Berkshire Family Fun: July in the Berkshires of Western MA
The Fun Just Goes On and On in the Berkshires!
A recent five-day trip to Alabama had me counting down the minutes until an airplane would take me back to my awaiting Hyundai at Bradley Airport where I could drive the brief hour and twenty minute journey home. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the fact that I was with the in-laws, but Alabama definitely wasn’t for me. My husband, the kids and I stayed in the Tuscaloosa area, home of the Crimson Tide, and though the landscape was prettier than I expected (other than a few days hanging out on Lake Tuscaloosa and a amazing backstage tour of the Bryant-Denny football stadium, locker room and all, at the University of Alabama, the major highlight of our trip) there wasn’t a whole lot to do… and if there was, it was too darn hot to muster up the energy to do any of it. We did get to spend time with family that we don’t get to see often (which was nice), and a trip to Alabama Adventure, a water/adventure park in Birmingham by brother-in-law describes as the “Three Flags” of Alabama (as opposed to Six Flags up here), but I would take the Berkshires over Alabama any day (unless I was able to score some prime seats for a football game in that majestic UofA stadium).
Adventure in the Berkshires
We may not have Alabama Adventure or Six Flags, but the Berkshires does boast a number of adventure parks of its own. Bousquet in Pittsfield opened it’s new aerial adventure park earlier this summer with three challenge courses at varying difficulty levels consisting of over forty elements that range from low-to-the-ground beginner courses to expert courses hanging thirty feet in the air! The winter ski area also offers a small water park with three giant waterslides and an activity pool with three small pools of its own, mini-golf, go-karts, a climbing wall, bungy trampoline, a zip line and more to entertain all of its summer patrons. This is a destination guaranteed to provide hours of fun for family members of all ages. Trust me! We have spent many an hour there during summers past. For more information go to www.bousquets.com.
Another “winter ski area turned summer fun destination” is Jiminy Peak in Hancock. The area got a jump on Bousquet installing its aerial adventure park a year earlier with five different courses of varying levels and over 70 elements. I tried this course out with an employee and the owner of Absolutely Experiential the local company that designed and built the course last year and almost suffered from heat exhaustion when I attempted the most difficult course on my second try. I made it, but it wasn’t pretty when I almost tossed my breakfast on one of the final platforms. Lucky for me I didn’t eat any breakfast that day. Note to readers: Go easy on yourself, no matter what course you choose it is sure to unleash your inner-adventurer and provide you with hours of entertainment (and exercise). Like Bousquet, Jiminy also has a number of other activities at its mountain adventure park to tempt the risk-takers and those less adventurous types, including a mountain coaster, alpine slide, giant swing, climbing wall, spider web inflatable slide, kids climb . Need I go on? For more information on all that Jiminy has to offer including mountain biking and hiking opportunities visit www.jiminypeak.com.
The last of the adventure parks in the area can be found at Catamount in South Egremont and Hillsdale, N.Y. Catamount is the largest of the area’s adventure parks with eleven courses, 162 platforms and over 40 zip lines. The park even features two, 2000-foot zip lines. Want to find out more? Let your typing fingers take you www.catamounttrees.com.
My 9-year-old son is an avid drummer and periodically he will head up to his room to begin a chore and end up lost in the rhythm in his head as it pours LOUDLY out of his drumsticks and throughout the house. It is my experience that drums seem to fascinate young children in general, so here are a few upcoming opportunities for families to follow a beat of their own:
On Mondays at 6 p.m. at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts (28 Renne Ave. in Pittsfield) parents and mature teens are invited to participate in an Afro-Caribbean and West African Hand Drumming class with Aimee Gelinas of Gaia Roots. Participants with experience drumming through the use of traditional instruments such as the conga, djembe, djun djun, clave, cascara, bell and shekere. All skill levels are welcome. Classes are drop in. For more information call 413-499-9348.
Another drumming program, offered in conjunction with the Adams Free Library‘s youth summer reading program, is Otha Day’s “Drum to the Beat” program set for Thursday, July 14, at 6 p.m. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Day when I was writing a story last year about the healing power of drum circles and I can tell you he is one amazing and inspiring man. Day is an accomplished pianist who experienced a stroke a number of years ago. Against all odds he turned to drumming to fulfill his musical needs because his fingers no longer glided gracefully across the ivory keys, something that had been a way of life for him for years. Within a few weeks weeks of drumming though Day was nearly back to 100 percent physically and mentally, and when he experienced a second stroke soon after, he turned to drumming once again and was up, moving around and back to normal within a couple of weeks. That drumming led to Day’s exploration into, and later leading of, drum circles that have been used to encourage communication, community and creativity, to foster connections, cooperation and collaboration and to promote stress reduction and a healthy lifestyle. Day now takes his drum circles around the county to introduce community members to his practice, as well as to entertain and bring communities together. For more information about Otha Day’s appearance in Adams call 413-743-8345. To learn more about Otha Day and his drum circles log onto www.drumtothebeat.com.
While midnight showings of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2” at the Triplex (Great Barrington) and the Beacon Cinema (Pittsfield) will celebrate the release of the last of the Harry Potter film legacy, tonight Thursday, July 14, visitors to the Lenox Library can experience all things Harry Potter at the library’s Harry Potter event from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The evening’s activities will feature a Quidditch demonstration, tour of Hogwarts, Honeydukes candy sale, original shadow puppet play produced by Hogwarts students, owl-drawing demonstration and more. The library is located at 18 Main St. in Lenox. Call 413-637-0197 for more details.
A couple of weeks ago I gave a shout-out to the number of communities offering free outdoor movies throughout the county and I recently found out that due to some work being done at the Common the Pittsfield movies will be shown at Clapp Park on West Housatonic Street this year. The lineup for the next couple of week’s includes:
- Friday, July 15: “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” Park Street, Adams, dusk. www.celebrateadams.com; “Despicable Me,” Clapp Park, 8:30 p.m. West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield. 413-499-9370.
- Sunday, July 17: “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” dusk. Spring Street, Williamstown. imagescinema.org.
- Friday, July 22: “Nanny McPhee Returns,” Clapp Park, 8:30 p.m. West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield. 413-499-9370; “Kicking and Screaming,” dusk. Park St., Adams. celebrateadams.com.
- Sunday, July 24: “Funny Face,” dusk. Spring Street, Williamstown. imagescinema.org.
While towns are moving the movie theaters outside for families to enjoy there are plenty of family-friendly performing arts theaters throughout for the whole family to enjoy. Williamstown Theatre Festival moves outside with their free production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” by William Shakespeare July 14-16 and July 19-22 at 7 p.m. at Poker Flats Field in Williamstown. Then Friday, July 15 performance is preceded by WTF’s Kids Theatre Day at 5 p.m. that will feature a chance for kids to act, laugh and play with members of the company. More information can be found at www.wtfestival.org.
BTF Plays! continues to present “Hansel and Gretel’s Grimm Tale” at the Berkshire Museum Wednesdays-Saturdays at 11 a.m. Visit www.berkshiremuseum.org.
The Mac-Haydn Theatre in nearby Chatham, N.Y., will present the next production in its summer Children’s Theatre series “Rodney, The Reluctant Dragon,” featuring lots of fun and bouncy songs as Rodney tries to follow his dreams instead of being bad like other dragons, at 10:30 a.m. July 15-16 and July 22-23. Call 518-392-9292 or go to machaydntheatre.org for more details.
This year Edith Wharton’s The Mount on Plunkett Street in Lenox, former home of Shakespeare & Company, will once again offer outdoor theater performances and they kick it off with the classic fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” with previews on July 18 and 19. The performance is presented in partnership with the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge and The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield and it is adapted by Eric Hill. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. and run through July 30, Monday through Saturday. Go to www.edithwharton.org or call 800-838-3006 for more details.
One of my favorite Berkshire County haunts is the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. I don’t get there quite as often as I would like but I do try to bring my family there at least once a summer. Last year we enjoyed an afternoon playing at the Cartoon Network’s “Move it Movement” traveling tour outdoors and earlier in the year we attended a family day featuring the illustrations of Peter de Seve, creator of “The Ice Age” characters, that he did for his wife, Randall de Seve’s, children’s book “The Duchess of Whimsy.” This year de Seve’s work is gracing the gallery walls once again with other work from his colleagues at Blue Sky Studios in the museum’s exhibit “Ice Age to the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios.” There are a number of upcoming family-friendly events scheduled in conjunction with the exhibit including a “Blue Skies” Family Day on Saturday, July 16, from 1 to 6 p.m. featuring The Lost Boys ― four talented artists from Blue Sky Studios who wil llook at the process of digital animation for feature length films. Nick Bruno, Scott Carroll, Paul Downs, and Peter Paquette will offer insights into how beloved characters from “Robots,” “Ice Age,” and “Rio” were brought to life. Family exhibition tours, hands-on workshops, and the opening of “Robot Nation,” a special outdoor exhibition, will delight visitors of all ages. www.nrm.org
Want a chance to experience the museum with your child? Then you can head to Stockbridge on Wednesday, July 20, from 10-11:30 a.m. for the Norman Rockwell Museum’s “Creating Together: A Parent-Child Experience” program, an interactive art experience for parents and children ages 4 and up. I’m not sure exactly what these programs entail but I’m eager to find out. If you have attended a similar program at the museum, let me know what you think so I can let others know!
It’s that time again! Yup, the Bang on a Can Festival has returned to MASS MoCA in Williamstown for its 10th anniversary season and once again the museum will play host to musicians from around the world. This year the museum will celebrate a three-week long birthday party through July 30 featuring live music every day with daily gallery recitals, free community performances, kids events, two major concerts and more. On Saturday, July 16, at 11 a.m. the festival will present its Kids Can Too! performance where musicians David Cossin and Todd Reynolds will lead audience members in this hands-on, audience participation concert for the whole family. For a complete schedule of Bang on a Can events visit www.massmoca.org.
OK, I know you have heard about this event in the last few columns of mine, but really it is THAT GOOD! This weekend Northern Berkshire Healthcare will bring back Circus Smirkus to Williamstown for its 2011 Big Top Tour as a fundraiser for NBH’s community health programs. This is an animal-free, acrobatic circus with performers ranging from age 11 to 18, and it was surely the highlight of our summer last year. (Well, that and the Red Sox game.) This year the circus will present four shows to Mount Greylock Regional High School at 1 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17. For tickets and information call 413-664-5073 or go to www.smirkus.org.
Note: If you miss Circus Smirkus in the Berkshires you can always catch it in the Pioneer Valley region when it makes a stop in Wilbraham at Spec Pond for four shows: Friday, July 22, at 1 and 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 23, at 2 and 7 p.m.
There is just so much to do in the Berkshires during the summer months that I have such a hard time time narrowing it down for this column, but alas I must cut this column off somewhere right? But here are a few more upcoming events that may tempt your fun-loving selves and have your kids nominating you for the “Funnest” Parent of the Year Award!
Saturday, July 16: Bartholomew’s Cobble, “Up Close: Snakes and Turtles” with a Trustees of Reservations naturalist teaching how to find and safely handle these critters and discover their habits and homes, 10 a.m.-noon. Registration requested. Weatogue Road, Sheffield. 413-229-8600 or www.thetrustees.org.
Saturday, July 16: Hinsdale Fire Department, 13th annual block dance, featuring six bands (Leon Savage Band, Lulu & the Shoemakers, Corvettes, Arthur Holmes Band, Whiskey City Band and WYKYD) playing on two stages and a spectacular fireworks display (9:30 p.m.), 5 p.m.-midnight. Route 143, Hinsdale. 413-655-8084 or hinsdalefire.org.
Sunday, July 17: St. Joseph church, Polish Picnic 2011, featuring Polish and American food, Kiddy Land with Mr. Bouncy Bounce, games and more, noon to 6 p.m. 414 North St. Pittsfield.
Monday, July 18: Family Resource Center, sprinkler time, with children invited to bring their suits and enjoy running through the sprinklers, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Free. Haskins Center, Route 8, North Adams. www.ccberkshire.org.
Thursday, July 21: Lenox Library, Buti on Parade Family Concert, 2 p.m.18 Main St. 413-637-0197.
Saturday, July 23: Hinsdale Fire Department, 13th annual Firemen’s Muster, featuring kids muster (2 p.m.), water polo (6 p.m.), music featuring Shut up & Dance and the Tom Filiault Band (7 p.m.-midnight) and bonfire (10 p.m.) Free. Route 143, Hinsdale. 413-655-8084 or www.hinsdalefire.org.
Saturday, July 23: Izaak Walton Field, Otis Celebration Day, featuring “Taste of Otis,” children’s activities, arts festival, pancake breakfast (7 a.m.-11 a.m.), musical performances by Bruce Mandel, folk singer (9 a.m.) Berkshire Bateria (4 p.m.), DJ Richie O’ (6:30 p.m.) and the Dooley Austin Band (9 p.m.) and more. www.townofotisma.com.
Sunday, July 24: Hinsdale Fire Department, 13th annual Firemen’s Muster, followed by muster featuring teams from the New England Muster Association, 1 p.m. Route 143, Hinsdale. 413-655-8084 or www.hinsdalefire.org.
Monday, July 25: Susan B. Anthony Celebration, annual street fair, featuring 70 vendors, entertainment, games and more, 6-9 p.m. Park Street, Adams. www.celebrateadams.com.
Tuesday, July 26: The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, outdoor concert series, featuring traditional Ugandan band Kinobe, barbecue fair and opportunity to tour galleries. 6 p.m. 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kelly Bevan McIlquham ♦ Berkshire Family Fun
Kelly Bevan McIlquham writes our bi-monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, sharing update, events and activities for families in the Berkshires. Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, a chocolate lab, a very fat cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate and the Editor of The Family Beat in the Berkshires. Kelly also dabbles in writing for children and has had her non-fiction published by Wee Ones online family magazine. When not writing or editing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games. firstname.lastname@example.org — Check out Berkshire Family Fun the first and third Thursday of each month.