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The 25-foot fall white spruce is adorned by 20,000 lights, illuminating the area and spreading holiday cheer.
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Mr. and Mrs. Claus make an appearance.

Pittsfield In-Person Tree Lighting Ceremony Returns After 2-Year Hiatus

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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The Laviolette family donated the tree and turned on the lights on Friday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hundreds gathered at Park Square on Friday for the city's first in-person tree lighting ceremony in three years.

The 25-foot tall white spruce is adorned by 20,000 lights, illuminating the area and spreading holiday cheer.

"There are so many kids and families here this evening and I know everyone is anxious to see the beautiful tree that was donated by the Laviolette family," Mayor Linda Tyer said right before the switch was flipped.

"Thank you for your generosity. This tree will provide a whole month of beauty and festivity for all of us to enjoy and I love coming to the tree lighting because when you look all around Park Square, you can see just how beautiful our city is at this time of year."

Jack and Rita Laviolette and their daughter, Justine, donated the tree in memory of Jack's brother George Laviolette, who passed away in October. They said he was a gentle giant, similar to the tree.

"He was a sweetheart," Justine Laviolette said about her late uncle.

The Laviolette's grandchildren took the stage to help light the tree after an enthusiastic countdown from 10.

The Taconic High School chorus and the Berkshire Hills Chorus performed holiday songs at the event.  Across the street, Otto's Kitchen and Comfort held a free hot chocolate bar and photo booth.

Santa and Mrs. Claus made a special entrance on a firetruck and had a meet and greet with the kids. A line of little ones waited patiently to tell Santa what presents they wanted this year in hopes of being on his nice list.

Recreation & Special Events Coordinator Becky Manship said the city has "certainly" been looking forward to this event.

She thanked all involved in the endeavor: the donating family, the parks maintenance crew, Pittsfield Community Television, the highway department, the building maintenance department, police, LP Adams Co., the performers, and Otto's.

Donation bins were set up for nonperishable food items that will go to Christian Center's food pantry.  Manship reminded attendees that they can still bring donations to the center at 193 Robbins Ave. Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person ceremony was not able to happen in 2020 and 2021.  Last year, the city teamed up with PCTV for a virtual tree lighting, which included remote performances and a visit from the Clauses.

PCTV also provided live coverage of the event this year for everyone at home.

The tree lighting is a part of Downtown Pittsfield Inc's "Festive Frolick," which includes a number of holiday events on December 2 and 3 for a variety of ages.

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Pittsfield Kayak Kiosk Proposal Withdrawn After Pushback

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is the "end of the road" for a kayak kiosk proposal after pushback from community members and the City Council.

Whenever Watersports has withdrawn its proposal for a kayak rental program at Onota Lake. Safety concerns arose around the company's self-serve model though it was stipulated that users sign liabilities away with a waiver as part of the process.  

"It's unfortunate. I had hoped the outcome would be different and I think (Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Maddy Brown) and you as well thought this was an opportunity to provide an additional level of services, recreation opportunity to folks at the park through a modern-app-based system," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said to the Parks Commission on Tuesday.

"It would have cost the city nothing to have this sited. We wouldn't be responsible for any maintenance but there would be maintenance to the units and to the boats, etc. Everyone was going to get life preservers and there are instructions through the app so we thought it was it was safe and secure and a good fit for the park."

In December, the commission granted a request for the pilot program and City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta had been reviewing and revising a proposed contract that had not yet been approved. Last week during City Council, residents Daniel Miraglia and Gene Nadeau submitted a petition requesting a legal opinion on the proposal from the solicitor.

Miraglia expressed concerns about the lack of a bidding process, safety hazards, and the impact on a local business that rents kayaks on the lake. Onota Boat Livery owner Caryn Wendling was upset to hear that an out-of-town company would be allowed to operate the kiosk on the same lake as her business and also cited safety concerns.

Councilors asked that Pagnotta look into items such as the commission's authority with entering into contracts and if a bidding process would be needed for this.

Later that week, a request to the Conservation Commission for determination for the kiosk at Burbank Park located within the buffer zone associated with the inland bank was withdrawn. According to the application, it was proposed to be located before the beach area coming from the main parking lot.

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