31 Community Highlights: Balloon Parade to Puppets. Wild Turkeys to Kitchen Science.

Families can make their own holiday gifts at many of the craft fairs happening now through the holiday season. Families can make their own glass ornaments this weekend at Snow Farm’s Seconds Sale in Williamsburg, MA. It’s a great way for older kids to learn about this skilled craft while making a family keepsake for the holidays. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Balloon Parade to Puppets. Family Volunteering to Shopping Local. Wild Turkeys to Kitchen Science… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week, including fun things to do on Black Friday other than going to the mall! Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


Music from different cultures and genres will be performed this weekend in Western MA. At noon on Saturday, Nov. 17th at the Pelham Library, Ricardo Frota will be performing, “Sounds from the Brazilian Rainforest: The Ecology of Sound.” This free performance emulates the sounds, rhythms, and feelings of the rainforest, and also includes music from indigenous cultures around the world.

Balinese Gamelan, an innovative cross-cultural form of music, will be performed by Gamelan Galak Tika at Williams College on Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th. Balinese Gamelana is a music style which features gongs, mellophones, and hand drums to create a percussion-heavy hammer-like sound. This free performance takes place in Chapin Hall in Williamstown.

In the evening on Saturday, Nov. 17th, older children with audience skills can take in a performance of a capella music by local a capella groups at Smith College in Northampton, or an evening of blues and gospel music at the Village Congregational Church in Cummington. Both performances would also be a great choice for a date night!


On Saturday, Nov. 17th kids can choose from chemistry in Berkshire County or engineering in Franklin County. In the late morning the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield hosts Kitchen Kaboom! – a hands-on science activity for kids where they will learn to use kitchen materials to do safe but exciting (and simple!) science experiments. The Sunderland Library has a free LEGO Club that meets this morning too. Children ages 6yo+ and their adults can come and practice their engineering and architectural skills while getting creative and sharing their inventions. Space is limited for both events, so call ahead.

There’s a free LEGO club that meets mid-week too. The Berkshire Athenaeum’s LEGO club meets on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 21st. This month’s meeting’s theme is favorite foods – kids can use blocks to make food-inspired creations, work together to develop ideas, and use the blocks to discover and experiment with basic principles of architecture and design.


On Saturday, Nov. 17th there are a couple of opportunities for kids to learn about local wild birds with Mass Audubon!

Wild turkeys are easy to spot in Western Massachusetts – they seem to be in nearly everyone’s backyard! On Saturday morning, come to Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton to learn about turkey feathers, turkey habitat, turkey habits, and more – then explore the sanctuary’s trails and search for some real live turkeys. Kids can also learn firsthand about bird banding on Saturday morning at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox. Visitors can watch as birds are caught in mist nets, then banded in order to be tracked and used for data collection. Participants will also be able to help record data, and learn what the information collected from banded birds is used for!


Take a hike! Explore the trails at High Ledges in Shelburne on Saturday morning, Nov. 17th and see panoramic views of the Deerfield Valley. The area is home to a wide variety of trees – practice identifying them while adventuring. Open to adults and older teens and lead by Mass Audubon. Later in the week on Wednesday morning, Nov. 21st, hike the Vermont-Massachusetts border with the Trustees of Reservations at Mountain Meadow in Williamstown! The hike will take visitors to the summit of Mason Hill – bring snacks and lots of water.


Apples were important in the diet of early Deerfield settlers- many homes even had their own orchards! Learn about the varieties of apples grown and the dishes created with at Historic Deerfield on Saturday, Nov. 17th (and Friday, Nov. 23rd). There will also be a craft activity where visitors can make their own apple pomander ornaments to take home.

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 18th, learn about the “new elite” in colonial American at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Museums. Museum Docent Betty Romer will lead a tour of the galleries, during which participants will learn about the history behind the artistic representations of the new Americans who made fortunes in commerce and banking. Best for older students, the tour fits well with studies of art history and early American history.

Want to learn how to “read” old photographs with the Pelham Historical Society? On Monday evening, Nov. 19th, Doug and Justin Kimball (of Kimball Auctions and Amherst College’s Art Department, respectively) will help attendees learn about photographs, and participants are encouraged to bring photos of their own to share and learn about! Takes place at the Community Center in Pelham.


Kids love puppets! Plus they’re great for encouraging creative free-play! On Saturday morning, Nov. 17th, at the Hatfield Library, there will be a morning of creative puppet play where kids can practice their puppetry skills, create characters, and use puppets to create a puppet production. A little later at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, families can watch puppeteer Jonathan Keezing’s production of Timeless Tales. Keezing uses unique and diverse puppetry styles to tell fables and folktales. Both opportunities are free.

On stage, in the afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 17th, and Friday, Nov. 23rd, Picture Book Theater presents Eric Carle’s The Very Quiet Cricket and The Very Lonely Firefly – puppet style! – at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. See these classic children’s stories come alive with all of the beauty of Carle’s signature collaged illustrations.


It’s so easy to shop local and handmade this holiday season! Choices even include recycled, repurposed and make your own! Here are a few craft and holiday fairs happening this Saturday, Nov. 17th to consider, but not an exhaustive list by any measure.

Looking for more ideas? Stop by River Valley Market Co-op in Northampton and check out the show in their gallery, Hilltown Families: Traveling Photography Exhibit. All images are from Western MA and the proceeds benefit Hilltown Families. Also, check out Sarah’s column this month for several more great suggestions, including a few of her favorite independently owned stores in the Valley, in her post Handmade, Independent and Local for the Holidays in Western MA.


Volunteering as a family is a fun way for families to create memories together while making a significant contribution to their communities. Over on our Facebook page we’ve shared several ways families can contribute to their community, including:

  • Clean up Burbank Park in Pittsfield this Sunday, Nov. 18th, home of Berkshire Bioblitz.
  • Crafternoon” this Sunday, Nov. 18th in Ashfield to help create items for Christmas Crafts for the Cure.
  • Socks for Seniors,” a sock drive at Florence Savings Bank for a program that supports the Highland Valley Elder Services.
  • Donation drives at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg that support the Hilltown Food Pantry, Northampton Survival Center and the Dakin PV Humane Society
  • An all-ages holiday card craft to benefit Concord Prison outreach project at the Greenfield Library

And much more! We post daily updates to our Facebook page, so make sure you “Like” our page. But “Liking” our page isn’t just enough… Facebook has changed the rules for organizations so that you won’t see all of our posts unless you do more than “like” our page. Find out how you can receive all of our juicy Facebook updates in your Facebook newsfeed!

Have you heard yet about the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night? Join Hilltown Families for an evening of volunteering together with your family during our first ever Family Community Service Night. On Friday, November 30th from 4:30-7:30pm in Northampton, families can come together for a fun evening visiting five different volunteer stations, each offering a simple, hands-on service project for all ages. Volunteering as a family helps children learn values like kindness, respect and friendliness, and on this evening you can volunteer with five different local non-profits in a single evening! This is a free event, however, space is limited. Reserve a spot for your family today! Can’t make it but want to volunteer for the event? We have an acquisition list of things we need for the night of if you’d like to help us collect what we need. Email swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org for a list of what we are looking for.


Looking for something to do on the day after Thanksgiving rather than going to the malls to shop? Here are six suggestions:

  1. Visit the Amelia Park Children’s Museum in Westfield to explore the exhibits and play… and meet Santa, too! He’ll be visiting just for the day, so visit him while you can.
  2. Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox will kick off its 5th annual A Home for the Holidays program. The 1893 mansion will be lavishly decorated for a Gilded Age Christmas by a host of volunteers, among them the Ventfort Hall Flower Ladies.
  3. Celebrate the unofficial kick-off of the winter holidays with the Springfield Museums where there will be a special holiday puppet show, holiday art projects, science activities, and a chance to see the museum’s gingerbread house contest exhibit!
  4. Watch the Cat in the Hat (and many of his friends) parade through downtown Springfield in the annual Parade of Big Balloons! It’s like a mini-version of the Thanksgiving parade in New York – without the travel.
  5. Dress warmly and head to Moonlight Magic, the village of Shelburne Fall’s annual holiday stroll. Over 1,000 luminaries line the street and sidewalks to create a festive atmosphere. The event includes Lighting of the Village, Parade of Lights, Visits with Santa, Carolers, Street Performers, Vendors, Classic Cartoons, and Trolley Rides!
  6. Forest Park is lit up for the Holidays! Springfield’s annual Bright Nights display features intricate, sparkly scenes throughout the park – there are elaborate displays, as well as decorative lights everywhere. Celebrate the holidays with a drive through the park to enjoy the festive displays!

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.


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