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Sponsors and participants are being sought for the ice-sculpting competition at WinterFest on Feb. 16.

Berkshires Beat: North Adams Winterfest Seeking Participants

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WinterFest is coming

The city of North Adams will host the 22nd annual WinterFest celebration on Saturday, Feb. 16, and the Office of Tourism & Community Events is seeking participants to take part in several events during this celebration. The office seeks more restaurants, businesses, organizations or individuals to participate in the chowder cook-off, sponsor blocks of ice, and compete in the ice sculpture competition and Bright Ideas Brewing Homebrew Competition.

Applications are being accepted for the annual chowder cook-off through Feb. 4 and can be obtained by contacting the Office of Tourism & Community Events at 413-664-6180 or by email. Chowder Cook-off participants must prepare their chowder in a licensed commercial kitchen and participants must provide a copy of their ServSafe Certification and Allergy Awareness Certification. Chowders are judged and voted on in the categories of the People's Choice Awards, Judges' Choice Awards, and the "Only in North Adams" Award for most unique chowder.  Winners receive plaques and bragging rights.

The ice sculpture competition will offer a $100 prize to the top scoring sculpture, judged by this year's panel of three local artists. The theme will be announced at a later date. Ice blocks can be sponsored for $90/each. Sponsors' names will appear in the WinterFest program and their name or logo will be present on signage with their sponsored block. To sponsor an ice block or volunteer to carve one, contact the Office of Tourism & Community Events at 413-664-6180 or by email.

New this year, Bright Ideas Brewing will hold a Homebrew Competition at the WinterFest Farmers & Artisan Marketplace. Competition submission will be accepted at 10 a.m. on the day of the event at the Bright Ideas Brewing booth in the marketplace, located at 66 Main St. on the corner of Main Street and American Legion Drive  Please note that only judges will be tasting the submissions. The brewer of the winning beer will participate in a collaboration brew with head brewer, Danny Sump, with their limited edition beer to be featured on tap at Bright Ideas Brewing on the campus of Mass MoCA.The winner will be announced at the festival once judging is complete at 2 p.m. All-grain homebrews are accepted; no extract brewing. Besides that, there are no restrictions in terms of beers styles; participants are invited to bring their best brew and make sure to include ABV, Style, and special ingredients (if any) on the label. Bottles are preferred, but this is a blind tasting, so names should not appear anywhere on the bottles or labels.

WinterFest also includes fun in the snow and ice sculpting at Colegrove Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; a farmer and artisan market at 66 Main St. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; hot cocoa, cookies and McCann Tech robits at MountainOne at 93 Main St. from 10 a.m. to noon; the Bright Ideas Brewing Homebrew Competition at 66 Main St. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the chowder competition at The Green from noon to 2 p.m.; a community camp fire at Main and Holden streets from noon to 2 p.m.; horse-drawn wagon rides starting from in front of MountainOne from noon to 3 p.m.; and free ice skating and rentals at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink from 2 to 4 p.m.


SVMC flu policy

The Southwestern Vermont Medical Center community and other parts of the country are experiencing a significant increase in influenza and flu-like viral infections. To help protect the community, patients and staff, SVMC has temporarily restricted its Visitor Policy, requesting that people who have the flu or flu-like symptoms not visit patients. These symptoms include cough, fever, diarrhea, rash, or known exposure to a contagious illness in the past 14 days. Additionally, no visitors under the age of 18 will be allowed in the hospital until further notice.

Anyone who has these symptoms and due to extenuating circumstances must visit a patient, will be required to obtain a mask on entry to the hospital and to follow these recommendations: wash or sanitize your hands before and after visiting; stay in the patient's hospital room and do not visit other patients; and limit visitors to a maximum of two visitors per patient room at any time.

In addition, SVMC recommends that everyone get the flu vaccine if they have not already done so this season. The vaccine is available at physician offices and at many local pharmacies. The vaccine provides a significant amount of immunity and can reduce the severity of illness.


Free tax preparation

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has been expanded to several new locations supported by Berkshire United Way. Community members with a household income of $55,000 or less are eligible for free tax preparation by IRS-certified VITA volunteers.

Berkshire United Way currently supports the VITA program with staff, volunteers and funding to community partners, including Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity and the Hilltown Community Development Corporation. VITA puts money back in the pockets of local residents, by ensuring those who qualify receive the earned income tax credit. Since Berkshire United Way began investing in VITA services, millions in additional dollars have been returned to working families in Berkshire County. Last year alone, VITA partners funded by Berkshire United Way returned $1 million out of $2.2 million VITA dollars returned to Berkshire County residents.

To make an appointment for free tax prep, call one of the numbers: Berkshire United Way, for South County locations, 413-442-6948; Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, Central and North County locations, 413-442-0002; and Hilltown CDC, Chester, Chesterfield, and Williamsburg locations, 413-296-4536, ext. 100.

Residents with a household income in excess of $55,000, but less than $66,000, may complete their taxes for free online.


Cheshire Town Census

The 2019 Cheshire Annual Town Census has been mailed. The Census is mandated by Massachusetts General Law and is valuable to have a current and correct residential count. The population count is important to the town to apply for state and federal aids and grants. The count is also valuable to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.

Residents are asked to review, correct if necessary, sign and return to the Town Clerk's office in the provided envelope. Please make sure all who reside at the address who are not listed on the form are added with all pertinent information; this would include dependent children. Census returns may be mailed or dropped off at the Town Hall.

This form cannot be used to register to vote or to change party enrollment. Any resident who does not receive a form should call the Town Clerk at 413-743-1690, ext. 22, or by email.


Pittsfield Census

City residents are encouraged to complete the annual census that has been mailed to all residential households in Pittsfield. The City Clerk's Office sent out the mailings this month as required by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 51, Section 4. Completing the annual census ensures an active voting status and allows the City Clerk's Office to validate one's proof of residency. Overall, an accurate count of Pittsfield residents assists in providing appropriate municipal services.

If there are changes to the information, the form will need to be updated and returned by mail, or can be dropped off at the following locations: City Hall (Offices of the City Clerk and Registrar of Voters), 70 Allen St.; Ralph J. Froio Senior Center, 330 North St., and Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Ave.

Completed census forms are required to be returned within 10 days of receipt. A new feature this year allows those with no changes to the census form to complete their record online without returning the form by mail. To update the census form online, visit the census app page on the city’s website.


Project 351 Hero

State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli was inaugurated into the Service Hero Class of 2019 as part of Project 351's annual Launch Day celebration on Jan. 26. Project 351 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to mentoring students and teaching them the importance of service and leadership.

Annually, Project 351 honors 45 inspirational service heroes by name recognition through a team of eight to 10 selected Massachusetts student Ambassadors. The teams, named on behalf of each Service Hero, are led by Project 351 alumni who serve as peer mentors for a 12 month leadership program. This program structure allows for effective service mobilization and enrichment on Project 351 values, model of service, and ethos for community building.

For the next year, Pignatelli will be honored with 45 other global icons, including Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. "I am honored to even be considered in the same category as these incredible people," Pignatelli said. "I have championed Project 351 and admired it since its founding, but being honored as a Service Hero is something I never imagined possible. I am humbled at this opportunity and thankful to have such an incredible group of kids on my team."

Pignatelli joins a new 2019 Class of Massachusetts Heroes, including Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Pete Frates and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.


Lenox High on TV

Local high school teams will match wits this weekend in a quiz show competition broadcast on public television. The two teams, Lenox High School and Southwick Regional School, will spar on "As Schools Match Wits," airing on WGBY public television Saturday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. (rebroadcast Sunday, Feb. 3 at 10:30 a.m. and available for subsequent online streaming).

As Schools Match Wits pits teams of western New England high-schoolers against each other in a fun, but competitive game of academic performance. The competition is open to both public and private high schools throughout western New England.

Each season, up to 50 schools go head-to-head in qualifying matches to see which team can earn the greatest number of points. The eight highest-scoring teams of the season then compete in playoff matches to determine the season’s champion, which is then awarded the coveted Collamore Cup, named for the show’s creator.


Job seekers' boot camp

Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont will hold a "Soft Skills Boot Camp" from Feb. 5-7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its North Adams retail store, located at 166 State St. The program is free of charge. To register, contact Kathy Anker at 413-442-0061, ext. 14, or by email.

The program addresses the types of soft skills that are most in demand by employers. The three-day session will cover a range of soft skills including communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social skills, creativity, interpersonal communication, adaptability and friendliness.

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North Adams Fire Chief Meranti to Retire

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Fire Chief Stephen Meranti, center, with the late Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco on receiving the MEMA award in 2015. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Stephen Meranti had a particular goal in mind when he updated his resume in the mid-1990s: to become director of the city's fire services.
Early next year, he'll retire after 17 years leading the North Adams Fire Department and as the first "fire chief" to retire in nearly 40 years. 
"I've had a pretty good run I think, 33 years with the city and 17 as chief," said Meranti on Wednesday morning, as he sat in the mayor's office. "It's been a good run, we have great people working with the city, I've had made great relationships here. It's like the mayor said, bittersweet for me also. I love the job I but I had planned on my career retiring at 55 and here I am." 
Meranti and Mayor Thomas Bernard announced the chief's retirement after more than three decades working with the city. His last day will be Jan. 26, 2021.
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