 23, in South County is the last chance to see a free Inside/Out performance at Jacob's Pillow in Becket. You can bring a picnic and watch METdance, a contemporary jazz company based in Houston. Showtime is 6:15 p.m. but come earlier to enjoy the lovely Pillow grounds.

On Sunday, Aug. 24, the Hubbard Avenue Barnes and Noble will present a special storytime and signing with Christine Sulborski, author of "Alex's Winter Adventure." This is to get you past summer AND fall and right into thoughts of winter! This free event is at 2 p.m.

One last Sunday event to mention: Motorama in downtown North Adams 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. Attendees can enjoy music, 50/50 raffles, food, shopping and more. The Downtown Celebration last week had lovely weather and a great turnout, so here's hoping Motorama can duplicate that.

As for me, well ... I actually haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. I love a weekend where I can go wherever the wind takes me!

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.

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Are We There Yet?: Summer or School?

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff

Well, it's still summer, but the feeling of fall is in the air ... both in Mother Nature and in the stores, where aisles are lined with colorful signs of school.

I personally could not be more thrilled with the weather. A day of blue skies, 70-degree temperatures and a light breeze is perfect, in my eyes. Heat and humidity? Who needs it!

That said, I do hope Saturday, Aug. 16, will be slightly warmer, as I will be spending the day at Sand Springs Pool in Williamstown, the first half of the day with a Girl Scout gathering and the second part of the day for a birthday party. if summer does reappear and you're looking for a fun way to cool off, do consider Sand Springs. Check out their website here.

If swimming is not appealing on a cool-ish Saturday, here's another fun family idea: the 74th annual 4-H Youth Fair at the Berkshire County 4-H Fairgrounds in Pittsfield, which is located on Utility Drive, off Holmes Road. This fair is put on for all youth by 4-H’ers. There is no parking fee or entry fee, and the fair features animals, hall exhibits, entertainment, food booth, goat milking contest, the sheriff's horses and more.

I have to admit that although of course I have heard of 4-H, I was not exactly sure what it offered for kids. So I did a little research online, and here's what I found:

"Based on the Eight Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development, 4-H helps young people learn life skills under the guidance of trained, screened volunteers in non-formal educational settings such as clubs, camps and after-school programs. ... The Eight Essential Elements are: A positive relationship with a caring adult; a safe environment; an inclusive environment; engagement in learning; opportunity for mastery; opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future; opportunity for self-determination; and opportunity to value and practice service for others."
All that and some cute animals to boot! Saturday's fair runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can find out more information on their Facebook page here.

Sunday, Aug. 17, is another slow day for planned family activities, and since the weather doesn't look great, consider a show: the last production of "Seussical" at The Colonial in Pittsfield for younger kids; the last production of "The Old Man and the Old Moon" at Williamstown Theatre Festival for kids 7 and up; and also for the older kids, an evening production of the hysterical "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," entering its last week at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox.

Or, just go shopping for those school supplies. Remember this weekend is Tax Free Weekend in Massachusetts. Why not a save a buck or two on all those backpacks, lunch bags, notebooks and pencils?

Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at rdravis@iberkshires.com.

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