Berkshire Family Fun: Autumn Adventures in the Berkshires

Let the Fall Festivities Begin

Family-friendly adventure parks are a great way to spend an Autumn day in the Berkshires. (Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

Everything happens for a reason: I am a firm believer in that. I don’t believe it is coincidence that I left a full-time editorial job to freelance because I wanted to be more available for my kids just months before my son, Max, suffered a major concussion that required my full-time attention. Since Labor Day I have spent time researching the affects of concussions in children, and shuttling Max to doctors offices for evaluations that have revealed his brain was jostled much more forcefully than we had originally thought. I have become well-acquainted with the school nurse, and have helped more with homework that I have had to in years. Most recently, my husband and I attended a meeting with Max’s teachers where a decision was made for him to attend school half-days, so know I will assume the role of nursemaid and part-time tutor. But it will all be worth it if it helps Max’s brain heal quicker, and if he finally stops walking around in circles trying to remember what it was he was doing.

NO LAUGHING MATTER

When Max first got sacked and zigzagged with wobbly legs to the sideline we joked a little. “He sure got his bell rung good!” But as he began to realize that his headache wasn’t going away and he was having difficulty with simple math problems, couldn’t follow simple directions and couldn’t remember old teachers’ names or when my birthday was (not easy to forget — Feb. 29, Leap Year — and he couldn’t even remember what Leap Year was), we became more concerned, thus beginning our research. In my studies I learned that more than 400,000 kids a year are sent to emergency rooms each year for serious brain injuries, usually as a result of car accidents, playground falls or sports-related injuries. I also learned that practitioners have been doing a lot of work in recent years to figure out suggested protocol for school personnel, coaches, parents, etc. to follow after a child suffers from a concussion, because unlike most other injuries, the brain heals more slowly in children than in adults, and the long-term effects of repeated head trauma in children are pretty scary. I also learned that kids with concussions resemble those with ADHD and that those with ADHD who suffer from concussions have even more difficulty.

If you are interested in learning more about the latest research on concussion prevention, management and consequences of head injuries, with a particular focus on youth and collegiate sports, Dr. Robert Cantu and Christopher Nowinski will present “The Impact of Concussions in Youth and College Sports” at 8 p.m. tonight, Sept. 22, at the ’62 Center on the Williams College campus in Williamstown. The event is free, but reservations are required; call 413-597-2425 for details.

I highly recommend this event for anyone who has children involved in sports, especially those sports physical enough to require a helmet like football, hockey and lacrosse.

MUPPETS TAKE WILLIAMSTOWN

Courtesy Photo

Jim Henson’s Muppets have been entertaining children around the world for over 50 years through television and movie programs such as Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth and more. In celebration of the late Muppet creator’s 75th birthday (Sept. 24) Images Cinema in Williamstown has brought a weeklong Henson/Muppet-inspired festival to the area titled Muppets, Music, & Magic: Jim Henson’s Legacy. The festival began Monday but will continue to run through Sunday, Sept. 25. I missed one of my all-time favorites, the Muppet’s remaking of The Frog Prince, check out the schedule below so you don’t miss a favorite of yours.

On the schedule for the next few days:

  • Thursday, Sept. 22, 1 p.m.: “Muppets Music Moments,” celebrating the classic collection of some of the classic music numbers interpreted as only the Muppets can featuring performances by Harry Belafonte, Elton John and Linda Ronstadt (recommended for ages 3 and up). $
  • Thursday, Sept. 22, 4:30 p.m.: “Commercials and Experiments,” a mind-blowing collection of shorts, crazy commercials, and other rarities from the Henson vault with highlights including an industrial film for Wilson’s Meat that must be seen to be believed, excerpts from experimental TV programs “The Cube and Youth 68,” and Time Piece, an eight-minute masterpiece that showcases Henson’s talent for making music out of everyday sounds (recommended for ages 13 and up). $
  • Friday, Sept. 23, 5 p.m.: “Cookies & Cocktails with Kevin Clash,” a reception for kids and adults with Kevin Clash, puppeteer and voice of Elmo at the Purple Pub on Spring Street. Admission included with ticket to “Muppet History 101.”
  • Friday, Sept. 23, 7 p.m.: “Muppet History 101 with Kevin Clash,” a unique program of rarities that examines the origins of the Muppets and includes early live TV appearances, unusual commercials, guest spots on the Jimmy Dean and Dick Cavett Shows, and much more, as well excerpts from the rarely seen pilot for what would become “The Muppet Show,” “The Muppets: Sex and Violence” featuring a tribute to the Seven Deadly Sins (recommended for ages 11 and up).
  • Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m.: “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland,” starring Kevin Clash, Mandy Patinkin and Vanessa Williams, in which Elmo loses his beloved fuzzy blanket in far-off Grouchland and nothing will deter him from retrieving his treasured possession from the greedy Huxley, plunging him into a series of adventures, including a battle of wits with the Queen of Trash; followed by a Q&A with Kevin Clash (ages 4 and up). $
  • Saturday, Sept. 24, noon: “Jim Henson Birthday Party and Conversation with Kevin Clash.”
  • Sunday, Sept. 25, 2 p.m.: “The Great Muppet Caper,” starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, David Goelz, Charles Grodin, Diana Rigg and John Cleese, in which intrepid reporters Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo go to London to interview fashion designer Lady Holiday, whose jewels have been stolen, and when the thieves strike again and Miss Piggy is accused of the crime, its Kermit and friends to the rescue, with Q&A with Jay Tarses, the film’s screenwriter via Skype (recommended for ages 4 and up). $

For prices, locations and more information on each event visit www.imagescinema.org.

A LITTLE COMMUNITY TOGETHERNESS

There’s nothing like a country fair to bring a community together and this Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25, the folks at Hancock Shaker Village are opening their gates for the 14th annual Hancock Shaker Village Country Fair in Pittsfield. Each days’ festivities begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. with classic fair activities such as pie-eating contests, wagon rides, children’s games and crafts, artisan booths, farm-fresh produce and good ole fashioned barbecue! For more information log onto www.hancockshakervillage.org or call 413-443-0188.

Also bringing the Berkshire community together this weekend is the 32nd annual Lenox Apple Squeeze also scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25, with daily activities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. So if you are heading to South County this weekend you might want to allow some extra time so you can stop in town for the fun. From crafters, to a plethora of food vendors, music, children’s activities and more, the Apple Squeeze always has a little something for everyone! For more information call 413-637-3646 or visit lenox.org.

APPLES, PUMPKINS AND HAYRIDES, OH MY

With the change of foliage comes countless opportunities to partake in fall festivities at local farms. From corn mazes to hayrides, apple-picking and cider tastings, Berkshire venues have it all. One of my family’s favorite fall stops is Whitney’s on Route 8 in Cheshire. Driving by last week my youngest, Shea, was begging to stop and explore the hay bale castle and choose a pumpkin to carve. The number of cars was insane with hayrides, petting zoo, bouncy elements, pony rides, face-painting and more signaling the fall season had arrived. But alas, we had to answer in the negative this time as we were on our way to North Adams for a football game (and I couldn’t imagine how rotten that pumpkin would become if we carved it this soon, Ich!). But we’ll be back before the season ends I’m sure.

Another favorite family activity in the fall is apple-picking at Lakeview Orchards in Lanesboro. We also have had great apple-picking success at Bartlett’s Orchard in Richmond and pumpkins from Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock in past years. My family is literally champing at the bit to get to a local apple orchard, but we have yet to find a free time during the weekend.

Here’s the low-down on Berkshire fall farm opportunities courtesy of www.pickyourown.com:

  • Bartlett’s Orchard – apples — 
575 Swamp Road, Richmond, 413-698-2559. Call for hours.
  • Green River Farms – apples, pumpkins, cider mill and more — 2480 Green River Road, Williamstown, 413-212-4049. Currently closed for renovations, call for more information.
  • Hilltop Orchard / Furnace Brook Winery — apples, cider mill and more
 — Route 295, Richmond, 800-833-6274. Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Columbus Day.
  • Howden Farmpumpkins — 303 Rannopo Road, Sheffield, 413-229-8481. Open for pumpkins: 10-5 p.m., last weekend and holidays in September thru Oct. 31.
  • Ioka Valley Farm — pumpkins — 3475 Route 43, Hancock, 413-738-5915
. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., mid-September through October.
  • Lakeview Orchard —apples, raspberries, honey, cider mill, pumpkins and more — 94 Old Cheshire Road, Lanesboro, 413-448-6009. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, and Columbus Day, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
  • The Maple Connection/the Harvest Pride — apples, maple syrup — 
Route 143, Hinsdale, 413-842-7592. Call ahead for hours.
  • Windy Hill Farm — apples — 
 686 Stockbridge Road (Route 7), Great Barrington, 413-298-3217. Open: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through Columbus Day

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., IN STOCKBRIDGE

Chesterwood (Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

A week and a half ago, I finally made a long overdue trip to Chesterwood in Stockbridge, the former home of Daniel Chester French the artist who sculpted the Lincoln statue for the Lincoln Memorial. I made the visit in between stops in South County to pick up a new pet bunny, Nike, for my daughter, McKenna, and a soccer game, with McKenna, her friend, Ashley, and my aunt in tow.

As I strolled threw the rustic surroundings gazing and the hand-hewn beams of the Barn Gallery (the original barn French moved on the property to make room for his studio on its former foundation) marveling at multiple models of French’s iconic sculptures, I noticed McKenna and her friend in a corner of the room pushing buttons and listening intently. After catching me watching, McKenna left the area, but later found me, taking my hand to show me her favorite part of the gallery. Again she returned to the corner and stood me in front of an old radio broadcasting microphone and told me to listen. As my eyes studied the one-dimensional black and white photo of the view from the Lincoln Memorial steps, a sea of bodies surrounding the reflecting pool, I began to hear a familiar voice. There, in the small Barn Gallery in Stockbridge, I was thrown back to a time before I was born — to Aug. 28, 1963, to be exact — and there I was, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial standing next to Martin Luther King, Jr., while he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“That was my favorite part,” Kenna told the rest of the family at dinner that night, before she began reciting the speech to those at the table, using the same inflection and tone as King himself. That alone made was worth the trip and is definitely one of the many reasons parents should make the trip to the property before it closes for the season. We also enjoyed walking the grounds and speculating upon what French and his family members would have been wearing as they strolled the same paths 100 years earlier and I was simply enamored by the love and care that went into creating his large studio space next to the main house.

Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 10, is as good a time as any to make that visit as Chesterwood brings the season to a close with a Fall Family Fun Day beginning at 2 p.m. Families will have the opportunity to carve pumpkins and enjoy other family-friendly activities on the grounds. The Viewers’ Choice Award for this year’s Contemporary Sculptures at Chesterwood exhibit also will be announced at 3 p.m. Best of all kids under 18 are free! For more information call 413-298-3579, ext.25216, or visit www.chesterwood.org.

THE GREAT PUMPKIN PATCH EXPRESS

Mark your calendars and order your tickets soon for the Berkshire Scenic Railway’s Great Pumpkin Patch Express in Lenox, scheduled for Oct. 22, 23, 29 and 30. Where families can ride the train to pick their pumpkins, enjoy apple cider, cookies and live music, and bask in the Berkshire fall foliage. Information and tickets can be found at www.berkshirescenicrailroad.org.

ADVENTURE IN THE TREES

Ziplining at Bousquet. (Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

Last year I explored the new adventure park at Jiminy Peak in Hancock and I soared through the trees on ziplines during Zoar Outdoors’ canopy tour in Charlemont. Very cool stuff. This summer, two of my kids (Max and Shea), and two of their cousins took to the new park that opened at Bousquet in Pittsfield. We got the full park pass for the day that allowed for access to the adventure park, the water park and various other activities including a rock-climbing wall, bungee trampoline, Frisbee golf and go-carts, but with the cooler weather I believe the water park option is probably obsolete.

With three levels for those over five feet and one fun-filled level for the younger/shorter lot, cruising on ziplines, navigating rope ladders and braving tall structures with a single bound, will surely inflate body temperatures for kids and adults alike causing everyone to forget the recent drop in temperatures. The scenery is amazing and this is definitely an activity every family should try at least once. My niece, who claims to fear heights, was climbing, gliding and swinging through the treetops like a pro within an hour, and everyone (including a reluctant Ethan) left with smiles on their faces.

*Catamount in Southern Berkshire County/Hillsdale, N.Y. also has an adventure park on its premises. Visit www.catamounttrees.com for details.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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 psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, a chocolate lab, a very fat cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. Kelly is a freelance writer who dabbles in writing for children and has had her non-fiction published by Wee Ones online family magazine. When not writing or editing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games.  — Check out Berkshire Family Fun every other Thursday.

1 Comment

  1. Kelly said,

    September 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I would love to hear some feedback about these columns if you are reading them. Have they been helpful? Have you tried any of the events or activities mentioned in previous columns? Also, are there things you would like to have me write more of. Let me know at kwbevan@gmail.com.


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