Winter Celebrations Warm Up Western MA!
During this part of the year, the cold and dark make it difficult to truly enjoy the outdoors. For the past month, temperatures in the single digits have kept kids and adults alike on the couch instead of in the snow… and we’re all starting to get cabin fever! Luckily, mid-winter ’tis the season for winter festivals, and the coming weeks bring a deluge of indoor and outdoor community celebrations happening in all four counties of Western MA!
The town of Greenfield’s annual Winter Carnival kicks off winter festival season this weekend, bringing three days of winter sports, delicious food, performances, contests, and more to Franklin County. Ice sculptures will decorate the streets of downtown Greenfield between January 31st and February 2nd, and events for folks of all ages will bring life to snowy landscapes and indoor refuges across town. Highlights of Winter Carnival include Friday night fireworks (accompanied by a bonfire and fire dancers) at Beacon Field, the annual 4 mile Sleigh Bell Run, indoor and outdoor ice skating (plus hockey games galore!), snowshoe treks and demonstrations, cardboard sled races, and a weekend-long bonfire stocked with loads of marshmallows for toasting.
The following weekend, Amherst celebrates Winterfest , an annual day-long event held at Cherry Hill Golf Course. On Saturday, February 8th between 1 and 6pm, the Golf Course – usually quiet and empty this time of year – will be filled with excitement. Families can spend the afternoon sledding and cross country skiing, and can test their snow skills in the Cardboard Classic Box Race. To add education to excitement, families can participate in bird watching walks, where common winter birds and their calls and food sources will be pointed out. Chilly kiddos can warm up (and chow down) at the Chili Contest, where delicious creations from locals will be featured. Don’t leave too early, though – the event ends with fireworks, a must-see if it’s a clear, crisp evening.
Folks on the other side of the Connecticut River have another option for winter fun during the same weekend! This year, Easthampton’s WinterFest brings special events to the city on February 7th and 8th. The bulk of the excitement takes place on Saturday, February 8th, beginning with pancakes & polka music at a special Hilltown Families Saturday Morning Music Party at Flywheel. After you’ve danced your heart out with your kids and enjoyed free pancakes at the music party, head out on the town for outdoor adventures at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, a chili competition at the high school (70 Williston Avenue), traditional ice harvesting on Nashawannuck Pond, horse-drawn wagon rides through town, a bonfire, and the 6th annual Fire and Ice Art Walk, which highlights the work of local artists and artisans at locations throughout downtown Easthampton.
The most event-filled of all of western Massachusetts’ winter festivals is the city of Holyoke’s Winter Carnival. Spanning ten days, Winter Carnival celebrates not only winter and outdoor fun but local culture and traditions, and incorporates the skills and interests of members of multiple generations. Between February 7th and 16th, families can enjoy everything from a quilt show to a luminaria, a domino tournament to a ski trip, swimming (indoors!) to a dog show, musical performances to a spaghetti dinner. Educational highlights of the event include guided Noticing Nature programs offered by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, a workshop on home canning and food preservation, a visit from Forest Park’s Zoo on the Go, and bike care and maintenance workshops offered by the New England Mountain Bike Association. If you attend no other part of Winter Carnival, be sure to attend the Night Parade on Saturday, February 15th – parades are always fun, and a parade by night is like no other!
For folks in northern Berkshire County, check out North Adams Winter Fest on Saturday, February 15th. The North Adams community and local businesses get involved in this annual festival, which features ice-sculpting, a chowder cook-off and other winter themed fun!