29 Community Highlights: Hats to Hot Peppers. Kinetic Power to Fireworks.

This weekend is the annual Chilifest held in Sunderland! Folks can also learn how to make sriracha and spicy drinks, and families can have a great time navigating a corn maze!

Kinetic Power to History Walk. Naturalization to Fireworks. Hats to Hot Peppers…. These are just a few of the community-based 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 community highlights this week: This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Why not celebrate with a Mad Hatter tea party at the Wistariahurst Museum on Sunday, September 13 from 2pm-3:30pm? Visitors are invited to wear their favorite hat or to create one when they arrive. This event provides a great opportunity to talk about different styles of hats and headwear worn in different eras and in other countries. There’s also the bit about how Carroll’s Mad Hatter got his name–a perfect way to talk about chemistry! Milliners (hat makers) used to use mercury in the hat-making process. This element can have strong, toxic neurological effects including emotional instability and memory impairment, and this “mercurial disease” was common among 19th century milliners. At Wistariahurst‘s tea party, there will be food, croquet, crafts, and special guests. In case of rain, the event will be held in the Music Room. Reservations recommended. 413-322-5660. 238 Cabot Street, Holyoke, MA. ($)

Agricultural FairsService-Based LearningTransportation HistorySTEMPhysics History WalkNatural HistoryImmigrationCommunity CelebrationsDinosaursArts FestivalFireworksBlock PartyTraditional Artisan SkillsArchitectureSkillshareSustainabilityFood CelebrationFilm StudiesRadio TheaterHikingMusic StudiesHome School DaysParenting WorkshopsReligion Studies

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Agricultural Fairs

September 10-13 — Franklin County Fair
A visit to a county fair can be a lot of fun, and it is also a way to show your support of the important work of organized agricultural societies. The Franklin County Agricultural Society provides education and opportunities for all members of the community, works in partnership with the community on its projects, and continually maintains and improves their land and programs for all to enjoy. The Franklin County Fair‘s Saturday offerings include a number of baking contests, livestock shows, a craft fair, circus acts, a kiddie tractor pull, a K9 dog demonstration, live music, and much, much more! 413-774-4282. Franklin County Fairgrounds, 89 Wisdom Way, Greenfield, MA. ($; FREE for children 8 and under)

Saturday, September 12 — Sheffield Fair
The Sheffield Fair is a lovely, manageably-sized fair that is perfect for those who would like the agricultural fair experience without the hustle and bustle. There will be contests (apple pie, livestock showmanship, horticulture), a softball game (the Mt. Everett Eagles vs. the Sheffield Fire Department), live music, tasty food, hayrides, children’s games and entertainment, crafts, and more! The organizers of this fair have also created this site to include a setting and convenience features that offer comfortable access for people with physical disabilities. Sheffield Town Park, Frederic Lane, Sheffield, MA. (FREE)

September 18-20. — Belchertown Fair
Aggie fair season is close to winding down, so if you have not been to one this year, or can’t get enough of them, be sure to visit the Belchertown Fair, September 18-20. Enjoy time outside with your family, friends, and neighbors as you play at the midway, listen to live music, and visit the booths of local vendors. The organizers of the Fair kept kids in mind in scheduling special performances by Ed Popalarzik, master balloon twister and magician, and setting up great events like pumpkin decorating, farmer-for-a-day, vegetable race car making, a pedal tractor pull, and a frog jumping contest. You can make the most of this time-honored community event by learning more about the educational value of agricultural fairs before you go! No pets, please. 413-323-6654. Belchertown Common, Belchertown, MA. (FREE; < $ for midway rides)

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Service-Based Learning

Saturday, September 12. 9am-11:30am — FOOD SECURITY/HUNGER
Would you and your children like to make a big difference in the lives of your community members through simple, fun, engaging, and meaningful volunteer work? The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, in partnership with Hilltown Families, is hosting a Family Volunteer Day to increase community members’ awareness of and participation in Hunger Action Month. There will be volunteer opportunities for people of all ages, and a number of hands-on activities (e.g., making healthy snacks) will be offered as well. As they donate their time and energy, participants will be learning about food insecurity in our community and other ways they can make a positive difference in helping all people meet their basic nutritional needs. You can also learn more about the challenges of accessing healthy food in Western Massachusetts in our post about food deserts. Registration required. 413-247-9738. 97 North Hatfield Road, Hatfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 12. 9am-12pm — CONSERVATION
As our climate changes, amphibians face serious challenges. Amphibians rely on both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and they are especially sensitive to changes in humidity and precipitation. Salamanders are one of the local amphibians that really need our assistance. Donate part of your morning to help Mass Audubon staff survey salamander cover boards (small, protective shelters on the forest floor) at Graves Farm. This work is very important in the effort to monitor the health of our native salamander populations, and no special skills are necessary. A water bottle, bug spray, boots, gloves, and outdoor work clothes may come in handy. Children of all ages welcome with an adult companion. 413-584-3009. Adams Road, Williamsburg, MA. (FREE)

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Transportation History

Saturday, September 12. 9am-3pm — VINTAGE VEHICLES/LOCAL HISTORY
Springfield holds an important place in our country’s transportation history. Learn all about it at the annual “History on the Move” car show, hosted by the Springfield Museums. There will be many vintage vehicles on display for visitors to observe and examine, including several models (one from 1903!) that were manufactured right in Springfield. Interested in seeing these cars on the move? Be sure to catch one of the driving demonstrations, scheduled to take place throughout the afternoon. 413-263-6800 x 459. Quadrangle green, 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, MA. ($)


Saturday, September 12. 9am-8pm; Sunday, September 13. 9am-4pm — NERD SUMMIT/CODING
Want to learn CSS or HTML? Ready to turn your app idea into a real app? Perhaps you’ve been wanting to make 3D drawings using SketchUp or itching to learn about LEGO EV3 Robotics? Look no further than the NERD (New England Regional Developers) Summit, a 3-day learning camp focused on helping people build coding, web design, and related skills, and to welcome everyone into this interesting industry. Many sessions are intended for older students and adults; several sessions are good fits for younger children who have an adult accompanying them. Pre-register online for the sessions that interest you! 413-387-4540. UMass Hotel & Conference Center, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 12. 11:30am-1pm – PHYSICS/ART & CRAFTS
Chesterwood is hosting a free family-friendly art workshop, “Pinwheels and Floating Flowers”! This program includes hands-on art and craft sessions with talented artists and a scavenger hunt to explore the property. Use this event as a way to launch into deeper learning about kinetics and wind power, and their connections to basic physics as well as green energy technologies. 413-298-3579. 4 Williamsville Road, Stockbridge, MA. (FREE)

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Local History

Saturday, September 12. 10am —LOCAL HISTORY WALK
Families can explore local connections to important moments in national history by participating in walking tours of Florence, offered by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee. Held monthly, tours weave stories together with exploration of local landmarks to make for a place-based exploration of history. The walks begin at the Sojourner Truth statue and will last about 1.5 hours. Park & Pine Streets, Florence, MA. (FREE)

The earth beneath your feet has countless stories to tell. The composition of the soil, minerals in the hillsides, and oxbowed rivers each can teach us about the land where we make our homes if we know how to interpret their tales. Local naturalist Laurie Sanders knows how to translate these stories, and she shares her expertise to help us better understand the ways in which the interactions between people and nature have shaped present-day Northampton in Rediscovering Northampton: Local History Viewed through an Ecological Lens. This six-part lecture series takes place for the next six Sundays (through November 22) at Historic Northampton and features a different topic each week. This week’s talk, Understanding the Northampton Landscape, will focus on patterns in and features of local landscapes including downtown Northampton, Round Hill, and Florence. Registration required. 413-584-6011. 46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA. (< $ SUGGESTED DONATION)

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Saturday, September 12. 10am — U.S. GOVERNMENT & SOCIOLOGY
There are several ways to become a U.S. citizen. These include: being born in the U.S., being born to parents who are U.S. citizens, and becoming naturalized. People who wish to become naturalized citizens must meet certain criteria and take tests on American history, civics, and English as a part of their naturalization process. Once all of the steps towards naturalization are complete, these new citizens participate in a formal ceremony at which they take their citizenship oath. This week, the Norman Rockwell Museum will host a United States Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony, and all are welcome to observe and celebrate this important event. What a perfect time to reflect on what it means to be a citizen of a particular country, and what role our citizenship plays in our identity. 413-298-4100. 9 MA-183, Stockbridge, MA. (FREE with museum admission)

Community Celebration

Saturday, September 12. 10am — DINO FEST
It can be hard to imagine dinosaurs, over twice as tall as the average human, roaming across Massachusetts, but 190 million years ago, they were! Research indicates that our region’s hills and fields were part of a large, sub-tropical swamp, and it is in this soft ground that dinosaur prints were made and preserved. Granby gives a nod to its connection to dinosaurs in its annual “Dinosaur Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival.” Gather with friends and neighbors to celebrate the town’s heritage and talent, do a fun run, shop the farmers’ market, listen to live music, and view antique vehicles. During the festival, the Granby Historical Association‘s Town House Museum (237 State Street) will be open to visitors and will feature an outdoor cooking demonstration. 413-530-0724. Town Common, Granby, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 12. 10am-5pm; Sunday, September 13. 10am-5pm — ARTS FESTIVAL
Strolling along city blocks allows you to look at architecture, reflect on the neighborhood’s past and present, meet residents and listen to their stories, and get a bit of exercise, too. When the street is filled with over 100 artists, strolling musicians, and food vendors, there is even more to learn and enjoy! Spend part of your day at the 43rd annual Mattoon Street Arts Festival for an immersive arts experience. When you see art (or food) that interests you, be sure to stop and ask the artist/vendor about it to learn about the related processes, history, and culture. Free parking at TD Bank lot (Harrison Avenue & Dwight Street). 413-736-0629. Mattoon Street, Springfield, MA. (FREE)

Saturday, September 12. 4pm — FIREWORKS
The Northampton Family Fourth Celebration is an annual event organized to bring the community together for fun and to support Northampton’s public schools. Participants can play carnival games, get their faces painted, play in a bouncy castle, watch a magic show, and more. Several local bands, including the Florence Community Band, will give lively performances, and at dusk there will be fireworks! This family-friendly event is also alcohol- and tobacco-free. After 4:30pm, only vehicles with handicap permits or Northampton Family Fourth Celebration parking passes will be permitted into the park. 413-584-5457. Look Park, 300 North Main Street, Florence, MA. (< $ for games; < $ for parking; FREE parking with shuttle from Smith Vocational High School)

Thursday, September 17. 5pm-9pm — BLOCK PARTY
When the school year starts, things can get hectic, and making time to connect with our friends and neighbors sometimes takes a back seat to getting back into autumn routines. However, these hectic times of life are often those when we need our connections the most! Thankfully, there’s the 4th annual Celebrate Amherst Block Party, organized by Amherst’s Business Improvement District, where you and your family can eat, enjoy live music (including a DJ, Mister G, and the Gaslight Tinkers), watch street performers, and mingle with friends old and new. 413-345-2945. Downtown Amherst, MA. (FREE)

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Traditional Crafts

Saturday, September 12. 10am-12pm & 1:30pm-3:30pm– BEESWAX CANDLES
The burning of beeswax candles results in the production of negative ions, which helps purify your air (positively charged bits of dust, pollen, etc. are attracted to the negative ions, “captured” and fall out of air circulation where they may be trapped by your carpet, swept up, or vacuumed away). In addition to this fabulous quality, they burn slowly and produce little smoke and odor. Visit the Hancock Shaker Village for a beeswax candlemaking workshop in which you will learn wax techniques and create a candle to take home. The bees who are the source of the beeswax will be visited on site, too! This workshop is ideal for children age 12 and adults, although children ages 8-12 may attend if they do so with an adult. Registration required. 413-443-0188 x 0. 1843 West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield, MA. ($$)

Sunday, September 13. 2pm-3:30pm — MILLINERY
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Why not celebrate with a Mad Hatter tea party? Visitors are invited to wear their favorite hat or to create one when they arrive. This event provides a great opportunity to talk about different styles of hats and headwear worn in different eras and in other countries. There’s also the bit about how Carroll’s Mad Hatter got his name–a perfect way to talk about chemistry! Milliners (hat makers) used to use mercury in the hat-making process. This element can have strong, toxic neurological effects including emotional instability and memory impairment, and this “mercurial disease” was common among 19th century milliners. At Wistariahurst‘s tea party, there will be food, croquet, crafts, and special guests. In case of rain, the event will be held in the Music Room. Reservations recommended. 413-322-5660. 238 Cabot Street, Holyoke, MA. ($)

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Saturday, September 12. 12pm & 1pm — SCULPTURE & ARCHITECTURE
The Trustees of Reservations‘ Folly Guest House and surrounding land is an excellent showcase of mid-20th century sculpture. The Folly Guest House itself is a post-modernist structure that provides interesting contrast to the other guest house on the property, the American Modern Guest House. Tour the Folly and enjoy the beautiful grounds as you contemplate American architectural and sculptural inspiration and design! 413-458-3135. Field Farm, 554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, MA. (< $; FREE for members)


Saturday, September 12. 12-3pm — SKILLSHARE/SUSTAINABILITY
With increased availability of inexpensive imported and plastic goods over the last 50 years, the skills of thrift and resourcefulness have started to disappear. This Saturday, Reuse Showcase sponsored by Northampton’s Reuse Committee aims to help turn that trend around by highlighting creative use, repair, restoration and repurposing of second-hand items. In addition, repair demonstrations will be presented by area experts. Open to everyone. Glendale Road Transfer Station, 170 Glendale Road. Northampton, MA (FREE)

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Food Celebration

Saturday, September 12. 12pm-5pm; Saturday, September 13. 12pm-5pm — CHILIFEST
The Kitchen Garden‘s Chilifest, Spetember 12-13, has something for everyone, whether you love spicy food or not! Make your time-honored family chili or hot sauce (or invent a new family recipe) and enter it into the chili cook-off! Listen to great local bands and enjoy food from local vendors! Folks can also learn how to make sriracha and spicy drinks, and children are invited to make tee shirts. This is also a great time to explore Mike’s Maze, which features an amazing design to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Navigating the maze requires using spatial and map-reading skills, tuning in to your sense for clues about your location, and collaborative communication skills as your group figures out its exit plan! 413-387-5163. 23 South Main Street, Sunderland, MA. ($)

Film Studies

Saturday, September 12. 2pm; Sunday, September 13. 12:30pm; Monday, September 14. 7pm — SCREENING
Fans of Studio Ghibli have come to expect beautiful animation and magical storytelling from its feature films (Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro), and its latest film, When Marnie Was There (PG, 2015), showing at Images Cinema is no exception. Anna is a foster child who feels removed from those around her and shies away from the world, until she meets a new friend, Marnie, one summer. Their friendship exemplifies what it means to celebrate differences and forge bonds no matter what factors and circumstances might otherwise be divisive. This is a great film to use as a conversation starter about how to treat people, how to appreciate the diversity of humankind, and the importance of sharing yourself and your time with those around you, as you never know who may need it most. 413-458-5612. 50 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA. (< $)

Radio Theater

Saturday, September 12. 7:30pm; Friday, September 18. 7:30pm — RADIO PLAY
Let a theatrical experience give you and your children the opportunity to understand a bygone era in a way you just can’t get from a book. Set in a 1940s-era general store in rural Massachusetts, Country Store: A Radio Play for the Stage celebrates the simple pleasures of life in a post-Depression, pre-war, small town America. Local actors and singers bring this radio play to life with radio jingles, popular songs of the era, and a strikingly spare stage. Presented by the 1794 Meetinghouse, a group of people dedicated to performing arts and to celebrating culture in north central Massachusetts. 413-335-3489. 26 South Main Street. New Salem, MA. ($; FREE for children 12 and under)

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Sunday, September 13. 6am-10am — MONUMENT MOUNTAIN
Is your family usually ready to go at 6AM on a weekend? Many families may not be in the habit of doing outings at the crack of dawn, but some opportunities are worth making an exception for! Climb Monument Mountain with a Trustees of Reservations leader, and arrive at the top in time to watch the sunrise. Hot coffee and breakfast treats will be provided to supplement the most wonderful treat of all–watching the sun come up over the mountains on a still morning. This is the stuff of which family memories are made! Pre-registration required. 413-532-1631 x 10. Monument Mountain, Route 7, Great Barrington, MA. (< $; FREE for members)

Sunday, September 13. 1pm-2:30pm — CONSTITUTION HILL
Undertaking a physical challenge, such as a new hike, with others helps strengthen bonds and provides unique opportunities for interesting conversations. Local historian Mike Whalen will lead a fun, family-oriented hike up Constitution Hill as a part of Lanesborough’s 250th anniversary celebration. On this lovely outing, co-sponsored by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, there will be two hike options: one 45-minute hike and another that is 90 minutes to accommodate all ages and abilities. Stay after the hike to replenish your energy reserves with an ice cream sundae at Belanger Park! Parking is limited; please carpool if you can. Hikers will meet at the kiosk at the end of Bridge Street. 413-499-0596. Bridge Street, Lanesborough, MA. (FREE)

Music Studies

Sunday, September 13. 2pm-4pm — INSTRUMENT PETTING ZOO
Would your child love to try out a cello, hold a trumpet, and get to examine other musical instruments up close? This kind of interaction with instruments can teach children a lot about music and sound, and can also inspire a desire to learn to play an instrument. Like learning a new language, learning to play an instrument is a powerful brain-booster! Visit the Northampton Community Music Center‘s annual Open House and Instrument Petting Zoo to hear different instruments being played, hold and try instruments, and enjoy a steel drum performance. 413-585-0001. 139 South Street, Northampton, MA. (FREE)

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Home School Day

Wednesday, September 16. 9:30am-5pm — REGIONAL HISTORY & CRAFTS
What better way for you and your children to learn about life in New England in the 1830s than to be immersed in an historical reenactment of that time, complete with a village of interesting and talented residents, and to participate in the tasks that filled people’s days back then? Visit Old Sturbridge Village for Home School Day, a special opportunity to explore the village and participate in many hands-on activities and demonstrations relating to the theme of “Artisan Crafts and Trades.” Blacksmithing, spinning, pottery, and basket weaving are among the skills that will be celebrated and explored at this event. Visitors may also spend time at the farm to learn how to make cider and to discover the connections between farm life and the seasons, stop in a house to learn how to cook on an open hearth, try traditional games, and visit the printing press to learn how to set and print type. Advance ticket purchase required. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA. (< $ plus additional fees for activities)

Parenting Workshops

Sunday, September 13. 3pm-6pm — MOTIVATIONAL INTERVIEWING
Are you looking for a different communication strategy to use with your teenager? Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a technique that has been shown to foster improved relationships between parents and their children, and which encourages children to make difficult, but positive, changes in their lives. Join other interested adults in an MI training by counselor John Brelsford, hosted by the Northampton Prevention Coalition. Registration required. 413-587-1344 x 3021

Tuesday, September 15. 7pm — GRIEF
Grieving is a part of life, and learning how to help our children navigate this complicated emotional terrain can be challenging. Adult caregivers and community members are invited to attend “Grief through Story: Initiating a Gentle Conversation about Death, Dying, & Grief Using Children’s Literature,” a workshop offered by The Garden: A Center for Grieving Children and Teens. Participants will learn how to use children’s literature as a tool in talking to children about these important and challenging topics. 413-259-3233. Jones Library, 43 Amity Street, Amherst, MA. (FREE)

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Religion Studies

Monday, September 14. 10-11am — ROSH HASHANAH
Rosh Hashanah programming is taking place at Congregation B’nai Israel (CBI). CBI will offer a Rosh Hashanah family program for children ages 2-5 and their caregivers. They will celebrate the beginning of the Jewish year through stories, song and apples and honey! They will also offer a family service (with instruments) from 10:30am-12pm for ages 6-12 and their families. Open to the public. Northampton, MA (FREE)

Learn Local. Play Local. is supported in part by a grant from the Buckland, Colrain, Cummington, Deerfield, Hadley, Longmeadow, Montgomery, New Salem, Plainfield, Shelburne, Sunderland, Westhampton, and Worthington Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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