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Are We There Yet?: What fools these mortals be!

By Rebecca Dravisiberkshires Staff

I've got Shakespeare on my mind.

First, the Bard's birthday is coming up, and I always remember it because it's close to mine. His is April 23, mine is April 26. Of course, his birth was 450 years ago, so he's got a few years on me. (Not that I'm telling how many!)

Second, I just signed my daughter up for a session of the Riotous Youth camp at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. She did a session last summer and loved it, and I have to admit it was pretty funny hearing a monologue from "Twelfth Night" coming out of the mouth of a 7-year-old.

Third, since said daughter has been bitten by the Shakespeare bug, she also is auditioning for the new "Shakespeare in the Park" series at Springside Park in Pittsfield this summer. If she ends up in the play it would be particularly meaningful for me, as I grew up in Pittsfield, across the street from Springside Park, and spent many happy and carefree hours frolicking in the park.

And fourth, Shakespeare is my family fun pick of the weekend. Because yes, Shakespeare and kids can and do go together.

Shakespeare & Company in Lenox is kicking off a run of its annual “Shakespeare and the Language that Shaped a World” event at 2 p.m. this Saturday, April 5. This is a whirlwind tour through the life, times and work of the Bard that features six actors, a few props, a truck-load of historical information, popular misinformation and scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. This hysterical, fast-paced presentation is designed to introduce kids and adults to Shakespeare through his stories, characters and words—with a bit of sword-fighting and clowning thrown in for good measure.

All “Shakespeare and the Language that Shaped a World” presentations are followed by a hands-on workshop during which audience members will get their own shot at playing with scenes from "A Midsummer Nights Dream" - which incidentally is the play my daughter will learn at Riotous Youth this summer and the play being performed at Shakespeare & Company.

My husband, daughter and I went to see “Shakespeare and the Language that Shaped a World” two years ago when my daughter was 6, and she loved it, though I think older kids get a little more out of it. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults, with a maximum admission fee of $30 per family (up to six people per family discount). Tickets are available the day of the presentation, or in advance from the box office at 413-637-3353 or shakespeare.org.

Shakespeare not your thing? Sorry to hear that - but Saturday morning is the first Saturday of the month, which means its Kids Workshop Day at Home Depot, meaning you can take the kids to the Pittsfield or Bennington, Vt., between 8 a.m. and noon to let them hammer away at a cool project. There are also a couple of high school musicals this weekend that should be lively enough to entertain the kids: "Grease" at Mt. Everett and "Dames at Sea" at Wahconah Regional. 

And maybe, just maybe, this will be the first weekend of real spring weather ... so get out and enjoy it!

“Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time.” 


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


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?: 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.


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.

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