Berkshire Family Fun: A Prelude to the Holiday Season

Don’t Leave Us Yet Fall: Snow gives locals a jump on the winter season in the Berkshires but there is still time to squeeze out some last drops of fall!

Snow came early to the Berkshires this year and while many spent their days and nights being lulled to sleep by the terminal humming (or screeching) of their generators, my children took the opportunity to break out the snowmobiles and start the winter season early. But now with the majority of snow melted and a bit of warm weather headed our way, I’ll save a rundown of the snowmobile and skiing opportunities in the region for another column.


This column is on the short side this week because I just returned from a recent trip to northeastern Massachusetts to help care for my sisters two-year-old, Kylee. Needless to say, I’m a little tired, but oh what fun it is to be an aunt. We spent time at the park and library, watched hours of Curious George DVDs, had a couple of carpet picnics and we even mixed it up a little one day and had lunch for breakfast and breakfast for lunch.

Spending that time with Kylee  was so much fun and it gave me time to observe a little bit of all of us in her. That strong stubborn streak? Compliments of myself and my daughter (and possible a cousin or two on Daddy’s side). Her adventurous side? Perhaps my boys (especially Max). Her cooking abilities (man, she can cook a great pancake and hotdog soup in her toy kitchen)? Her daddy. Her ability to spin a good joke (or a least act like anything she or anyone else does is the funniest thing in the world) definitely comes from sister (although her Uncle Mark is pretty good at that, too). And that’s not all she got from mommy … Kylee, apparently, inherited her mother’s obsession with Curious George. While my sister’s 30-plus-year-old tattered George still sits on Kylee’s bookcase, Kylee has myriad versions of the stuffed animal strewn around the house, as well as a full library of George DVDs to watch over and over and over again. Ah, to be two again.

Even if you aren’t as George obsessed as my sister and her two year old, you won’t want to miss the newest exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. On Nov. 12 the museum will unveil “Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Magret and H.A. Rey”, as well as “Pop-UP! The Magical World of Movable Books,” to the public with an opening celebration from 1 to 4 p.m.

Featuring nearly 80 original drawings and preparatory dummies for Margret and H. A. Rey children’s books and documentation related to their escape from Nazi-occupied Europe, the “Curious George exhibit” will examine the parallels between the obstacles the Reys faced and the drawings that may have saved their lives.

Later that evening adults can partake in an event beginning at 5:30 and running through 7:30 p.m. that aims to interpret the role that Curious George played in safeguarding his own creators in times of danger as symbolic, Claudia Nahson, curator at the Jewish Museum, delves into the remarkable lives and works of Margret and H. A. Rey, who in 1940, fled Paris with a Curious George manuscript in their suitcase. Art and documentation related to their escape from Nazi-occupied Europe, and the parallels between the obstacles the couple faced and the drawings that may have saved their lives will be explored. Claudia Nahson is the curator of “Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H.A. Rey.” A festive reception will follow.

The history and wonder of pop-up books will be brought to life in “The Magical World of Movable Books” exhibit featuring Barbara and Bernard Shapiro’s extensive collection of movable literature for the young and the young at heart. The exhibition will feature diverse genres, from whimsy and fantasy to the worlds of art, history and science. Published books by the Munich-based illustrator Lothar Meggandorfer (1847-1925), multimedia artist Red Grooms, and pop-up masters Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart will be on view with selected original illustrations that have made these amazing published pop-ups possible. Original book illustrations also will be on view. For more information on both exhibits visit


The exhibit is on view through Feb. 5 and you can win a family pass to go see it!!! All you need to do is let us know at the bottom of this column what you and your children are most excited to see at the Norman Rockwell Museum, and why by next Thursday, Nov. 17, and you will be entered in a random drawing to win the passes. Be sure to check back on Friday, Nov. 18, to see if you have won, with directions on how to get your family pass.


The Milne Library in Williamstown is known for its stellar array of children’s programming and this Saturday, Nov. 12, the children’s department will do it again. At 1 p.m. the library will present a program titled “Moxie: The Dachshund of Fallingwater” featuring curator of education at Fallingwater and visiting professor, Cara Armstrong. Fallingwater is the name of a very special house that is built over a waterfall located in southwest Pennsylvania. Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect, designed the house for his clients, the Kaufmann family. Fallingwater was built between 1936 and 1939. It instantly became famous, and today it is a National Historic Landmark.

Armstrong will be reading aloud and discussing her children’s book “Moxie: The Dachshund of Fallingwater.” In an earlier interview, Armstrong described her book this way: “”I wanted to make Fallingwater more accessible to kids and architecture more accessible to kids. Moxie embodies the four design themes of Fallingwater — the cantilever, the cascade, the circle (or semicircle), and the horizontal. I think kids of any age will enjoy this book, even grown-up kids.” – The library is located at 1095 Main St. in Williamstown.

Also on Saturday, Nov. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Rudolf Steiner School in Great Barrington will host its 39th annual Holiday Handcraft Fair, featuring activities for children such as puppet shows, hayrides, candle-dipping, a country store, raffles and more. The school is located on West Plain Road in Great Barrington. For more information call 413-528-4015 or visit


As the holiday season’s approach it often seems as if our minds turn to helping others more often than at other times during the year. Food and toy drives crop up at every nonprofit, mall courtyard, and school in the area, and volunteer numbers at soup kitchens, food pantry’s and other deserving organizations begin to rise.

Like every year, the Pittsfield Library gets a jump on the giving by offering a modified fines amnesty. Those of you who have been less than timely about getting those borrowed books back to the library by the due date can have their fines forgiven when you donate nonperishable food items, to benefit local food banks, at the library.

No fines for you? Donations of food items are still much appreciated, so maybe as you head on over to one of the library’s children’s department’s weekly Friday preschool films, you can have your child drop some items in the donation bin and start their philanthropic futures early.

The library is closed this Friday in observance of Veterans Day, but beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18, the library will screen “Happy Birthday, Moon,” “The Most Wonderful Egg in the World,” and “Milo’s Hat Trick.” The programs last approximately 20 to 30 minutes. For more information call 413-499-9480, ext. 5.


The last of our soccer tournaments wrapped up Sunday, and by Monday evening my daughter was back on the courts for travel basketball tryouts. So much for a break. The Pittsfield Public School’s is kicking off their basketball season with a benefit 3 on 3 basketball tournament for former varsity girls’ basketball coach at both Taconic and Pittsfield high schools, Bob O’Neil and his family, following his recent diagnosis of ALS, Lou Gherig’s disease.

Having just lost a young friend to the disease, I can tell you all, this is a cause worth supporting. Mr. O’Neil’s family is in for a long haul, but with significant funds he can acquire many of the tools and supports needed to continue leading as normal a life as possible as the disease progresses.

The tournament is set for Friday, Nov. 11, from 4 to 10 p.m. at Pittsfield High School. While each team must consist of a minimum of three players, up to four players can be registered to a team. The event is open to people ages 14 to adult, with both male and female divisions: team members can span multiple ages and each team will be guaranteed a minimum of three games.

If you don’t play, maybe you and your family might want to stop in, cheer on the participants and make a donation while you are there.

For more information regarding the Bob O’Neil Benefit 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament, to make a donation, or to register your team, contact Heather McNeice (413-770-2746 or or AnnMarie Carpenter (413-358-8015 or


I recently came across a press release for an interesting event being sponsored by Whole Families, a relatively new organization in the Berkshires. Intrigued to know more about the organization I sent a quick e-mail to the founders, Rebecca Schirber and Susan Davis, to learn more. Here is the response I received:

“Our goal at Whole Families is to provide resources, activities and contacts that empower users to rediscover the lost art of family and good health… Commercialism and big business pull society towards materialism. We want to remind people that family and good health are our most precious possessions, but they don’t “Just Happen”, they need to be nurtured… Whole Families wants to help. We believe that establishing healthy family units can change the world for the better.

“‪Rebecca Schirber is an acupuncturist and food innovator who practices in Berkshire County, coaching individuals on how to optimize their health through healthy lifestyle practices. I, Susan Davis, have been an active youth minister and sometimes lay minister for the past 30 years in my church in Richmond. We both will bring our own unique gifts and talents to the table to create workshops, retreats, conference calls and classes for the families we work with.

“Whole Families will offer a workshop this Sunday, Nov. 13, beginning at 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church located at 175 Wendell Ave. in Pittsfield titled “Turn Down the Heat on the Holiday Pressure Cooker.” The workshop will offer families the opportunity to relieve themselves of the recent stresses in their lives caused by events like the stock market upheaval, increased natural disaster activity and job insecurity and refocus on what is really important — good health and family.

“There will be a discussion on how family traditions can reduce stress while creating stronger family bonds and secure personal identities. Also, included at the workshop will be a guided meditation with free ear acupuncture for ages 13 and above and a class on relaxing with the animals for children 4 through 12. Families will work together to create a thankful holiday centerpiece that can be taken home and displayed. The evening will end with a wholesome family sit-down dinner sponsored by Berkshire Organics.”

For more information and registration contact Rebecca Schirber 410-868-5178 or Susan Davis at


I love the Christmas holidays, and no sooner is there snow on the ground than my husband, Mark, has the Christmas tunes crooning in the background of our everyday lives. Too bad for him the first snow came so early this year, the holiday channel hadn’t emerged on the television playlist yet, and I had hidden his holiday CDs.

But if you get as excited as my husband about the upcoming season and want to get a jumpstart on your display of holiday spirit, you might want to attend a performance of the Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. The performances are slated for tonight, Nov. 9, and tomorrow, Nov. 10, with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. at the Castle Street venue. It’s pricey, but come on, it’s “The Nutcracker” after all. For more information visit or


Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly Bevan McIlquham writes our bi-monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, sharing update, events and activities for families in the Berkshires.  Kelly is a freelance writer living in Hinsdale with her husband, Mark, and three children — 12-year-old twins, Max and McKenna, and almost-10-year-old, Shea. She has had her work published in The Advocate, The Family Beat and Berkshires Week out of Berkshire County, and the former Wee Ones E-magazine. She also authors a new blog and Facebook page titled “Renaissance Mom.” — Check out Berkshire Family Fun every other Thursday.

One Comment on “Berkshire Family Fun: A Prelude to the Holiday Season

  1. Lots of good information for families – GREAT JOB – I think Kylee gets her sweetness from her Mima!

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