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The Reindog Parade will be held Saturday at 2 during the annual Holiday Walk in Williamstown.

Williamstown Holiday Walk Weekend Returns Friday

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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The Holiday Walk features a variety of activities, sales and raffles. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The 40th annual Holiday Walk is bigger than ever, with even more opportunities to ring in the season — in and out of Williamstown.
 
The three-day celebration gets underway on Friday and includes a jam–packed schedule Saturday that begins in the neighboring town of Hancock and ends in the city of North Adams.
 
"There's a ton going on in the region the next couple of weeks," Williamstown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susan Briggs said this week. "I was just on a call talking about that. Berkshire County likes to celebrate our holidays, and there are only a couple of weekends to do it.
 
"It's a busy time."
 
Falling each year just after Thanksgiving and before Williams College turns its attention to final exams, Holiday Walk is one of the signature events of the Williamstown Chamber.
 
And this year, organizers made a slight tweak to one of Holiday Walk's longest standing traditions: the Reindog Parade.
 
"The parade is an hour earlier," Briggs said. "Judging is at 1:30, and the parade will be at 2."
 
After the judging and lineup at the college's Falk Science Quad, dozens of costumed canines and their families will stroll down Spring Street.
 
"We got some feedback from the businesses saying that people tended to start their day after the reindog parade ended," Briggs said. "With it ending at 3:30 … it gets dark and cold by 5 p.m., so there's not a lot of time for people to experience everything. We're trying to give more afternoon time so people could visit everything."
 
Visiting all the Holiday Walk activities might require the stamina of St. Nicholas.
 
According to the Chamber website, there are about three dozen different activities from Friday to Sunday.
 
The weekend begins with candlelight yoga at Tasha Yoga on Spring Street at 5 p.m. Friday. At the same time, on Water Street, Provisions Williamstown, Gramercy Bistro and Roam Gallery will join forces for a "German Style Market." Briggs said the outdoor market will feature stalls offering items from the three vendors.
 
At the Clark Art Institute on Friday at 6, troubadour rocker Johnny Irion will be in concert. That event has a $10 per ticket admission charge.
 
Most of the events of the weekend are free and open to the public. But if you want to carb up for a long day of festivities, you can begin your Saturday at Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock for Breakfast with Santa. The family farm's "Calf-A" will feature specially priced breakfast fare from 8 a.m. to noon.
 
Those who would rather work up an appetite can participate in the annual Run with the Reindeer 5-kilometer fun run starting at 9 a.m. in the Purple Pub courtyard on Spring Street.
 
From 9 to noon on Saturday, visit Williamstown Elementary School for a children's clothing sale to benefit the school's parent-teacher organization.
 
There's also the annual Holiday Showcase and mini Christmas tree silent auction at First Congregational Church to benefit Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity. Individuals and organizations decorate the tiny trees. This year, the event is accepting other holiday decorations including wreaths and menorahs. The display and raffle runs from 1 to 6 p.m. 
 
Spring Street will be the center of the action most of the day on Saturday, with a free screening of "The Grinch" at Images Cinema at 11, activities for children at various businesses, live a capella singing and, of course, the Reindog Parade later in the day.
 
The top of Spring Street is home to Williams' Lasell Gymnasium and the annual site of Holiday Walk's Penny Social and Non-Profit Fair. The fundraiser for the Williamstown Community Chest features a penny auction with prizes for all ages as well as an opportunity to learn more about some of the volunteer groups that serve the town year round.
 
This year, the gym also will be home to the Soup-er Bowl Cook-Off, where for a charge, you can buy a spoon and sample soups from local chefs from noon to 2 p.m.
 
The day wraps up — on Spring Street, at least — with caroling and the 5 p.m. annual tree lighting and menorah lighting at the bottom of the street. Briggs said that with Hanukkah arriving a few days after Holiday Walk, local rabbis will return to the public menorah on Dec. 7 at 4:30 to officially open the Festival of Lights.
 
While Spring Street slows down after the tree is lit, Williams College's Thompson Memorial Chapel offers its second rendition of Stories and Carols at 7 p.m. (the first is at 4). And if you're looking for more raucous caroling, Mingo's Sports Bar and Grill in North Adams offers a Holiday Musical Bingo at 7 p.m., with proceeds to benefit Louison House.
 
Charity is actually a focus throughout Holiday Walk, which kicks off three weeks of targeted donation drives organized by downtown Williamstown businesses. From Dec. 1 to 7, they will be collecting "Non-Perishable Festive Food" (baking supplies, cookie mixes, dried fruit, etc); from Dec. 8 to 14, it will be gifts for children and teens; and from Dec. 15 to 21, the goal is to collect mittens and hats.
 
The main focus on Sunday will be the elementary school, where the cafeteria will be humming with a pancake breakfast from 9 to 11 and a lunch and bake sale from 11:30 to 2 p.m. — all to benefit the sixth-grade class. Meanwhile, the school's gym will host its annual holiday craft festival from 9 to 4. From 1 to 2, the Community Intergenerational Action Orchestra will be in concert in the gym.
 
Sunday also features high and popular culture.
 
For the latter, Images will offer a free screening of "Elf" at 11 a.m. For the former, the Clark Art Institute's monthly First Sunday free event will offer open galleries and art activities for the family from 1 to 4.
 
The Clark also has the honor of closing out Holiday Walk with a free concert, "Sammie and Dan: Singing and Holiday Cheer with Samantha Williams and Dan Rudin," at 3 p.m. Advance registration is suggested.
 
With so much packed into three days and seemingly more added each year, it is inevitable to ask whether it might be time to "rein in" the activities.
 
"I can see it having a little bit of a metamorphosis perhaps because there are so many things going on and staffing and personnel tend to get spread thin," Briggs said. "I see more combining of forces, like the Penny Social and the Soup-er Bowl.
 
"We'll never turn anything away. But we'll see, organically, businesses and organizations partnering to make a bigger buzz about their event."

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Williamstown Decides to Clear Out Water Street Lot

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A long-time de facto parking lot on Water Street will be closed to vehicles as of March 1, the town has announced.
 
The 1.27-acre dirt lot that was most recently the site of the town garage has been used to park cars for decades. But the town has never formally considered it a parking lot, and it is not paved, lined or regulated in any way.
 
The town manager Thursday said that concerns about liability at the site led to a decision to place barriers around the lot to block cars this winter and for the foreseeable future.
 
"Over the fall, we kept an eye on it, and what we were seeing was upward of 160 or 170 cars on any given day," Bob Menicocci said. "It got to the point where, because of its unregulated nature, the Police Department was getting calls for service saying, ‘I'm blocked in. Can you tow this car?' that kind of thing.
 
"It was becoming an untenable situation."
 
The town's observation of the lot found a high percentage of the cars belonged to people connected to Williams College, mainly students who used it for overnight parking. That conclusion is borne out by the way the lot tends to be a lot emptier during college breaks.
 
In the fall, the school's student newspaper ran an article describing the lot as, "a perfectly legal spot to stash a car, and thus, [where] it seems that College students have lucked into a free, convenient parking lot."
 
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