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Pittsfield Neighborhood Plans Holiday Lights Display on Thanksgiving Eve

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Leona Drive will twinkle with holiday lights and ring with the sound of bells this Thanksgiving eve.
It's the idea of Donna Hanson to "light up your house and ring your bells" to bring some holiday spirit to the neighborhood during a dark year.
"If for anything, it may put a smile on a child's face and keep the faith of 'always believing' in miracles, and together there is nothing you can't succeed or survive when you show kindness and unity in a community," Hanson wrote in an email.
Hanson said it's not so much a formal planned event, but the product of an idea she got one day as her neighbors, the Codeys, were putting up their decorations. 
"It started earlier this week when a neighbor's husband was putting up his Christmas lights and I shouted across the street, 'I love it and let's light up to cheer us up,'" Hanson wrote. "His wife and I suddenly came up with this idea to share this with our neighbors and street to see if others would like to join us."  
After Hanson texted her neighbor Pam Codey to say how much she loved her light display. This is where the idea for the event came about.
Hanson had put her decorations up the week before but hadn't turned them on. She usually waits to the day after Thanksgiving to decorate. The next day, Hanson saw neighbor Drew Pearce putting up his lights and posted a picture of him on a ladder to Facebook that read "I spy one of my favorite, fun neighbors getting into the holiday spirit! Way to go Drew!"
The three neighbors agreed that it would be a great idea to do something together, so Hanson said they decided to blast it out there. The goal is to get the whole neighborhood to participate and create a  fairytale experience for both themselves and bystanders.
Hanson wrote, "the word is spreading and neighbors appear to be frantically putting up lights, window candle lights and even a Grinch to get in the spirit."
Leona Drive is welcoming visitors for a drive-by experience to keep it COVID-19 friendly. At 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening, Nov. 26, Hanson and her neighbors will switch on their holiday lights and open their front doors or windows and sound a bell to ring in the upcoming holiday.
"I thought it just might be kind of cool on Thanksgiving night at 6 p.m. to open your door and hear the bells ring," Hanson said. "And I thought it would be so cool if you can hear it from all the way around and just as a little symbol of unity to say that it won't break our spirit and we're positive and try to have a little bit of fun in the meantime."
Hanson said this has been a really rough year personally and professionally. Between the novel coronavirus putting a damper on her business and the recent loss of her father, Hanson felt she needed something to lift her spirits.
She thinks about her father when decorating for the holidays, as he was an avid decorator and she loves to reminisce on his traditions.
"My father one year took this string of rope and put it from a tree to his roof," she said. "And I don't know how he did it, but he rigged it up so that Santa slid through the rope at night time."
Hanson said she knew it was going to be sad and hard for the world when the COVID-19 pandemic first started, but thought it also might teach people about human kindness. After the first three months, she said the level of collective kindness had died down and there is a lot of anger in the world, most of which she agrees with. Hanson said she just needs to feel like she isn't alone right now.
Many people may be alone for the first time this holiday, she pointed out, and her own son may not be able to come home from Boston to celebrate.
Hanson's big sister lives across the street from her and will be supporting the cause. She joked that she and her sister couldn't be more opposite and her sister thinks Hanson is crazy for already putting her decorations up.  Nonetheless, she will be supporting Hanson with lights and the ring of a bell on Thanksgiving.
The thought is that it will be similar to the Bright Lights in Forest Park event in Springfield, allowing family members to do something together in a time where there is not much to do while costing the city nothing, but yet may bring a glimmer of hope that everyone will get through this together.
Residents will not leave their homes, but use the flick of a switch to light up the street and the sound of bells to let the world know that COVID-19 will not diminish their fight to stay healthy, support one another, and welcome some happiness into everyone's lives.
"I put all of these decorations up and I thought who is going to see them if nobody can leave? I just thought it would be beautiful to open up your door hear the bells and see the whole world lit up," Hanson concluded.
For more information, visit Balderdash Cellar's Facebook page to view Hanson's post on the event.

Tags: Christmas story,   holiday story,   

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Small Business Saturday in the Berkshires

By Jack Guerino & Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shop local on Small Business Saturday.
Communities throughout the county are elevating their small businesses on Small Business Saturday with holiday markets and other special events.
The national effort occurs on Nov. 27, one day after Black Friday when people typically flock to big box stores for holiday shopping. (Some local businesses are getting a head start with "Plaid Friday," a new movement that focuses on local and independent stores.)
Downtown Pittsfield will be celebrating the plethora of locally owned shops, eateries, and businesses it has to offer during Small Business Saturday.
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