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Ball organizers Alexandra Foradas, left, Veronica Bosley, Andrew Fitch, Kurt Kolok and John Tibbetts at the Elks Lodge. Not pictured are Jennifer Stevens and Shannon McLain Santelli.

North Adams Pride Hosts 'Northern Lights Ball'

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North Adams Pride is inviting the community to glam it up for the first annual Northern Lights Ball this Saturday. 
"The goal of the ball is to not only raise funds for the organization's programing but to also show North Adams and the whole Northern Berkshires that North Adams Pride is here and we are proud and we are loud and proud," Pride organizer Andrew Fitch said. "We can also show everyone a really good time and pull the whole community together, like the demonstration of excellence in coolness and inclusion, I think is the most important part."
The ball offers a chance to support the local LGBTQIA group and to shake off the winter doldrums.
Organizers are decorating Elks Lodge 487 in colorful, uplifting decor to illuminate the party atmosphere that goes hand in hand with its Northern Lights name, Fitch said.
Fellow organizer Kurt Kolok said the name was chosen because the beauty of the northern lights resonates with a lot of people — plus the fact the group is located in the Northern Berkshires made it a fitting name. 
In addition to the connections that Pride organizers have with the lodge, they said its central location, and the funky cool environment makes it a great location for the ball.
Participants are encouraged to dress up in costumes and ball attire to dance to mixes by DJ BFG and experience performances by drag queens Vuronika Baked, Mz. October May Lay, Jackie Leggs and Miss Ginger Soulless 
In addition, Milz 007 and Mz. October May Lay — New England Ballroom performers and creators of Northampton Vogue Nights — will perform and provide opportunities for partygoers to compete in several ballroom categories.
Organizers don't want anyone to be left out. Tickets are $15 to $55 and buyers can opt to purchase a donation ticket and the local Goodwill store has set aside a section full of glitter and glam outfits for those on the hunt for a cost-effective outfit to wear. 
Approximately 116 tickets had been sold as of last week with the goal of 200 to 300 partygoers. 
The event has made waves in other areas with some participants making a weekend out of it, coming from Boston and New York's Hudson Valley, Kolok and Fitch said. 
Kolok said he had bounced around the Boston area but did not truly feel at home until he moved to North Adams more than two decades ago. 
The area's natural beauty, culture, architecture, but most of all the community is what makes it so amazing, he said. 
"I think for me, I love the idea of basically being able to show that there are a lot of LGBTQ-plus people in the Berkshires and specifically in North Adams, and that it's a very welcoming community," Kolok said. 
"This is home for me. I've really learned in the last couple of years that this is the first place my entire life I felt is truly home, and as a gay person, I think it's a little harder to find."
He has been part of the community and out the whole time and never felt uncomfortable or threatened and that, he said, speaks volumes for North Adams. 
The first year that Pride participated in the Fall Foliage parade is what really "hit it home" for Kolok when it came to seeing how welcoming the North Adams is. 
As the float came down Main Street, people jumped out of their chairs to dance and cheer with the drag queens to "iconically gay songs," he said.  

Tags: dance,   pride,   

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MCLA Considering Temporary Homeless Housing on Campus

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is considering turning the vacant Berkshire Towers dorm into a temporary homeless shelter.
President James Birge said on Friday that the college is considering a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development that would supply needed housing for 50 homeless families.
"I look at the mission of the institution, and we talk about educating students to be responsible citizens," Birge said. "I think this models that mission."
Birge said residents would be mostly younger families. He assumed 50 families would generate 25 school-aged children in the Berkshire Towers.
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