Summer Fun in the Berkshires
Raising kids is a lesson in trial and error — sometimes we parents get it right and sometimes we fail miserably. That’s all part of the unofficial oath we took when we decided to have kids in the first place. Right? “I will try the best I can not to screw up my kids, but in some cases I might have no freakin’ idea what the heck I am doing.”
Lately I have been struggling with “doing the right thing” in terms of my children, and as many of you know that is certainly an uphill battle because in some cases the right thing can’t be found in the official Parenting Handbook. It is not defined in the dictionary and any number of parents would give you any number of possible answers to your question, “What’s the right thing to do” in any given situation. Shades of gray exist in a lot of areas of this thing we call parenting, but not in this case. My inner battle was SCREAMING for a black and white answer, and surprisingly Oprah did it (doesn’t she always?).
In her final goodbye show she said something along the lines of a higher power always speaking to you — sometimes in whispers and other times its almost banging you over the head with what it has to say — and when you hear it LISTEN. My whisper, actually it was more of a rising high-pitched squeal, was telling me time was slipping away. My priorities in the last year or so were somewhat backward, and I was losing precious time with my children. My nine-year-old had classmates whose names I didn’t know. My 12-year-old son was taking to going to friends’ houses after school and wandering the local neighborhoods until we came to get him for dinner because no one was home, and his twin sister was constantly asking me to hang out — paint nails, go shopping, read with her — and in many cases I bypassed this opportunity. After all I had work to do: stories to be written, articles to be edited and papers to be laid out and proofed. But as my husband often reminds me, our kids still want to hang out with us and that won’t be the case for too much longer, so embrace it!
So I did! I gave up the editing and the laying out, the proofing, the planning and now I’m just sticking to writing. Why? Well, for one, that voice has now stopped the irritating squealing inside my head; 2. My family is the most important thing in my life and I felt like in some ways I was losing track of them; and 3. There is so much family fun to be had in the Berkshires this summer that I wanted to explore it all with my kids!
I’ve heard from sources at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield that one of their most popular family-friendly shows each year is the Chinese Golden Acrobats, the world’s leading Chinese acrobatic troupe, performing more than any troupe. Do you want to find out for yourself? Then swing by the South Street theater on Saturday, June 11, at 2pm or 7 p.m. to see “world-renowned impresario Danny Chang and choreographer Angela Chang combine award-winning acrobatics, traditional dance, spectacular costumes, ancient and contemporary music and theatrical techniques to present a show of breathtaking skill and spellbinding beauty.” For ticket information call The Colonial box office at 413-997-4444 or go online to www.thecolonialtheatre.org.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to interview musician Dan Zanes — parents you might have known him in the ‘80s as the lead singer of the Boston-based band The Del Feugos — before a children’s concert at The Mahaiwe in Great Barrington. Now he returns to area again, to MASS MoCA in North Adams to be exact, for a 2 p.m. Saturday, June 11, concert where he and Elizabeth Mitchell — the two are considered two of the most beloved artists working in children’s music today — team up for a stripped-down acoustic set that will appeal to music lovers of all ages. For ticket information visit www.massmoca.org. The museum is located at Marshall Street.
If you are a regular reader of this column then you’ve probably heard me mention StoryWalks before. StoryWalks take a children’s picture book and deconstruct it into individual giant-sized pages. These pages are usually posted somewhere public — a downtown shopping area, bike path, mall — for families to read at their leisure. Sometimes they are incorporated into a single event and other times they are left up for months. The Pittsfield Wee Reads committee has become a master of the StoryWalk and this week they are presenting a baseball-themed walk featuring the book “The Baseball Counting Book” by Barbara Barbieri McGrath. Not coincidentally, the StoryWalk, will be held at, of all places, Wahconah Park in Pittsfield a half-hour before the evening’s Colonials game. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. where the first 100 participants will receive a FREE copy of the book. Following the walk families are invited to stay and watch the game, but first any child at the game is invited onto the field after the National Anthem is sung to sing “Take me Out to the Ballgame.” Tickets can be purchased by contacting Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting pittsfieldcolonials.com. The first pitch will be thrown at 7 p.m. Play Ball!
Have you ever wondered how Scrat from “Ice Age” or those crazy characters from this spring’s hit “Rio” were created? Well I recently spoke with the award-winning Blue Sky Studios’ character designer Peter de Seve and senior animator Peter Paquette to find out. But you can talk to these people yourself at events scheduled in conjunction with the Norman Rockwell Museum’s newest exhibit “’Ice Age’ To The Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios,” an interactive exhibit that looks at the creative work of Blue Sky Studios, on view beginning Saturday, June 11 in Stockbridge. Peter de Seve will be around the museum during the exhibit’s opening weekend festivities and Pete Paquette will be in town for the museum’s Family Festival Day in July (see details below under MARK YOUR CALENDARS). The exhibit promises to appeal to kids and adults of all ages and will take visitors through all the nuances of creating an animated feature from initial concepts, storyboards, characters and background art, to 3-D and digital modeling. In addition to final movie clips, the exhibition also will feature rarely-seen original concept drawings, character illustrations, background paintings, sculptural models (or maquettes), props and digital stills. For more information on the exhibit and related events visit www.nrm.org.
PARENTS NIGHT OUT
Parents need some fun of their own, too, and perhaps an evening of pop culture at New Stage Performing Arts Center in Pittsfield on Saturday, June 11, just might be thing to get you out of the house. At 8 p.m. a theatrical take on the classic pub quiz will begin. “The Inaugural Pop Culture Mid-Term” will blend elements of live comedy, variety and talk shows, and audience interaction into a unique live game show experience. There is a cash bar and ticket prices are reasonable. There is even a group rate for parties of five. For more information call 413-418-0999 or go to www.newstageperformingarts.org. New Stage Performing Arts Center is located at 55 North St. in Pittsfield.
CIRCUS, CIRCUS AND MORE CIRCUS
Lions, tigers and bears oh my! The circus is coming to town and its not just coming to one or two towns in the Berkshires. It’s coming to three. Unfortunately two of the circuses take place just days apart and it will be hard to choose between them because they are both considered stellar programs. Circus-debate aside (I won’t get into that here) they both benefit good causes.
First up is the Cole Bros. Circus on June 16 and 17 at the Berkshire Mall in Pittsfield. Shows begin at 4:30 and 7 p.m. both days. The Cole Bros. Circus will benefit the Boy Scouts’ local Explorers Post program, which helps young people, ages 14-20, mature and prepare to become responsible, caring adults. The post program provides career information and experiences, but also includes five other experience areas: mental and physical fitness, social, citizenship, service and outdoor activities. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.tickets.com with discounts for purchases made prior to the circus date or go to http://www.freekidstickets.com.
Then on Monday, June 20, the Kelly Miller Circus arrives in Dalton at the Legion Field on Route 9 for two shows only. Everyone is invited to watch the animals being unloaded and fed, and the elephants raising the big top beginning at 7:30 a.m. with the raising at 9. Then the traditional “old style” circus will present two performances at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. The circus benefits the Dalton Lions Club and its various sight-related programs. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Dalton General Store, Dalton CRA, Greenridge Variety, Pittsfield Visitors Bureau, Berkshire Carousel, and Steven Valenti’s in Pittsfield from June 17-19.
The third circus is one you won’t want to miss, but it doesn’t come to town until July 16 and 17, but I can assure you this circus will not stir-up the animal rights activists. Circus Smirkus rolls into Williamstown for four shows at 1 and 6 p.m. both days. If you’ve never heard of Smirkus, log on to circussmirkus.org and read about these amazing kids. Yup, you heard me right. This circus is made up of regular old kids ages 10-18 from all over the country and world who, for a few short weeks during the summer, work their tails off in order to travel the East Coast of the United States performing some of the most amazing feats I’ve ever seen. I took the family last year and it was absolutely mind-blowing what these young acrobats could do. THE DETAILS: Four shows, two days, at 1 and 6 p.m., at Mount Greylock High School in Williamstown. Tickets can be purchased in advance by going online to http://www.circussmirkus.org or by calling 413-664-5073. Did I mention the circus is a benefit for Northern Berkshire Healthcare in North Adams? You can read more about the circus in Williamstown at www.nbhealth.org.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
I know summer can get pretty busy so before you’ve fill up the entire calendar with vacations, camps, etc. you might want to make sure you are in town for these upcoming events:
Sunday, June 26: The Clark Art Institute’s Pissarro Family Day, where the Clark transforms into a farmer’s paradise with barnyard friends, festive activities like stilt-walking and horseshoes, art projects, entertainment and more, 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. 225 South Street, Williamstown. Info: 413-458-2303 or clarkart.edu.
Saturday, July 9: IS183’s Free KiteFest Family Day, where families can enjoy some free kite-making, screen-print their own T-Shirts, picnic and more, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 13 Willard Hill Road , Stockbridge. Info: 413-298-5252, ext. 100, or is183.org.
Saturday, July 16: Norman Rockwell Museum’s “Blue Skies! A Family Festival Day,” where four talented artists from Blue Sky Studios — Nick Bruno, Scott Carroll, Paul Downs, and Peter Paquette — will look at the process of digital animation for feature length films, and offer insights into how beloved characters from “Robots,” “Ice Age,” and “Rio” are brought to life, and visitors can enjoy family-friendly exhibition tours, hands-on workshops and the opening of “Robot Nation,” a whimsical exhibit of artist-designed robots for the 21st century on the museum’s grounds, 1-4 p.m.; “Robot Nation” opening reception 4-6 p.m. Route 183 , Stockbridge. 413-298-4100 or nrm.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kelly Bevan McIlquham ♦ Berkshire Family Fun
Kelly Bevan McIlquham writes our biweekly 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. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate and the Editor of The Family Beat in the Berkshires. Kelly also 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. email@example.com — Check out Berkshire Family Fun every other week.