It’s no secret that winter here in western Massachusetts can be tough on both body and soul. The daylight hours are short, the temperatures are low, and it’s tough to truly enjoy the outdoors. This year in particular, the lack of snow has made enjoying the wintry landscape more difficult than usual: many of our usual body-moving, energy-expending activities are less-than-ideal without at least a good six inches of the fluffy white stuff. Luckily, winter festival season is upon us! Throughout the upcoming month, communities all over western Massachusetts will rally for celebrations of all kinds, both indoors and out. Opportunities for play and learning will abound at these seven upcoming community celebrations!
Winter Celebration: Shelburne Falls, January 30th
Kicking off winter festival season is The Art Garden’s outdoor Winter Celebration! A celebration of local art and the collective experiences of winter (both literally and metaphorically), this special event includes both indoor and outdoor elements. In the rail yard just outside The Art Garden, families will find creative winter-inspired installations and participatory art pieces, as well as (weather permitting) a fire around which to gather and bask in the contrast between the light of fire and the chill of winter. Indoors, the Winter Celebration brings an opening reception for Winter, a community exhibit centered around its namesake and offering families the opportunity to explore the many different creative representations and interpretations of winter.
Winter Carnival: Greenfield, February 5th-7th
The town of Greenfield‘s 94th Annual Winter Carnival brings indoor and outdoor fun to locations across town during the first weekend of February! A tradition for nearly a century, Winter Carnival includes everything from traditional winter activities like the Cardboard Classic sled race and ice carving to a chili cook-off and a road race for the hardiest of runners. The event begins on Friday, February 5th with ice carving downtown, the annual Parade of Lights, and a fireworks display! Ongoing weekend events at Beacon Field include skating, sledding, the creation of a snowman village, a snow sculpture contest, a winter-themed story walk, and marshmallow roasting by the warming fire.
Northampton Ice Arts Festival: Northampton, February 12th
Scheduled to spread love through an icy medium on the Friday preceding Valentine’s Day, the annual Northampton Ice Arts Festival brings beautifully carved (and temporary!) sculptures to the streets of Northampton. Offered as part of the Northampton Center for the Arts’ February installment of Arts Night Out, the Ice Art Festival offers families the opportunity to explore the art that is ice carving. Strolling down Main Street can reveal a variety of techniques and tools, and spectators will be able to watch the pieces evolve throughout the day. Work on the ice sculptures will begin at 10am on the day of the event at 10 different downtown locations; Arts Night Out and the unveiling of finished sculptures will take place from 5-8pm.
WinterFest: Easthampton, February 13th
This year marks the coming of the third annual WinterFest for Easthampton! Weaving together Easthampton both past and present, WinterFest includes wintry celebrations as well as opportunities to explore local history and the local landscape. Community-based learning opportunities taking place during WinterFest include ice harvesting on Nashawannuck Pond, reenactments of Arctic camping, nature walks at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, solar power demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides, and a program on animal adaptations. Celebratory happenings are woven throughout the day’s schedule, and include a Saturday Morning Dance Party (with pancakes!) hosted by Flywheel and Hilltown Families (10am-12noon), ice carving demonstrations, a snowman-making contest (BYO accessories!), a family-friendly movie screening, and a community bonfire in the evening.
February 13th [Postponed to February 20th]
Amherst WinterFest will be held from 1-6pm at Cherry Hill Golf Course. This year’s festival comes with the promise that if snow doesn’t arrive of its own accord, it will be made just for the event! Bringing much excitement to the otherwise quiet wintry golf course landscape, WinterFest offers fun in many forms. Sledding and cross-country skiing are annual favorites, while a cardboard sled race combines creativity, engineering, and daring for an exciting competition. Families can also use the event as an opportunity to learn how to engage with their natural surroundings during wintertime – bird watching walks will be lead, teaching participants how to watch for winter birds common to the hills and forests of western Massachusetts.
Holyoke Canal District Winter Festival: Holyoke, February 12th-14th
Offering a weekend filled with exciting activities, Holyoke‘s Canal District Winter Festival brings life to the city’s icy and historic Canal District neighborhood. The festival’s opening ceremony will take place at 4pm at Gateway City Arts, where festive lamps can be made and hung to illuminate the center’s Winter Courtyard. Families can join in the Luminaria Parade, which will bring light to the canals, at 6pm. Weekend highlights – indoors and out – include a dog show, an artisan market, musical performances, and the annual firefighters vs. police offers rivalry hockey game!
10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival: Pittsfield, February 11th-21st
Highlighting the arts and culture of the Berkshires, the 5th annual 10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival offers a mostly indoor take on the winter festival. Made up of ten days chock full of community-based cultural events, the festival combines music, theater, art, local food, play, and creativity, and celebrates the rich arts and culture found within the communities of the Berkshires. Performances, exhibits, concerts, and other special events will take place every day during the festival, and family-friendly highlights include 10 Days of Play at the Berkshire Museum, the Kid 10 kid-run farmer’s market, a toddler-centric pre-naptime dance party, a special performance of Light Wire Theater’s Moon Mouse, a performance featuring local dancers, and an exciting fireworks display!
WinterFest: North Adams, February 20th
Rounding out the winter festival season is North Adams’ WinterFest celebration. Including special events in the city’s downtown area from 10am-4pm, WinterFest offers families a chance to celebrate the coming end of the last of the wintriest months. While a full schedule of events is forthcoming, highlights of the event will definitely include ice sculpting, horse-drawn wagon rides, a chowder competition, and a community bonfire stocked with hot chocolate for all.