North Adams Follows Up Snow Storms With Winterfest
|The Hot Dog Ranch, below, took first place for chowder with both the judges and People's Choice.
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!'"
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."
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.