30 Community Highlights: Peach Festival to Greek Festival. Harvest Supper to Stone Masonry.

Peaches (cc) Phil Romans

Peach Festival at Outlook Farm this Sunday, August 17 in Westhampton!

Peach Festival to Greek Festival. Harvest Supper to Food Future. Stone Masonry to Copperheads… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

Peruse our list below and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Featured learning highlight this week:  Summer is winding down and it’s time to get ready for school! Are your quills sharpened? Have you purchased your new chalk and slate? Wait a second – it’s not the 19th Century! What would “back-to-school” look like for children in the 1800’s? Families can step back to the time of quills and ink and one-room schoolhouses at Storrowton Village during their freeBack to School: 19th Century Style” event on Friday, August 22 in West Springfield. Here kids can experience hands-on school activities for this era, like writing with a quill, taking notes using chalk and slate, recess games, reciting in front of the class, and more. All ages will love getting to experience what school was like in another time and comparing it with school today!

School HistoryLocal HistorySTEMAgricultural FairsCommunity MealRepair & RepurposeCulture/GreekTransportation/IndustryFoodOutdoor AdventuresHorsesMuseum AdventuresAnimal StudiesKindergarten Readiness

Learn Local. Play Local is sponsored in part by:

North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens

School History

The Huntington Historical Society is holding a free open house at the Norwich Bridge Schoolhouse Museum on Sunday afternoon, August 17. Come learn about what life was like for children 200 years ago and how schools have changed during that time. This is also a great chance to see some cool local artifacts on display at the Museum. Students interested in local history will like touring the Museum and learning about life in the past.

Summer is winding down and it’s time to get ready for school! Are your quills sharpened? Have you purchased your new chalk and slate? Wait a second – it’s not the 19th Century! What would “back-to-school” look like for children in the 1800’s? Families can step back to the time of quills and ink and one-room schoolhouses at Storrowton Village during their freeBack to School: 19th Century Style” event on Friday, August 22 in West Springfield. Here kids can experience hands-on school activities for this era, like writing with a quill, taking notes using chalk and slate, recess games, reciting in front of the class, and more. All ages will love getting to experience what school was like in another time and comparing it with school today!

Local History

Explore Tamarack Hollow and Windsor State Forest on a Ghost Town Hike with Mass Audubon and Aimee Gelinas on Saturday morning, August 16. Learn about local history by exploring 18th Century cellar holes and stone walls, an old dairy and maple sugar farm, and more in Windsor. This hike is focused on the human and natural history of the area – what changes has the forest undergone? What do these old cellars, walls, and farms look like today? Why were they abandoned? These are all questions to ask or ponder on this hike, which takes you to an interesting part of the forest through both the Westfield and Housatonic Watersheds. Older students and adults with an interest in natural and local history will enjoy this fun and fascinating hike

Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman was a slave who lived in Sheffield in the 1700s. She is known for the court case Brom and Bett vs. Ashley, in which she sued for her freedom and won, making her the first African American woman to be set free under the Massachusetts state constitution. You can commemorate the trial and life of Freeman at MumBett Day at Ashley House in Sheffield on Saturday afternoon, August 16. This free event is meant to celebrate the life and legacy of Elizabeth Freeman through educational events and activities. At the event, Tammy Denease will perform a living history performance about Freeman, the Peter Brace Bridge of the Massachusetts 54th Colored Troops Company will present demonstrations and drills, the Town Players of Pittsfield will present “MumBett’s Minute,” there will be a conservation between Freeman and Sojourner Truth, a reading of the Sheffield Resolve, Ashley House tours, and more. This is a great way for families to recognize and learn about this important historical figure.

In the early 1800’s, the water power of Colrain supplied the energy for a cotton mill that paved the way for development in Colrain. The town Catholic church and library are meshed in this history Learn about the history of water-powered mills in Colrain at the Colrain Historical Society on Sunday afternoon, August 17 during an open house.  This informative exhibit will be open to the public in the Pitt House Barn and would be interesting to older students who want to learn more about local and/or industrial history.

Have you ever wondered who makes tombstones? What about the insides and covers of water wells? You can learn about the historic trade of stone masonry at the Noble and Cooley Center for Historic Preservation on Tuesday evening, August 19 in Granville. Dennis Picard, director of the Storrowton Village Museum, will present “A Stone Mason’s Tool Chest.” You can learn about period tools and their uses, the techniques used by stone masons of the past, and how these compare to how things are done today. This is a unique peek into to the life of skilled tradesperson of the past, and older students interested in history, trade, and industry will enjoy the free presentation.


Is your child interested in science, technology, or engineering? The Smith College Center for Science Outreach is offering an afternoon of free, hands-on, experiential learning on Saturday afternoon, August 30. Youth ages 5-12 can choose from a large selection of cool science projects in different fields – investigating plant structures, engineering balloon-powered cars, investigating the properties of rocks and minerals, exploring electromagnetism, learning about circuits and conductors, and others. This is a unique opportunity for students to delve deeper into their interest in STEM fields or to simply try out something new! Space is limited and registration is required by August 24. More information on the event and registration can be found on the Smith College Center for Community Collaboration website. The event takes place in Ford Hall on Green Street in Northampton.

Agricultural Fairs

The Heath Fair runs Friday, August 15th- Sunday, August 17th with exhibits, animal shows, food vendors, games, activities, live music, educational workshops, and more.  Without a midway, the Heath Fair is a classic New England small town agricultural fair.

The 87th Westfield Fair runs Friday, August 15th- Sunday, August 17th. There will be a midway, live music, kids’ activities, animal shows, exhibits, a craft barn, and much more.

The Berkshire County Youth Fair is a one-day agricultural fair taking place on Saturday, August 16 in Pittsfield, run by youth for youth and is open to kids ages 5-18. There will be exhibits, food, games, horses, live entertainment, and more! Takes place at Berkshire County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The 146th Cummington Fair begins Thursday, August 21 and runs through August 24. Come to the fair  for exhibits, animal demonstrations, truck pulls, live music, and other performances, car shows, a demolition derby, kids’ activities, community meals, midway, and so much more!

Community Meal

Celebrate local food and community at the 10th Annual Free Harvest Supper on the Greenfield Town Common on Sunday afternoon, August 17. There will be a delicious meal prepared, all with local food! Run by volunteers, this free annual intergenerational community meal includes children’s activities, educational displays, a home produce marketplace, and more. A great chance to enjoy delicious food and make new friends in your community!

Enjoy a community pig roast while celebrating the summer during Outlook Farm‘s annual Peach Festival on Sunday, August 17. There will be a community craft and tag sale, a pig roast and barbecue, and live music. This is an intergenerational community event in Westhampton that celebrate local food and the season.

Repair & Repurpose

Do you want to learn more about fixing things? Or do you have a broken item that you would like someone else to fix? Then come to the Pittsfield Repair Cafe on Saturday afternoon, August 16, which takes place in the basement of St. Stephen’s Church. Repair Cafes encourage people to repair what they already own, instead of tossing it in the trash and buying a new one, therefore supporting sustainability. They also encourage collaborative consumption, in which people share their skills and services with one another to teach, help, etc.

Make a recycled robot with the Belding Memorial Library at the Ashfield Transfer Station on Saturday afternoon, August 16. Use materials like metal cans, nuts, bolts, fiber, and more to make cool robots while engaging in creative free play. There will also be a StoryWalk for younger kids too at this free event.


Opa opa! Celebrate Greek culture with St. George Greek Orthodox Church at Greek Fest in Pittsfield all day Saturday, August 16. There will be Greek food and pastries, music, dancing, raffles, a church tour, and more. This free family-friendly festival celebrates American Greek life and culture and is a fun way for the community to share Greek culture together.


The MassMutual Center in Springfield is holding a  free Touch a Truck event for families all day on Saturday, August 16. Kids can come get up close to tons of different types of vehicles – police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, buses, and more! Kids and adults can meet and talk to the drivers of these vehicles to learn more about how they work and what they are used for.


Join Food For All and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment for the final program in their Community Food Systems and Social Justice Mini Series on Monday evening, August 18. “Local Food and Resilience: Preserving the Bounty” is a hands-on workshop that teaches canning, fermentation, and skills for local food system resilience. Older teens and adults interested in these topics and learning new skill would enjoy this free workshop. Takes place at Not Bread Alone Soup Kitchen in Amherst.

How does our food systems compare to years past? How does it impact our communities and our wellness? What will it look like in the future? Join Berkshire Grown at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington on Monday evening, August 18 for “Beyond Farm to Table: The Future of Food” with authors Dan Barber and Elizabeth Kolbert. These two authors will discuss the future of food in America and what it means for agriculture, society, and our diets.

Wondering what to do with all those heads of cabbage your coming home with from your CSA? Want to learn how to make lacto-fermented foods at home? Come make sauerkraut at the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic on Wednesday evening, August 20. Michelle Kaplan will demonstrate basic pickling and preserving techniques to help get you started. Best for older students and adults interested in food preservation and healthy foods.

Outdoor Adventures

Join the Berkshire Natural Resources Council for a canoe/kayak trip in Ashmere Lake in Dalton on Wednesday morning, August 20! You can bring your own boat and personal flotation device or use one that belongs to the BNRC or to Berkshire Community College (RSVP required if borrowing a boat). This is a great chance to explore this beautiful lake!


There are over 350 breeds of ponies and horse world wide. Breeds include Thoroughbreeds, Tennessee Walkers, Arabians, Quarter Horses, among many others. One such breed originated here in Western MA… the Morgan Horse! It’s breed history traces back to a stallion born in West Springfield in the late 1700’s. These horses were historically used for pulling coaches and general riding in the American Civil War, and have even been romanticized in Marguerite Henry’s Newbery award winning children’s book, Justin Morgan Had a Horse. Learn more about the Morgan Horse at the Eastern States Exposition’s Coliseum for the Massachusetts Morgan Horse Show on Saturday, August 16, in West Springfield. More than 400 Morgan horses will compete in a variety of athletic events, including English and Western pleasure, pleasure driving, carriage driving, dressage, and more. This free event is an exciting way for horse and animal lovers to learn more about the history, physiology, performance ability and care of this American horse breed.

Reining, the Western form of dressage riding, is typically performed by the American Quarter Horse.  Competing by being guided through obstacles and course patterns, a Reining competition highlights the horses ability to be responsive to its rider, illustrating the special relationship that often occurs between a horse and it’s human companion. On Thursday, August 21, horse and animal lovers are welcomed to the Big E Coliseum for the Northeast Reining Horse Show to see this style of competition. Come learn about horses and reining and see this exciting competition in person. This free event takes place in West Springfield.

Museum Adventures

Learn about the life and legacy of Emily Dickinson at the Emily Dickinson Museum‘s Free Fun Friday event on Friday, August 22 in Amherst! Thanks to the Highland Street Foundation, families can tour the Homestead, the Evergreens, and the grounds and participate in special programs and activities. This is a rare opportunity to explore this museum for free.

The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is offering free admission on Friday, August 22 as part of the Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Friday series. Come explore the museum, see their exhibitions, do fun activities, and more. This is a great chance for families to experience the museum together. Be sure to check out the Butterfly pavilion!

Animal Studies

Have you ever wondered what certain zoo animals like to eat? The Zoo in Forest Park in Springfield is holding a “Breakfast With the Animals” event on Saturday morning, August 16, where you can come enjoy a light breakfast provided by the zoo, then watch some animals eat and even get a chance to feed them!

There are 14 native snake species in Western Massachusetts. These reptiles range from poisonous species like the Copperhead to the Timber Rattlesnake, to more benign species like the Milksnake and the Black Racer. Professor Tom Tyning of the Berkshire Community College Environmental Science Department will present a program on the “Fabulous Snakes of Berkshire County” at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge on Friday morning, August 22. Professor Tyning will teach all about snakes – their biology, how to identify them, their behaviors, their defense mechanisms, and more. There will even be a live snake or two for audience members to see and ask questions about.

Kindergarten Readiness

Do you have young children getting ready to embark on their journey into kindergarten?  There are several kindergarten readiness events coming up this weekend and next week in Amherst, North Adams and South Hadley.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst presents Countdown to Kindergarten all day on Saturday, August 16 so that both kids and parents can prepare for the transition to kindergarten with fun activities and information. KidStage Acting Company will perform D.W. Counts Down to Kindergarten!, a play with audience participation. This will be a fun-filled day of storytimes and activities to get kids excited and ready for their education journey.

On Friday morning, August 22, there are two other free kindergarten readiness programs taking place. In Berkshire County, families can come to an “I Rode the Bus” event at the Haskins Community Center in North Adams. Incoming kindergarteners can ride a bus, learn school bus manners, participate in circle time, listen to a story about school, and do an art project. In South Hadley, kids entering preschool and kindergarten this fall can come to the Gaylord Memorial Library for a school readiness program too! Enjoy stories, songs, and crafts and learn all about what it will be like to go to school.

[Photo credit: (cc) Phil Romans]

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst, Ashfield, Bernardston, Charlemont/Hawley, Chesterfield, Conway, Heath, Leyden, Montague, Montgomery, South Hadley and Shutesbury Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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