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A scene from last year's Reindog Parade. The annual event is part of the Holiday Walk, which has 36 events scheduled this weekend.

Something for All Ages at Williamstown's Annual Holiday Walk

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — With 36 events spread over 23 venues in two towns over three days, Williamstown's 36th annual Holiday Walk weekend has something for everyone … and way more than anyone could manage.
Fortunately for the promoters at the Chamber of Commerce, there are dozens of partners to help stage the annual celebration that gets under way on Friday morning.
"The Community Chest runs the Penny Social, Habitat for Humanity does the Tree Showcase," Chamber Executive Director Susan Briggs said this week. "I'm more than happy to put the schedule together and coordinate the loose ends, but to have the organizations do the bulk of the effort really makes this thing work."
One event remains the purview — or pawview — of the Chamber, which coordinates one of Holiday Walk's signature events, the Reindog Parade that kicks off near Williams College's Chapin Hall and brings dozens of canine celebrants up Spring Street at about 3 p.m. on Saturday.
While a traditional highlight of the festivities, it is actually the midpoint of a festival that begins on Friday at 10 a.m. with an Art and Flea Pop-Up Shop sponsored by the Williamstown Cultural District at 70 Spring St.
Friday's other event is a concert by the Cassatt Quartet at the Clark Art Institute, which late Saturday afternoon will sponsor an art-making activity in the lobby of TD Bank and free carriage rides on Spring Street after the parade passes by.
The heart of the weekend and by far the busiest day of Holiday Walk is Saturday.
Saturday morning kicks off with a 5-kilometer run to benefit Special Olympics that begins in the courtyard of the Purple Pub, which later in the day also will host a gingerbread house exhibition and the "Souperbowl Cook-Off" competition, where members of the public can taste the entries for a donation.
At 2 p.m., just a little before the Reindog Parade and through 5 p.m., the Penny Social, one of the oldest staples of Holiday Walk, provides an opportunity for non-profit groups to connect with the public and festival-goers to exchange holiday greetings in the warmth of Williams' Lasell Gymnasium at the top of Spring Street.
Saturday's final two events take the action off Spring Street and, in one case, out of town. At 6:30 p.m., a special edition of Musical Bingo at North Adams' Mingo's Sports Bar and Grill will benefit Louison House. At the same time, the Hoosic River Watershed Association is scheduled to lead a night walk on Stone Hill starting from the parking lot of the Clark's Lunder Center at Stone Hill.
Sunday morning a craft show at Williamstown Elementary School will be coupled with a pancake breakfast to benefit the school's sixth-grade class. Sunday afternoon, the festival concludes with the second of two Christmas Services of Lessons and Carols at Williams' Thompson Memorial Chapel.
In between, there will be free hot chocolate and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus and live music and a reading of "A Christmas Carol" and more.
"I think we're really trying to realize we have a bunch of different audiences in town," Briggs said. "Yes, there's a bunch of families who might enjoy the free screening of 'Elf' at Images Cinema. But we also have older residents who might enjoy a concert at the Clark or something like Lessons and Carols or a gallery talk at Greylock Gallery.
"We're trying to add in things that appeal to everyone."
Sometimes those events are ideas generated by the Holiday Walk organizers. Sometimes they come from the sponsoring businesses and organizations.
"HooRWA definitely came to us with the idea for the walk on Stone Hill," Briggs said.
"I thought at the end of the Holiday Walk a stroll up and around Stone Hill looking back at the town from above would be a peaceful way to end the festivities," said HooRWA board member Elayne Murphy, who will be leading the walk.
On the other hand, some groups, like Greylock Gallery, are approached by the Holiday Walk organizers. That is how Saturday evening's gallery talk with artist John MacDonald came about.
"We asked them if they'd be interested in hosting a gallery talk, and they jumped on it," Briggs said.
"We brainstorm about what could be added and people also do that on their own in their community organizations. At this point, we're not adding anything the Chamber has to coordinate. I'm happy coordinating the Reindog Parade, and we're happy to do the promotion as long as they're willing to do the coordination."
This year's Holiday Walk features events hosted by a few of Spring Street's newest additions. Chapter Two Books, the used book store organized by the Friends of Milne Public Library, will host a children's story time on Saturday afternoon. The Williams College Museum of Art shop will have a button-making activity available all day Saturday. And the lawn in front of the new Williams Inn will be active all day with hot chocolate and lawn games starting at 11 a.m. and a tree lighting and caroling at 5:15.
The latter activity is one that might have a different look than planned before Williamstown received nearly 20 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday.
"We've had a few conversations this morning," Briggs said on Tuesday. "One was regarding the lineup of the Reindog Parade. Usually we say on the lawn in front of Chapin [Hall], and right now it has 2 feet of snow on it. We anticipate the college kids will pack a lot of that down, but Chapin Drive is always clear for emergency reasons.
"The other conversation we've had is the tree lighting at the bottom of the street on what we're calling the Williams Inn lawn. There's a nice, large conifer tree that they're going to light for us. It's in the middle of the park, though so it's not really sidewalk accessible. But the college clears its sports fields of snow all the time, so they might be able to do something.
"Hopefully, the snow is getting people in the mood for the holidays. It provides its own beauty and complications."

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