Suggested Events for Dec 3rd-9th, 2011

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast.


Many towns host holiday strolls where families can enjoy walking around high-spirited Main Streets illuminated for the holidays while parents shop local and take in the celebratory atmosphere. Several Holiday Strolls are coming up this weekend and next! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Suggest EventIf you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business or announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout Western Massachusetts while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. Click HERE to find out more.


Hilltown Families Board Game SwapOn Saturday, December 3rd from 9:30-10:30am: BOARD GAME SWAP: Hilltown Families is hosting a Board Game Swap in the Meekins Library community room in Williamsburg, MA. Bring in board games you would like to swap with other families. Kindly make sure the games have all their pieces before bringing in. A fun way to recycle old board games and to discover new ones. Board games make excellent holiday gifts for the children in your life too! Surprise them with a new recycled game. This community swap is free and open to all families. RSVP here, or just drop in. Williamsburg, MA (FREE)

Following the Board Game Swap on Saturday, December 3rd from 10am-3pm – MYO CRAFTS & HOLIDAY FAIR: Both kids and adults today can create unique handmade holiday gifts and crafts today at the Hilltown Cooperative Charter School’s Eco-craft Fair!  Materials are largely recycled or all-natural items, and activities include wreath making, decorating candles, mixing herbal teas, and creating hats and scarves from fleece.  The event also includes a book fair and local artisans and craftspeople will be selling their wares.  There will be live entertainment all day (including a performance from the school’s chorus!) and delicious homemade food is available.  413-268-3421.  132 Main Street (just down the street from the Meekins Library on Route 9).  Haydenville, MA.  (FREE ENTRANCE, >$ CRAFTS)

On Sunday, December 4th  from 12noon-2pm – HOLIDAY STROLL: Main Street at Christmas in the village of Stockbridge with antique cars, entertainment, Santa and holiday tunes. 413-298-5200. Stockbridge, MA (FREE)

And later on Sunday, December 4th  at 4pm and 7:30pm – VESPERS: Visit Mt. Holyoke College for their annual vespers service.  The college’s glee club, jass ensemble, choir, and handbell choir will perform, and there will be carols and a candlelight chant.  Abbey Memorial Chapel.  College Street.  South Hadley, MA.  (FREE)

Scroll down to see our complete list of Weekly Suggested Events for the entire week, with 70 event listings for this coming weekend alone!


On Saturday, Dec. 10th from 3-8pm – HOLIDAY STROLL: Take a holiday stroll today in Great Barrington!  There will be all kinds of family activities, including childrens’ crafts, music all over town, a gallery walk, tree lighting, and fireworks!  Downtown Great Barrington, MA.  (FREE)

On Sunday, Dec. 11th at 11:30am – CAROLING: Go caroling all over the community!  The event begins with a potluck lunch at St. John’s Corner in Ashfield, then heads to Poet’s Seat and finally the Buckley Nursing Home.  413-369-0240 or 413-625-9680.  Ashfield, MA; 259 High Street, Greenfield, MA; 95 Laurel Street, Greenfield, MA.  (FREE)


BALLET: Pioneer Valley Ballet is proud to present its 33rd annual production of the Nutcracker, an enchanting, classic ballet production at the landmark Academy of Music Theatre on Dec 9, 10, 11. All tickets are reserved seating and available online and in person at the Academy of Music in Northampton. Senior & MTA member discounts available in person only. To purchase tickets, please call the Pioneer Valley Ballet at 413-527-6363, or the Academy of Music box at 413-584-9032 x105, or visit All shows have discounted high school & college student RUSH seats available 1/2 hour prior each performance at the box office window. RUSH seats are restricted to upper balcony only.

CRAFTED IN THE VILLAGE: December 3rd and 4th. Crafted in the Village. Open Studios and Craft booths all over Ashfield!  Shop with those who make what they use and use what they make.  Saturday 11am – 4pm  Sunday 11am – 2pm  Saturday night: Swing Caravan in Concert at Elmer’s Store! Dinner begins at 5, the concert starts at 7pm. Come early to shop, stay to eat and swing! for information on everything!

Enter to win eco-friendly, locally-made, free-play toys & music from Easy Keepers. Deadline to enter to win: 12/5/11

OPEN HOUSE/CRAFTS: On Sat. Dec. 3rd, Greenfield Center School will again host a Crafty Rumpus Open House. This is a colossal arts, crafts and music event for all ages with free art activities for children 3-12 years. Also musician Jay Mankita, who, according to Pete Seeger, is “one of the half dozen best songwriters today” will perform children’s music, as will Carrie Ferguson. In addition, Crafty Rumpus hosts a 25+ booth craft fair featuring juried artisans from across the region offering lovely wares, and will be serving up savory and sweet foods. All events free and all are welcome! Admissions information will also be available. For directions: and check out the Rumpus website: Crafty Rumpus 2011 Sat. Dec 3rd, 10-4

HANDMADE HOLIDAY FAIR: Start your holiday shopping at Alchemy Initiative’s Handmade Holiday Festival– a juried exhibit of 40 artisans. From pottery and jewelry to chocolates and quilts- this is your one-stop spot to check everyone off your holiday list! Preview Party: Fri., Dec. 2nd, 4-7pm, $20. Gen admission: Fri., 7-9pm and Sat., Dec. 3rd 10-6pm, $4 adults/kids under 5 free. Drop and Shop: Parents, drop your child off at Bisque, Beads, & Beyond for a two-hour art project while you shop. Hands-on for your child, hands-free for you! Special hours on Saturday only. Call BBB to reserve your child’s spot: 413-442-9033. For more info, visit or call 413-236-9600. 40 Melville St., Pittsfield, MA (next to the CYC and Boys and Girls Club).

SPONSORSHIP & ADVERTISING: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the work of Hilltown Families. See your event, camp, workshop, business featured here in the bulletin board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and eNewsletter! Find out more about our Enhanced Publicity options and how we can help with your marketing.

Lee MacKinnon, Director of Family Education and Support at the Hilltown Community Health Centers writes, “A staff representative from the Hilltown Community Health Center’s Families  Together program will be at the Cummington Family Center, 33 Main St. in  Cummington, on Wednesday, December 7 from 10-11am. Hilltown residents  wishing to give comments, suggestions, or ideas for improvement to the program  are invited to drop by and complete a survey. Anyone wishing to give input but unable to make the session may obtain a survey at the Worthington Health Center  or call the health center at 413-238-5511 x155 to find out how to complete a survey.  Families Together is funded by the Massachusetts Community Development Block  Grant Program. To remain eligible for these funds, the program must annually  gather this information.”

Enter to win a yearlong family membership to The Trustees for 2012 plus two adult stickers for cross-country skiing at Notchview in Windsor for the 2011-12 season. Deadline: 12/24.

Emma Stamas of the West County Resilience Committee writes,Creating a More Resilient Holiday Season… Have you ever wanted to have a less stressful and more meaningful holiday season? Join in a discussion about how to save time and money and become more sustainable with members of West County Resiliency at our Tues. December 6 meeting at 7 to 8:30pm at the Shelburne Senior Center. Come and learn new gift giving ideas and less wasteful ways to make decorations, gifts, wrappings,holiday meals, and ways to minimize stress and depression. For more information about this free event or what our group is all about, call 413-624-3240.”

Kristen Rhodes of Leeds, MA writes, “Looking to start a playgroup for my 4yo son. If your child is 3-6 & you are looking for a homeschooling playgroup, contact me!  I’m hoping to get together up to 5 mornings a week (9:30-11). My son has a severe peanut allergy so the group would need to be peanut free. I am willing to host, provide activities, & snacks (just let me know of food allergies/special diets) or we could meet at a peanut free facility if the group prefers…  Pretty much I’m looking for an alternative for preschool as he is in much need of play with other children & cannot attend most playgroups due to his severe allergy, I have a background in early childhood & wouldn’t mind facilitating. Anyone is interested in brainstorming some type of playgroup, let me know!”

Dec 3rd-9th, 2011


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ENTER TO WIN: Family Membership to The Trustees & Cross-Country Skiing Season Passes at Notchview

Enter to win…

Family Yearlong Membership to the Trustees of Reservations and a Family Pass for Cross-Country Skiing at Notchview in Windsor for 2011-12 Season!

Enter to win a Family Yearlong Membership to the Trustees of Reservations and a Family Pass for Cross-Country Skiing at Notchview in Windsor this winter! Deadline to enter to win: 12/24/11 @ 12midnight (EST). Details below. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Western MA is a beautiful place to visit and explore all year long.  With winter coming and snow sure to fall, many families will be looking to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as ways to get outside and enjoy the snowy backwoods and trails in the region.

In an effort to encourage active participation in community life and appreciation for local landscape, Hilltown Families and the Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) have partnered up to offer our readers a chance to win a yearlong family membership to The Trustees for 2012 plus two adult stickers for cross-country skiing at Notchview in Windsor for the 2011-12 season (minors ski for free with adults).

To enter to win we are inviting our readers to share with us ways they enjoy participating in community life during the winter months in Western MA. Details on how to enter to win are below.  But first we want to tell you more about what a membership to the Trustees of Reservations will afford your family, and all about nordic skiing at Notchview!


A yearlong family membership to the Trustees of Reservations, the nation’s oldest statewide land conservation organization, will support your family’s outdoor adventures all year long. With 13 properties in the Pioneer Valley alone, some of the local treasures your family can enjoy include Land of Providence, Dinosaur Footprints and Mt. Tom in Holyoke, Chesterfield Gorge and Peaked Mountain.

A family membership ($67 value) includes:

  • Free/reduced, year-round admission to 106 Trustees stunning reservations located in 73 communities across Massachusetts, such as Notchview in Windsor, the Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Land of Providence and Dinosaur Footprints in Holyoke and beyond the Pioneer Valley and Hilltowns such as Crane Beach in Ipswich, World’s End in Hingham, the Old Manse in Concord, Doyle Community Park and Center in Leominster, Bartholomew’s Cobble in Tyringham, and Cape Poge on Martha’s Vineyard.
  • Discounts on stays at Trustees Bed & Breakfasts (The Inn at Castle Hill in Ipswich and the Guest House at FieldFarm in Williamstown)
  • Discounted fees for the hundreds of events, programs, lectures, summer camps and workshops offered by The Trustees year-round for all ages
  • The Trustees Property Guide, a 224-page guidebook to the organization’s 100-plus reservations—available exclusively to members
  • A year’s subscription to The Trustees quarterly member magazine, Special Places, which will keep you up to date on topics such as conservation, the natural world, history and culture across Massachusetts

The Colonel Arthur D. Budd Visitor Center is open year-round at Notchview in Windsor, MA. Facilities include public restrooms, and two trail shelters, open year round. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)


One of Massachusetts’ premier cross-country skiing centers – drawing an average of 10,000 skiers to its 19 miles of groomed, track-set and backcountry ski trails each winter – Notchview is also popular among ski skating and snowshoe enthusiasts, as well as year-round hikers and walkers. With a current Trustees’ membership, and a 2011– 12 ski pass ($45 per adult), Nordic skiers can ski free all day, every day, all winter long. Ski pass stickers for adult members also admit children under 18 in addition to the sticker holder.

Notchview is one of the only independent, all-Nordic ski areas still thriving in the region. Boasting an active all-volunteer Ski Patrol Program, Notchview regularly hosts youth, high school, college, and masters ski races throughout the season, including the annual Massachusetts High School Nordic championships and the New England Bill Koch Youth Ski Festival, which is held every four years.

The Colonel Arthur D. Budd Visitor Center is open year-round. Facilities include public restrooms and two trail shelters, open year round. For more information about Notchview, visit or call 413-684-0148.

Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield (left), and Chapel Falls in Ashfield (right), are just two of the 106 reservations sure to delight your family!


The Trustees work to promote healthy, active, and green communities locally across Massachusetts by providing hundreds of year-round programs, events and engagement opportunities for all ages. Since 2001, The Trustees have been building a stronger conservation presence in the Pioneer Valley region with educational and grassroots community outreach programs and the pursuit of significant land conservation opportunities. Currently, The Trustees own and manage 13 spectacular properties in the Pioneer Valley, and 106 reservations located in 73 communities across Massachusetts . In addition, the Trustees locally operate the Highland Communities Initiative (HCI), a program created to protect the natural and cultural character of 38 rural hilltowns located between the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers. HCI recently affiliated with the Hilltown Land Trust (HLT), and both organizations are now headquartered in the recently renovated Bullitt Reservation farmhouse, (formerly the Ashfield Town Poor Farm), which recently underwent a deep energy retrofit and boasts many sustainable building features. To find out more about The Trustees, visit (they’re on Facebook too);  and for the HCI and HLT, visit


Your chance to win a yearlong family membership to The Trustees for 2012 plus two adult stickers for cross-country skiing at Notchview in Windsor for the 2011-12 season (minors ski for free with adults) is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)! Valued together is over $150!

To enter to win simply:

  2. FULL NAME and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE), Must include your town to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL IN THE EMAIL FIELD BELOW (we never share your email address with a third party).
  5. CONSIDER SHARING THIS POST ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER by selecting the icons below.
  6. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Saturday, 12/24/11 @ 12Midnight (EST).

A family or individual membership to The Trustees of Reservations would make a great holiday gift! For more information visit… and while you’re at it, “Like” them on Facebook too!

Berkshire Family Fun: Holiday Traditions in the Berkshires

Let the Holidays Begin

Traditions abound in our family beginning with the annual Thanksgiving dinner featuring 25-plus family and friends, mint chip pie, a rousing game of left-right-center and a roundtable discussion of what everyone is thankful for. Soon the holiday books for everyday of December will be wrapped (our own take on the Christmas advent calendar), trees will be chosen, chopped and decorated, and my children’s annual Christmas Eve gift — new pajamas — will be purchased.

Berkshire County is flush with holiday celebrations, many of which have made their way into our family’s list of annual Christmas traditions, and though there are too many to mention them all in this column, here are a few of our favorites.


The Nutcracker, performed by the Albany Berkshire Ballet, will be on stage Dec. 10th & 11th in Pittsfield. (Image courtesy The Colonial Theatre)

The Nutcracker” is a well-known Christmas tradition wherever you live, and for those living in the Berkshires this tradition is kept going each year as a result of the hard work and dedication of the Albany Berkshire Ballet.

The Albany Berkshire Ballet has been bringing its acclaimed production of “The Nutcracker” to audiences throughout the Northeast for over 35 years. Each year, over 600 children are chosen to perform alongside the professional dancers of the ABB in six venues — dancing for over 9,000 audience members. This year’s performances in the Berkshires will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11, at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. — For showtimes and information log onto or


The Santaland Diaries runs Dec. 2nd-3oth in Lenox, MA. (Image courtesy Shakespeare & Company)

Another Berkshire County holiday tradition began last year by way of the legendary Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, and I was lucky enough to partake in it with my husband and friends.

Directed by S&Co. Artistic Director Tony Simotes and starring Peter Davenport, the company presented David Sedaris’ hilarious one-man production, “The Santaland Diaries,” an occasionally subversive, alarmingly clever, engagingly poignant and always side-splittingly funny true account of Sedaris’ time spent working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s Department Store. By the end of the evening my companions and I were rolling in our seats due to the absolute hilarity of seeing this good-looking man deliver a nearly two-hour monologue onstage in his elf costume. We all vowed to return to theater next year during the holidays in hopes of partaking, once again, in our newfound holiday tradition.

This year the show returns this weekend with Simotes once again in the director’s chair and veteran S&Co. funny man Ryan Winkles tackling the role of Crumpet the Elf. The show opens Friday, Dec. 2, and runs through Dec. 30. — For more information log onto S&Co.’s website at


From the Midwest to the Berkshires, local singer-songwriter, Mary Verdi has been bringing people together through her music for years, and for the second year in a row she will bring families together to ring in the holidays at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield with a concert titled “Christmas at the Colonial with Mary Verdi.”

The concert is set for 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, and will feature Verdi and her band, the St. Raphael’s and St. Patrick’s bell ringers from Williamstown, a children’s chorus, the Rock On guitar orchestra, Dalton Ballet Studio dancers, Tony Lee Thomas and, of course, Santa Claus. Audience members will get the opportunity to hear Verdi’s new original song, “Christmas Time,” performed, as the evening will also serve as a celebration of the official release of her new Christmas album “Christmas in the Berkshires.” Later in the concert a children’s cast of elves will take the stage to lead audience members in a heart-warming sing-a-long.

I’m so excited to tell you about this concert as I had the privilege of hanging out with Mary on many occasions, and for the last year I have been getting updates as to the status of this album. I can personally guarantee that this holiday event is sure to fill even the biggest of Scrooges with holiday cheer, and perhaps it could be the beginning of a new holiday tradition for you and your family.

Tickets may be purchased in person at the Colonial ticket office at 111 South St., by calling 413-997-4444 or online at


After nearly 70 years of sitting dormant in the center of Pittsfield, The Colonial Theatre underwent a major renovation and reopened its doors to the public as a theater in 2006. Since its reopening the local theater has been known for presenting stellar family and educational programming at all times of the year. Last year for my twin’s 12th birthday we all took a family “mental health” afternoon to catch Black Violin, two violinists who combine classical music and hip-hop to present a show that is truly out of this world, at the venue. (If they ever return to the area I highly recommend you catch them in action.)

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical returns to Western MA on Dec. 4th in Pittsfield. (Image courtesy The Colonial Theatre)

On the agenda for this weekend? The Colonial is presenting a tale of firsts — a stuffed animal’s first trip in the laundry, a little girl’s first words and a Daddy’s first time dealing with his child going “boneless” — in its upcoming musical “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” coming to the Pittsfield theater on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. This musical, based on Mo Willems’ Caldecott Honor-winning picture book, and combines the talents of six-time Emmy Award winner Willems and Grammy Award-winning composer Michael Silversher to lovingly celebrate the heart and heartache that comes from Daddy, Trixie and Trixie’s beloved Knuffle Bunny’s visit to their local laundromat. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 413-997-4444.

Another holiday tradition in the Berkshires is the annual holiday performance of Berkshire Theatre Festival’s rendition of the Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” and since the merger of the company with The Colonial last year to form the Berkshire Theatre Group, the performance has been moved to the Pittsfield venue. This year, patrons who attend one of the 11 scheduled performances will get an extra special treat, as the performance not only feature local residents of all ages, but also local legend James Taylor. (“I see fire and I see rain …”)

Performances are set for Dec. 17-18, 20-23, and 26-30. For more information on performance times and tickets visit The Colonial’s website.

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Hanukkah in Western MA

Not Your Grandparents' Shtel: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western Mass by Amy Meltzer

Hanukkah in Western MA

One way we celebrate is by displaying all our menorahs, from the fancy one we received as a wedding gift to the ones made by our children in preschool and kindergarten, and lighting at least two each night. (Photo credit: Amy Meltzer)

If you aren’t Jewish, Hanukkah may be the only Jewish holiday you’ve ever heard of. But in fact, it’s a relatively minor holiday. It falls into the surprisingly large category of Jewish holidays which can be neatly summarized as follows: someone tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.

In this case, the “someone” refers to  Antiochus, a ruler in ancient Israel who prohibited the practice of Judaism. A small and unlikely group of Jewish rebels, known as the Maccabees, stood up to the tyrant and ultimately defeated Antiochus in battle. When they retook possession of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life at the time, they discovered that it had been defiled with idols and pigs. According to tradition, when the Maccabees sought to rededicate the Temple (the word Hanukkah means dedication) they could only find one day’s worth of pure oil to light the menorah, the everlasting light in the Temple. Miraculously, that oil burnt for eight days, long enough for new oil to be prepared. (Looking for a good picture book version of the story? Try David Adler’s new book The Story of Hanukkah.)

Most Hanukkah traditions are connected in some way to the story of the miracle of the oil. In the United States we eat latkes, or potato pancakes fried in oil; in Israel, families make sufagniyot, or jelly doughnuts, also fried in oil. The menorah, or chanukiyyah, is lit each night for eight consecutive nights with candles or, more traditionally, olive oil. And the presents? Well, they don’t really have much to do with the story of Hanukkah. In fact, exchanging presents is a relatively recent phenomenon, most likely popularized because of the holiday’s proximity to another, slightly more well known, solstice-time celebration. One that typically features lots of presents.

Our family’s observance of Hanukkah is fairly modest. Don’t get me wrong – we’re really into holidays, but we make a much bigger fuss over Sukkot and Passover, which are traditionally more significant holidays.  We celebrate by displaying all our menorahs, from the fancy one we received as a wedding gift to the ones made by our children in preschool and kindergarten, and lighting at least two each night (the girls choose which ones). We make these potato latkes (usually only once – way too messy and well, too oily) and play dreidel with M&M’s. We also borrow and bend some traditions from our non-Jewish neighbors, decorating our house with blue lights and homemade decorations and decorating star-shaped cookies (Jewish stars, that is). The kids receive one present each night, with a few annual traditions – one night of  puzzles and/or games that we can do as a family, and one night of art supplies to share. The other nights’ gifts are small items like books and socks.

Some Jewish families feel a little threatened by the enormous appeal of Christmas, and find the need to sell Hanukkah to their children as being as-good-as-or-even-better-than Christmas. I understand the sentiment, but I’m not in favor of  the “we get eight days and they only get one!” refrain.  From my perspective, Hanukkah can’t possibly compete with Christmas, for the simple reason that Christmas is a major Christian holiday (what could be bigger than the birth of Jesus?) and Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday. Rather than trying to turn our holiday into something that it isn’t, we take time to enjoy the beauty of our friends, community’s and extended family’s Christmas festivities. We ooh and ahh over the holiday lights, watch the Christmas specials, and attend the Nutcracker. And with a non-Jewish set of grandparents, the girls even get a chance to do something I always wanted to do as a child – help decorate a Christmas tree. Of course, we also invite others to join in our Hanukkah celebrations. After all, what could be better for all of us than more opportunities to add light to our dark winter days? (The answer: more opportunities to add light AND a chance to learn about other cultures.)

There are a lot of wonderful pre-Hanukkah and Hanukkah events this month, including puppet shows, menorah lightings and festive meals. I’m especially looking forward to the conversation about Christmas and Hanukkah with award winning author Anita Diamant (see the December 4 listing below.) This month I’d also like to personally invite you to a party to celebrate the release of my new-(ish) picture book, The Shabbat Princess. Scroll down to December 10th for more details.

UPCOMING HANUKKAH EVENTS IN WESTERN MA (Dec 2nd-23rd, 2011):  Read the rest of this entry »

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