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Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Pittsfield tree lighting in 2019. They and their helpers will be calling city children next week who have signed up for the North Pole calling program.

Santa to Continue Historical Tradition of Calling Pittsfield Children

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Ho, ho ho, pick up the phone!

Santa's annual tradition of calling Pittsfield children around the holidays continues this year.

Kids will get a call from the man himself, Mrs. Claus, or one of their trusty elves on Wednesday, Dec. 15, and Thursday, Dec. 16, between 5 and 7:30 p.m.

The North Pole Calling Program is conducted through the city's Department of Community Development Recreation Program and has been around for even longer than people may expect; possibly almost eighty years.

"It's a long-standing program that we definitely want to keep the traditional alive for," Recreation & Special Events Coordinator Becky Manship said. "It's a great program."

Recently, Manship and Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath were looking through city scrapbook archives and found evidence that suggested the program may have been going on since 1945.

"After the [World War II], recreation programs really took off in the city of Pittsfield, and this one is, we believe, one of the ones that was included as the Halloween parade, and the tree lighting and all the other programs started back then," she explained, adding that it is one of the most beloved programs the city has.

Forms are sent home through the schools so that parents can sign their children up for a call.  Traditionally, it is aimed at children from kindergarten to second grade but older kids, or anyone who believes, are more than welcome to participate as well.

There are also virtual forms available on the city's website and additional hard copies at the city clerk's office at City Hall. Forms must be submitted by Monday, Dec. 13, so that Santa can plan accordingly.

Because of Santa's long calling list, there is no guarantee that a child will be called on a specific day.  There is space on the form to request a preferred day but there is no guarantee that he will call on that day, though he will try.

Last year, North Pole residents made 105 calls.

So far, there are 43 forms sent in for calls. Manship said this is a good turnout so far.

There will be about a dozen helpers who are a mix of city staff and volunteers.

The program persevered during the thick of COVID-19 last year with some minor adjustments. In previous years, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the other volunteers gathered in Manship's office to make the calls, but last year they were made from their own homes.

Calls will also be made from the homes this year and Manship has curated some messaging to give families a heads up if they receive a Santa call from a blocked number.

"I would like to give you a heads up about the North Pole Calling Program as the way the elves are making the calls is a little different this year. Instead of coming from the city of Pittsfield call center, the elves are connecting the children to Santa from their homes," she wrote.

"Some callers may be blocking their numbers and therefore the call may appear as Anonymous or Blocked and go straight to voicemail depending on your call settings. If you have an iPhone, it may be set to Silence Unknown Callers so the call will go straight to voicemail, so we are asking you to check and turn this setting off during our North Pole calling time."

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Parks Commission Updated on Pittsfield's Outdoor Recreation Projects

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Parks Commission on Tuesday received updates on various outdoor recreation projects happening within the city.

A bike skills track in Springside Park and a master vision for improvements at Pontoosuc Lake Park are on the horizon.

After a year of deliberating, the track's design was approved in December pending the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the commission and the Berkshire Chapter of the New England Mountain Biking Association, who are paying for the project through fundraising.

Commissioner Anthony DeMartino reported that since the approval, there has been discussion between himself and the city Purchasing Agent Colleen Hunter-Mullett, City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta, and Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath about the MOU.

DeMartino said they are making sure that every box is checked properly.

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