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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?: 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.


Are We There Yet?: The Play's The Thing For Kids

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

My soon-to-be-second-grader and two of her soon-to-be-second-grade friends stayed up late last Friday night to watch Williamstown Theatre Festival's free outdoor performance of "Dracula."

The free glow-in-the-dark plastic fangs handed out to the kids were a nice kid-friendly touch, but I still had concerns about the children's reactions to the scary nature of the story. My fears were put to rest when the blood spurting from the body of the poor girl whose death had to be violently assured caused giggles, not screams, from the 7-year-olds. For days after, the kids chattered about how that scene was staged, with my daughter's best friend confident in her interpretation of the actress hiding red paint in her dress.

There's just something about the theater that brings out the best in children.

That's why I am using this week's column to point out how incredibly lucky we are here in the Berkshires to have such an abundance of professionally produced summer theater — and not just for grownups!

Starting up north: While the free Williamstown Theatre Festival family shows are done for the year, WTF is still doing Friday afternoon theater workshops for kids 8 to 14. This Friday's theme is "The Mystery of the Missing Mystery." The workshops run from 4 to 6 p.m. and are free, but reservations are recommended at wtfestival.org.

Heading to Central County, Barrington Stage Company's Youth Theatre is presenting "Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr." at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield. The play runs from July 24 through Aug. 11; showtimes are Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. (except opening day); Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and Sundays at 3 p.m. There is also an additional matinee this Monday at 1. Tickets are $10 for kids 5 to 18 and $15 for adults. For details visit barringtonstageco.org.

Continuing to South County, both Berkshire Theatre Group and Shakespeare & Company are offering family friendly shows.

Berkshire Theatre Group is presenting "Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling on its Stockbridge outdoor stage. The play runs through Aug. 10; showtimes are Thursdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m. Tickets are $10 for children and $15 for adults; visit berkshiretheatregroup.org.

Shakespeare & Company has two great offerings: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" outdoors in the dell at The Mount in Lenox and "Les Faux Pas: or the Counterplots" in the tented Rose Footprint Theatre at its Lenox campus. "Dream" runs through Aug. 17, with shows Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children. "Les Faux Pas" runs through Sept. 1 with shows on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. Adults are $15 and kids are free. For all the details on these plays, visit shakespeare.org.

And stepping just outside the Berkshires is the Mac-Haydn Children's Theatre presentation of "The Emperor's New Clothes" over in Chatham, N.Y. Shows are at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and all tickets are $10; visit machaydntheatre.org for details.

Whew, that made me tired, wrapping up all the wonderful theater opportunities across the region this summer. Make sure you pace yourself watching all of them!

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?: 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.


From 'Brothels' To The Berkshires

Staff Reports
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. —  The Berkshires have been a magnet for those seeking to enjoy the simple things in life, from the Shakers and their aesthetic frugality to the "masters of the universe" who built gilded mansions in its bucolic setting.

While sharing little in common, both groups sought renewal in both spirit and body with the land.

So it's no surprise that documentarian Pamela Boll selected the region for her new film, which will follow the latest seekers of land and spirit: a crop of local farmers working to connect people with the land and the region's growing industry in yoga and wellness.

Berkshire Film & Media Commission reports that the Oscar-winning documentarian will be in the county over the next few months researching the simplification of live and true happiness in "A Small, Good Thing."

Boll, who won an Academy Award in 2004 as co-executive producer of "Born Into Brothels," will be filming in Lenox, Great Barrington and Lee.

She told the film commission her latest film will be about "chucking the big life and pursuing what makes you truly happy."

"We will be filming Tim Durrin working at Kripalu and riding his bike around the area; Mark Gerow teaching a yoga class in Lenox and spending time with his family; Jen and Peter Salinetti at Woven Roots Farm in Lee; Sean Stanton at North Plain and Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington; and Dominic Palumbo at Moon in the Pond Farm in Sheffield."

Other documentaries she's been involved with include "Who Does She Think She Is?" "Connected," "In a Dream," "Our Summer in Tehran," and "Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors without Borders."
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