North Adams Follows Up Snow Storms With Winterfest

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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  Glen Rutan puts finishing touches on an icy Easter basket sponsored by I Got Goodies. Hundreds of area residents strolled Main Street on Saturday for Winterfest. More photos here.

Winterfest 2010

The Hot Dog Ranch, below, took first place for chowder with both the judges and People's Choice.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Close to a thousand area residents slurped chowder, watched ice sculpture carving and took a wagon ride Saturday at the 13th annual Winterfest.

Thirteen may be the lucky number for the city-sponsored event as the week's wintry, blustery weather gave way Saturday to mild temperatures and a picturesque, snow-covered Berkshires. It also brought Main Street to life as people lingered long after all the chowder was gone.

The last two years, the Chowder Cook-off's been held in the St. Elizabeth (St. Anthony) Parish Center. While offering plenty of room, it didn't do much to invigorate the downtown area — people ate and left.

Spurred by downtown merchants and the new Community Development Committee, the venue was changed and other activities rolled in to expand Winterfest.

"It was a really good idea to bring it back downtown," said Sheri Simon, putting finishing touches along the base of a church-steeple ice sculpture she and her husband, retired city firefighter David Simon, had created.

The couple, who are moving to the state of Florida next week, said the crowds were great. "We got a chance to say goodbye to a lot of people," said David Simon.

There were 10 participants in the cook-off this year, down somewhat from the last two years. Still, coordinator Rod Bunt of the Office of Tourism said they ran out of cups — 3,000 were donated and the Party Place on Eagle Street offered an emergency 500.

Add to that the extra cups Kate Schilling of The Hub grabbed as well. "We went through six gallons," said Schilling, who called her husband, Matt, down the street at their restaurant and told him to make more. "He was chopping vegetables like crazy and I was saying, 'I need it now. There're people waiting!'"

Former iBerkshires intern Jon DelSordo and his Pines brothers carve a pi for their MCLA fraternity.
The winner of both People's Choice and the judges' award was the Hot Dog Stand Ranch, which beat out frequent favorites CJ's Pub, Gramercy Bistro and the dining services at both the North Adams Regional Hospital and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. (See last year's story.)

Longtime favorite Boston Sea Foods picked up second from the judges (who were Mayor Richard Alcombright, Ed Morandi and yours truly) and a third in People's Choice. The Hub took a third from the judges and Taylor's grabbed second in the People's Choice.

The Hot Dog Ranch not only gets a plaque this year but both handthrown first-place chowder mugs donated by Gail and Phil Sellers of River Hill Pottery.

The cook-off participants were split evenly between 49 Main St. (former Mohawk Gift Shop/Hudson's) and 77 Main St., the former Moulton's General Store. That had people walking back and forth along Main Street to see some of the other activities going on.

About a dozen ice blocks sponsored by downtown businesses were set out for sculpting. City Councilor Keith Bona took a chainsaw to his block to carve out a winged pig (which a number of passers-by confused with a bunny) and set out a fire pit for roasting marshmallows outside his Crafty Creations shop.

"My store was paced most of the day," said Bona. "It was all about getting people downtown ... We didn't need to do expensive stuff, we just had to be creative."

There was a some concern that the wild weather that had forced cancellations throughout the week would freeze out the festival, then this morning the power went out before 6 a.m. after some wires apparently shorted out from the heavy snow. But the power was back an hour or so later, the temperatures rose and the sky brightened.

Residents grabbed free rides around Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage and children's activities were hosted at 107 Main St., courtesy of Shima, Persnickety and Kidspace, which went on long into the afternoon. The Garrisons and their llamas made their annual trek to the library and hot cocoa was available in a couple places, including Tangiers. Western Gateway Heritage State Park offered a winter-shadow light show and the J-Star Gym had free sessions.

The finale of the day is the free skating party from 7 to 9 at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink and a performance by the Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe at 7:30.
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MedUX Wins Lever's Berkshire Manufacturing Innovation Challenge

NORTH ADAMS, Mass.— A panel of  judges chose MedUX, LLC, as the winner of Lever's Berkshire Manufacturing Innovation Challenge (BMIC) on Feb. 26. 
The company, founded by Alec Gillinder and Quinn King, both recent alumni of Syracuse University, will receive a $25,000 award to continue developing its wearable IV technology. 
"We regularly see Challenge winners and finalists expand, grow, and continue to innovate," said Brent Filson, Lever's Head of Innovation. "These entrepreneurs each began our program with strong concepts, and each advanced their business models substantially during our acceleration phase. I'm excited to see what each company goes on to do after participating in this Challenge."
Each of the four BMIC finalists pitched scalable innovations with applications in the health industry. To prepare for the Challenge, they worked with Lever to refine their business plans, network with medical and manufacturing industry leaders, and learn about marketing, supply chains, and other topics via Lever's network of industry mentors. 
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