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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?: A Fourth to Remember

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Columnist

There's family fun times two this Fourth of July in the Berkshires.

You have your choice of two parades: 10 a.m. in Pittsfield (starting at West Housatonic and South streets) and 11 a.m. in Williamstown (Southworth to Main to Spring streets).

You have your choice of two readings of the Declaration of Independence: 2 p.m. at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown (by the folks at Williamstown Theatre Festival) and 3 p.m. at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox (by company members).

And you have your choice of two baseball games followed by fireworks: 6:30 p.m. in North Adams (the SteepleCats at Joe Wolfe Field) and 7 p.m. in Pittsfield (the Suns at Wahconah Park).

But that's not all: You have three more days of Fourth of July weekend fun ... because we all know most of us are taking Friday off to have a nice long weekend with the family. I know I am, and I am ready to really kick off summer fun this weekend.

On Friday, July 5, the Movies Under the Stars summerlong family film series kicks off on the lawn of Adams Town Hall with a screening of the original alien movie, "E.T." The movies continue every Friday throughout the summer, starting at dusk, but this kickoff event features a family festival at 6 p.m. prior to the movie. The festival features games, crafts, free food and almost certainly the "cash cube," where people have 30 seconds to grab as much money as they can as it blows around their bodies. And if rains (and really, is it ever going to stop raining?) the whole thing will be moved to Saturday. Visit celebrateadams.com for all the details of this annual community celebration in Adams.

On Saturday, July 6, children can do a goblin sighting activity and build a fairy or elf house to bring home, weather permitting, at the Mason Library in Great Barrington. The event, which is appropriate for kids 7 and up (meaning my daughter will almost certainly want to go!), runs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Register online at gblibraries.org.

Also on Saturday, July 6, bring back the 1970s (and introduce them to a new generation) with a "Grease" sing-along at 7 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. According to the website, "It's not compulsory to dress up but many people do and it really adds to the fun" — so bring out the leather jackets and muscle shirts. The sing-along features a 30-minute pre-film show during which the host leads participants through a vocal warm-up, prepares them for special moments throughout the film and judges the fancy dress competition. Everyone receives a free goody bag with special props for the "magic moments" that make the evening go with a bang. I've got chills ... they're multiplying ... Visit mahaiwe.org for details.

To wrap up the weekend on Sunday, July 7, is the kickoff of another fun summer series: Summer Sundays on Spring Street in Williamstown. Weather permitting, the street festival begins at 4 p.m. with activities, music and local artisons and crafters and ends with an outdoor screening of "Some Like it Hot" at Morgan Lawn, sponsored by Images Cinema (which will host the movie inside if it is raining).

Have a great holiday 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.


Three Berkshire Towns Listed As 'Dreamtowns' In Globe

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The "Albany, N.Y., suburb of Lanesborough" is apparently a "dream town" to live in Massachusetts, according to The Boston Globe.

The Globe used an online tool asking users to list their priorities such as schools, movie theaters, restaurants, "hipsters" — which, from what we can tell, is dependent on the number of hybrid cars and Starbucks — crime rates, location and housing costs.

We agree that Lanesborough is pretty dreamy — beautiful lake and rollings hills, and a nice little school. Where else can you get rural living and a mall?

We're wondering, though, if The Globe writers used a map when they wrote their descriptions. Or perhaps Lanesborough really is a Capital District suburb, along with Hancock, Richmond and Williamstown. Does The Globe know something we don't?

In a way to promote its "dreamtown finder," The Globe used various levels for each category to derive 25 favorite towns. Lanesborough was listed because the town has "great schools (sic) and low housing costs" as well as having a "solid number of grocery stores." (We know of one).

And there is a low crime rate. But The Globe also warns that there are few "movie theaters." (Again, we know of one.)

Great Barrington also made the list. Great Barrington doesn't have the cachet of being an Albany suburb, but it has a lot of entertainment and "several dozen restaurants." There are also a lot of "historical items to be found in Great Barrington as the town first started out as a resort community."

Lenox also made the list because the town is "filled with wicked smart kids." (OK, they got something right.) And, if you didn't know, tourists flock to the area during the summer "including the Boston Symphony Orchestra." How exciting!

And, there were two movies filmed in Lenox.

While those three Berkshire towns were used as "dream towns," none of them apparently made a list The Globe did earlier this year of the top 10 places to in live in Massachusetts.

On that list, Savoy was the best location to live. Savoy has "one historical location and a park." Monterey was No. 2 in that last because it has "three historical locations and a couple of restaurants."

In conclusion, we don't know which town is the best in the Berkshires — let alone the state. But at least The Globe is recognizing some of our smaller towns so maybe some more people will come and see it for themselves.


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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