Lunar New Year Brings Opportunities for Cultural Studies

Ringing in the Year of the Earth Pig!

Chinese New Year (also referred to as the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival) takes place this year on February 5, 2019.  By exploring art, food, music, and traditions, families can gain background knowledge to support participation in regional celebrations of the lunar holiday. Getting curious about the associated zodiac can lead you to discover the mythology behind the calendar while learning how other cultures, like Vietnam and Thailand, adapted the zodiac to reflect the values and habitat of their communities.

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Weekdays in Western MA: October 9 – 13, 2017

JOIN OUR TEAM! Hilltown Families is currently recruiting our newest Interpretive Writer and Development & Sales Officer. Click on the banner above to see the full job descriptions, as well as a slew of other available volunteer and intern positions. We look forward to hearing from our community!

Weekdays in Western MA:
October 9 – 13, 2017

Weekday community-based educational opportunities can be found throughout the four counties of Western MA all week long! Each weekday we feature community-based educational opportunities that can be selected to support the interests and education of self-directed teens, homeschoolers and life-long learners.

Select the day of the week and find events that support your interests through community engagement!

Monday, October 9, 2017
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Friday, October 13, 2017

Check our list of Weekly Suggested Events for our comprehensive list, including ongoing learning and play opportunities for younger children and intergenerational community events.

See your banner here! Sponsor Weekdays in Western MA!





Suggested Events for January 28 – February 3, 2017

Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events

“[Last year] was the first year my three year old participated in the Valentine’s Day swap & we had a blast making and receiving our cards in the mail. This site truly enhances what western Massachusetts is all about community and our great state!” – Summer Mikaitis (Pittsfield, MA)

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program or service opportunity for youth/families happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our Suggest An Event bulletin board. 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/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Click HERE to find out more.

Hilltown Families Events

It’s that time of the year again for the Hilltown Families Annual Handmade Valentine Swap! For the past nine years Hilltown Families has coordinated a community Handmade Valentine Swap — and we’re doing it again! Making handmade valentines is a great way to push against the commercialization of yet another holiday, while being creative with your family and friends. JOIN US! It’s free to sign up and open to all families in western Massachusetts! Last year our community generated over 1,550 handmade valentines! Let’s do it again! Deadline to sign-up is Wed. Feb 1st!

Saturday, February 4, from 10am-12noon at Flywheel Arts Collective, Hilltown Families and the Flywheel Arts Collective are continuing the Saturday Morning Music Party series with a breakfast bash featuring food, dancing, and diversions for kids! During a free breakfast of fresh pancakes, juice, and fruit, you can craft handmade Valentines with the Easthampton Parents Center. Then we’ll enjoy special guests, DandyLions Garden, a musical act for kids and inner children alike. We’ll round out the morning with DJ Youthelectronix for the “best ever dance party before noon!” This is a fundraiser for both Flywheel & Hilltown Families, with a “pay what you can” admission to attend with your family. For more information, email

Bulletin Board

Open House:Jan 28

The Common School: Community, collaboration, creativity, social justice, inclusivity, environmental education – Come learn how these words are put into action at their winter Open House on Saturday, January 28, from 10am-12noon in Amherst. Play in their classrooms, meet their teachers, chat with current parents, and tour their beautiful campus situated amongst 140 acres of conservation land on Larch Hill in Amherst. Light refreshments provided. Questions? Contact Director of Admissions, Dana Kadish at or visit

Open House: Jan 29

Cloverdale Cooperative Preschool invites new parents to an Open House on Sunday, January 29th, from 2:30-4pm. Cloverdale is located in back of the First Congregational Church on 130 Pine Street in Florence and is a half-day preschool with the option of STEAM focused extended day hours. Come find out about their new expanded hours starting next fall while spending time playing with your children in their engaging learning environment. Meet the teachers and some parents who will answer your questions about their program. For more information, visit or call 413-586-1106 after 12:30pm.

Open House: Jan 29

Sunday, January 29th: Open House from 2-3:30pm at Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education (Fort Hill). Visit welcoming classroom environments, chat with teachers, and find out more about the Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum. Providing engaging, intentional early experiences that support children in becoming lifelong learners, joyful investigators, and thoughtful citizens of the world. Fort Hill has dedicated visual arts and music teachers and studios, an emphasis on natural materials, and classroom experiences that nurture joy, curiosity, deep thinking, and imagination. Consider joining the Fort Hill family! Actively accepting applications for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers for 2017-2018. Contact for information.

Open House: Feb 4

The Campus School at Smith College. Prospective kindergarten through grade 6 students and their parents are invited to an open house on Saturday, February 4, from 9:30am-11:30 am at the school on Prospect Street. Tour the school. Meet teachers, staff, and parents. For more information, contact the admission office at 413-585-3270 or visit their website,

Open House: Feb 5

Sunday, Feb. 5th: The Center School Admissions Open House, 2pm-4pm. The Center School is a preschool through 8th grade progressive school, serving Hampshire and Franklin counties. Prospective families are invited to explore the school on Sunday, Feb. 5th for a Birds-of-Prey themed Admissions Open House. Come early to enjoy a live Birds of Prey presentation with raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi from 1pm-2pm. Then, classrooms will be open and teachers will be offer bird-related activities for kids of all ages. Light refreshments will be available. The Center School has been offering rigorous education for deep thinkers and creative spirits for 35 years and is currently accepting applications for all ages, for fall of 2017.

Feb 20-24

Looking for something fun and creative for your kids during the February break? Check out Valley Performance Playground’s February Vacation Camp with Sarah Marcus and Felicia Sloin! This 1-week camp runs Monday, February 20 – Friday, February 24 from 9am-3pm and will feature theater games, singing, drumming, movement, and fun times with creative friends for students ages 7-11. Valley Performance Playground’s February Vacation Camp takes place at the Northampton Karate Studio, 320 Riverside Drive, in Florence. Cost: $250. Registration Deadline Feb 1. For more information, email or visit online at

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your summer camp, class, community event, school, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, volunteer opportunity, wellness program, local business, after-school class, or non-profit featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our advertising options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community-building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish, and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to

January 28 – February 3, 2017


Suggest an EventCultural Itineraries | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets | Storyhour & Playgroups| Berkshire Family Fun | Advertise/Sponsorship | en Español

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Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

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Happy Fat Tuesday: Celebrate & Learn About the Cultural Roots of Mardi Gras

Happy Fat Tuesday!

It may be business as usual here in New England, but way down south in New Orleans they are having a huge party! Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) has arrived, and the whole city is celebrating! The traditions of Mardi Gras take all forms, and encompass everything from cake to sequins in an all-out celebration of local culture.

Mardi Gras’ roots lie in Catholicism, as the day after Mardi Gras- Ash Wednesday – begins the season of Lent, wherein members of the church give up certain indulgences until Easter Sunday. In order to prepare for Lent, New Orleanians celebrate like mad and spend a day truly enjoying all of the good things in life. Mardi Gras is perhaps best known for its parades filled with outrageous floats, unbelievable costumes, and lavish decorations and embellishments. In addition to these events, Mardi Gras brings together beignets and King Cake, Cajun and Zydeco music, Native American traditions, and thousands of strings of beads to create one of the most fascinating celebrations in America. Click here for online resources…

Three King’s Day Offers Multi-Cultural Learning

Three King’s Day Offers Multi-Cultural Learning

Traditionally, a King’s Cake is eaten on El Dia de Reyes – a sweet ring of bread dotted with fruits and containing a small baby figurine inside. Called Rosca de Reyes in Spanish, the cake is similar to the King Cakes enjoyed during Mardi Gras in the southern United States.

In the United States, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, bringing with it gifts for everyone! In some cultures, however, gifts aren’t given to children until January 6th, the date on which Three King’s Day is celebrated. A major holiday in Spanish-speaking cultures, Three King’s Day (or El Dia de Reyes) is the celebration of the arrival of the biblical kings to Jerusalem – bringing with them gifts for the newly-born baby Jesus. According to the Christian calendar, January 6th is the Epiphany and, coincidentally, it is also the twelfth day of Christmas. In Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and many other countries (as well as in some communities here in western Massachusetts), children receive their Christmas gifts on Three King’s Day, just as Jesus received gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh on that date in the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »

Phenology: Connecting with Nature Science & Local Culture

Phenology: Citizen Scientist & Local Culture

Independent, citizen science like Nature’s Notebook is a great way to connect with nature, learn about phenology, practice gathering data, and learn the basics of experimental design while contributing to a scientific study. Another way…participate in the many phenology-based community celebrations that happen throughout the year, both locally and all across the nation!

Phenology is the study of cyclic and/or seasonal phenomena in plants and animals, especially in relation to weather and climate.  It is important in terms of processes like bird migration or flowering, and for synchronicity between species.  Relationships and interactions in nature depend greatly on timing, and this timing can be studied in order to better understand climate change.  Recording phenological events gives us an idea of how climate has changed over time – keeping track of flowering times allows us to see how they change each year, or decade, or century!

The famous writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau, who is known for his nature journals, recorded the flowering times of many different plant species.  Thoreau’s observations have since been used in studies on the impact of climate change on plants in New England.

Families can help with studies of phenology in a similar way to Thoreau! The National Phenology Network has developed Nature’s Notebook, a citizen science program that aims to get people outdoors and observing nature. Nature’s Notebook has an app and a website where citizen scientists can record observations to help scientists better understand the ways in which climate change is affecting plants in New England.  The National Phenology Network needs volunteers to take part in many of the Nature’s Notebook projects, of which there are several throughout the country. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome Yule 2013: A Midwinter Celebration Shea Theater

Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration Shea Theater in Turners Falls, MA

As art imitates life, the songs, stories and plays in this year’s show highlight the pleasures of passing on the seasonal traditions of family and community. Join the families of Welcome Yule as they sing and dance away winter’s darkness and call back the warmth and light of spring.

The Welcome Yule players will be hosting their annual Midwinter Celebration with delightful music, dance, songs and stories at the Shea Theatre in Turners Falls on December 13th-15th, 2013. This yearly show close to the winter solstice celebrates the return of light at the heart of winter’s darkness.

The Swedish tradition of Santa Lucia Day is featured in this year’s 29th annual production of Welcome Yule. As local wassailers make their way through their English village they invite a newly arrived family from Sweden to take part in the festivities. The English villagers and Swedes share in each others’ customs, songs and dances as they celebrate the light together on the longest night of the year. Traditional carols, wassailing songs, shape-note tunes and Welcome Yule classics will be featured, with plenty of opportunities for audience members to join in the singing. Dancing is also featured, with Swedish couples dances, a Molly Dance, and a perennial favorite, the Abbots Bromley Horn DanceRead the rest of this entry »

Autumn at Bascom Lodge atop Mt. Greylock

Bascom Lodge in the Berkshires

During Labor Day weekend, Bascom Lodge is offering music and dance workshops. Bringing West African traditions to the peak, Marafanyi Drum, Dance, and Song presents a full day of learning and music-making! A variety of workshops are available throughout the day on Sunday, September 1st, before a special concert takes place in the lodge’s lobby at 6pm. The concert is free, and would make a great ending to a day of mountain exploring!

Atop Mt. Greylock – Massachusetts’ highest peak in the Berkshires – sits a beautiful piece of American history. Bascom Lodge was built during the 1930’s as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal Depression-era jobs program. The lodge itself speaks volumes about the mountain’s natural history, as it is built out of Greylock schist and sturdy red spruce. Alongside rustic design and period architecture, the locally sourced building materials share the same aesthetic as the mountain’s trails and wild spaces.

Bascom Lodge offers a myriad of opportunities for fun for families throughout the summer and early fall. Open June 1st through October 30th, the lodge offers workshops, lectures, and explorations of all kinds. With the most beautiful time of the year approaching, Mt. Greylock is an excellent place for hiking and leaf peeping. Rugged kids can hike (with parents) to the top of the mountain to explore the lodge and learn about its history, while families with younger children may opt to drive up the mountain in order to enjoy the view and explore the top…

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Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires

Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires
Art Exhibit, Documentary, Music & Eid Celebration

The art exhibit, Islam Contemporary, is just one of several featured events in August that celebrate Islamic art and culture. Over the course of the month, there will be a community Eid celebration, a documentary screening and discussion with the directors, and a concert of classical Middle Eastern music. Find out more about these events!

The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield are holding a joint art show, Islam Contemporary, for the month of August, opening on Friday, August 2nd in conjunction with the Pittsfield First Friday Artswalk in the Cultural District. The exhibition features twenty-five artists who hail from around the world, some Muslim, some non-Muslim; some emerging artists, some well-established. Included in the exhibition are works by the Berkshires’ own local artist Daisy Rockwell, granddaughter of Norman Rockwell, and Boston-based Pakistani artist Ambreen Butt. The works on display range from reinterpretations of traditional South Asian art, to critiques of the Western media’s portrayal of women, to statements about multidimensional cultural and gender identities, to attempts to use art to connect communities during times of crisis.

This exhibition offers contemporary and varied perspectives on Islamic art, history, and culture. Students of Middle Eastern studies may find this particularly informative, though families are likely to also learn much from the ideas and images on display. Aziz Sohail, the curator of the exhibition, says, “…this exhibit provides a platform for authentic and diverse voices that grapple with an ever-changing heritage. We hope that the show dispels stereotypes and sparks discussion by facilitating a complex and nuanced look at Islamic heritage and culture.” After (or during) your visit, ask your family to think about the works on display and compare the people and lives that they represent to their own lives. What is similar? What is different? What were they surprised by? What new information were they able to absorb/digest over the course of their visit?

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Celebrating First Nations People this Weekend in Western MA

Native American Pow Wow this Weekend
in Lanesborough, MA

Modern pow wows invite both Native and non-Native American people together to honor American Indian culture and history. Authentic dancing, drumming and tribal regalia will be presented at the 7th Annual Rock, Rattle & Drum Pow Wow this weekend in Lanesborough, MA.

Celebrate Native American culture in the Berkshires this weekend at the 7th Annual Rock, Rattle and Drum Pow Wow! The celebration takes place on August 11th and 12th at Wirtes Farm, located at the base of Mt. Greylock in Lanesborough, and will feature music, dance, food, art, crafts, storytelling, and more from Native Americans throughout the northeast. Sample traditional foods like Indian fry bread, buffalo and  corn soup while watching a drum circle, or peruse a wide variety of Native American arts and crafts, such as native bead and quill work.

Pow Wows are celebrations that bring our First Nations People together to honor their traditional culture and history while connecting with their larger community.  The Rock, Rattle and Drum Pow Wow is open to both native and non-native families. Learning opportunities will be plentiful at the Pow Wow – children of all ages will be able to learn firsthand about Native American culture, and can supplement studies of local history, American history, and the natural history of New England!

The event even includes an intertribal group dance that non-natives are invited to join in on – learn the dance as a family, and come away having had a meaningful cultural learning experience. Special guests at the Pow Wow include Grammy award winner Joseph FireCrow and”Lod of the Strings” Arvel Bird. For more information, visit or call 413-443-2481. Rain location:  Mt. Greylock High School (Route 7) Williamstown, MA. ($)

[Photo credit: (ccl) Andrew Brannan]

Annual Day of the Dead Community Altar & Celebration in Williamsburg

El Diá de los Muertos Honored at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA

Day of the Dead Altar at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA

Bring your Day of the Dead mementos to add to the community altar at the Meekins Libray in Williamsburg, MA between Oct 22- Nov 10. Day of the Dead is November 1st & 2nd. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Between October 22nd-November 10th, community members are invited to join in the celebration of the traditional Mexican holiday, El Diá de los Muertos, by bringing mementos in memory of friends, family and pets to add to the Meekins Library annual community altar. Photos, cards, sugar skulls and real or paper marigolds are welcomed.

On Monday, October 31st, the library will be open for treats and authentic Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread).

The Meekins Library is located at 2 Williams Street (Route 9) in Williamsburg and is opened Tues. 12Noon-5pm; Wed. 10am-8pm; Thurs. 3pm-8pm; and Sat. 9am-3pm. For further information, call the Meekins Library at 413-268-7472.

Find out more about the Day of the Dead (known as El Diá de los Muertos in Spanish) at El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources).

Cultural Survival Bazaars in Pioneer Valley & the Berkshires

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Cultural Survival Bazaars in Western MA
Festivals of Native Art, Music, & Cultures Bring Together Public Support for Indigenous Communities Worldwide

The Cultural Survival Bazaar happens this weekend, May 29th & 30th, on the Amherst Common, and then again the weekend of July 17th & 18th, on the Kripalu Yoga Center Field in Stockbridge, MA.

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(Photo credits: Sienna Wildfield)

The Cultural Survival Bazaars are festivals of Native art, music, and culture. Attendees can purchase unique handmade products, meet and socialize with visiting artisans and performers. Read about our day on the Amherst Common a few years ago here, and see photos above. These Bazaars offer free entertainment which includes live world music performances and a variety of cultural presentations.

Walk around and explore the world, learning all about the crafts, how they are made, the cultures they represent, the symbolism in the art, learn about the people who made them. The Bazaars are a world marketplace where you can find handmade jewelry, clothing, décor, area rugs, pottery, sculptures, and many other traditional arts and crafts from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The proceeds support Indigenous Artisans, fair trade companies, and Cultural Survival’s work defending Indigenous lands, languages, and cultures.

For more information about the featured artisans, performance schedule, and other dates, and locations visit the bazaars web pages at

Day of the Dead is Celebrated in the Hilltowns

El Diá de los Muertos Celebrated at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA

Day of the Dead Altar at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA

Bring your Day of the Dead mementos to add to the community altar at the Meekins Libray in Williamsburg, MA on Saturday, October 31st. Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 2nd. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hilltown Families and ArtStar in Williamsburg, MA have partnered up and joined the Meekins Library‘s Day of the Dead Community Celebration with the culinary folk art, Mexican Sugar Skulls.

These sweet Mexican culinary folk art pieces were made at ArtStar, an art enrichment studio in Williamsburg, MA. Hilltown Families joined in and documented the craft of making sugar skulls by putting together a do-it-yourself post with photos and directions for people to follow here. The sugar skulls are now on display at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA as part of their annual Day of the Dead Altar (pictured here).

On Saturday, October 31st, all community members are invited to join in the celebration of this traditional Mexican holiday by bringing mementos in memory of ancestors and lost loved ones to add to this annual community altar. Photos, cards, sugar skulls and real or paper marigolds are welcomed.

The Meekins Library is opened Tues. 12Noon-5pm; Wed. 10am-8pm; Thurs. 3pm-8pm; and Sat. 9am-3pm. For further information, call the Meekins Library at 413-268-7472.

Find out more about the Day of the Dead (known as El Diá de los Muertos in Spanish) at El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources).

DIY: Mexican Sugar Skulls

A Culinary Folk Art for Day of the Dead
By Sienna Wildfield

Making Mexican Sugar Skulls-52.JPG

In the studio with Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar in Williamsburg, MA making Mexican Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead.  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

What better avenue for children to explore and discover different cultures than FOOD?!  Right? … We all eat.  And whether it’s a yearly birthday cake, fish on Friday, pancakes on Sunday, or a couple of loaves of challah on a Friday night, most of us routinely and joyfully participate in different food traditions.  The culinary experience of exploring food customs from around the world can bring families an integrated course of study on cultural traditions and arts.

This time of year in Central and Southern Mexico, in preparation for the Mexican holiday El Diá de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), mounds of Sugar Skulls are sold in open air markets.  The Day of the Dead is on November 2nd and we’ve explored this Mexican holiday in a previous post: El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources).  Making Mexican Sugar Skulls with your kids is a creative hands-on project that can aid in the exploration of this traditional Mexican Folk Art while affording an opportunity to discuss and participate in one of the various customs of this Mexican celebration.

Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar, an art enrichment studio in Williamsburg, MA, recently invited us over to make this sweet Mexican culinary folk art.  In her cozy studio our kids got together and crafted skulls out of sugar and meringue powder and decorated them with bags of colorful icings, beads and sequins.  It’s a fun project to make with a group of friends, but give yourself enough time.  The skulls take 12-24 hours to harden before they can be decorated. To follow is a DIY for this fun seasonal activity:  Read the rest of this entry »

141st Annual Cummington Fair (August 27th-30th, 2009)

The Biggest and Best Little Fair in the Country!

Midway and Carnival Games (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

New this year: Fireworks and Firemen’s Muster! Go to for vendor booth information, buy tickets online, entry forms, directions, contact information, and more.


Thursday, August 27
Gillette Ride Special $10.00 Wristband

  • 4:00 PM Gates Open
    • Antique Engines & Tractors Show Opens
    • Midway and Rides Open
    • Petting Barn Opens
    • Tommy James Magic Show
  • 4:30 PM Rosaire’s Bears
  • 5:00 PM Exhibit halls Open
  • Carousel Rides By Moon Light ( (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield))

  • 6:00 PM
    • Youth Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off
    • Tommy James Magic Show
  • 6:30 PM Rosaire’s Bears
  • 7:00 PM  4X4 Truck Pull

Frida y, August 28
Cruise Night * demolition derby * Rides for Less

  • 4:00 PM Gates Open
    • Exhibit halls Open
    • Antique Engines & Tractors Show Opens
    • Midway & Rides Open * Reduced Rates on Gillette Rides!
    • Petting Barn Opens
    • 4-h Sheep Show Sheep Show Ring
  • Home Canning and Preserves in the Exhibitor Hall (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

  • 4:30 PM 
    • Craft Barn Opens
    • Tommy James Magic Show
  • 5-7 PM Spaghetti dinner
  • 5:30 PM
    • Dynamometer Horse Pull
    • Rain Backup Pull – 15’ horse Pull
    • Classic Cars on display
    • Rosaire’s Bears
  • 6:30 PM Tommy James Magic Show
  • 7:00 PM
    • Youth dairy Judging Contest
    • Cattle Show
    • Sheep Obstacle Course
    • Sheep Show
  • Caramel Apples (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

  • 7:30 PM
    • Demolition Derby
    • Rosaire’s Bears
  • 8:00 PM Bicycle drawing: 4 Bicycles to be Given Away Stage
  • 9:00 PM Rosaire’s Bears
  • 9:30 PM Exhibit halls Close

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Discover South American Folklore in the Hilltowns

Mettawee River Theater Company to Perform New Outdoor Production in Western Massachusetts
Beyond the High Valley: A Quechua Story

Beyond the High Valley: A Quechua Story is a Peruvian folk tale where Imposing Condor and Resourceful Hummingbird do battle, to be performed by the Mettawee River Theater Company in both Shelburne Falls and Cummington, MA. This free outdoor theater production will incorporate masks, giant figures, puppets and other visual elements with live music, movement and text, drawing on myths, legends and folklore of the world’s many cultures for its material.

Beyond the High Valley: A Quechua Story is based on a beguiling folk story of the Quechua people, descendants of the Incas who inhabit the Andean highlands and tropical regions of Peru, Beyond the High Valley will be offered to the public at two free outdoor venues in Western Massachusetts:

  • Friday, 07/31/09 at 8pm in Shelburne Falls, MA on the Buckland-Shelburne School lawn
  • Sunday, 08/02/09 at 8pm in Cummington, MA at Pettingill Field (off of Main Street)

In Beyond the High Valley, the unlikely opposing forces are a willful giant condor and an intrepid little hummingbird. At the onset, the condor spies a young woman tending her family’s llamas in a meadow. He sweeps down from the sky, transforms into a dashing lover and carries her off to a rocky crag. Her rescuer is a creature of dazzling ingenuity, a plucky hummingbird. The production will incorporate a range of puppets and other visual elements realized on many different scales, expressing the vast distances, radiant sky and rugged, vertical thrust of the fierce and beautiful highland terrain.

About the Mettawee Theatre Company

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History, Celebration and Symbolism of Passover

Passover 2009

Passover Dinner

Seder foods for Passover. Read what each food symbolizes below. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In 2009, Passover is observed from sundown April 8 to sundown April 15. Annually, Passover starts at sundown on the 15th day of the Jewish lunar month Nissan, which typically falls in March or April. The year 2009 translates to the year 5769 on the Jewish calendar.

Passover is an eight-day religious celebration symbolizing the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery and exile in Egypt in 1300 BCE. It is a celebration not just of a specific historical event, but of freedom itself. It is also a time of thanksgiving, spring renewal, and family and community solidarity.

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Web Review: Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage

Web site:

Scholastic presents a collection of material for homeschooling families, school teachers and students in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15.


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage
  • An interactive map showing Hispanic history in the America
  • An annotated listing of Latinos in history
  • Interview transcripts with recent famous Latinos (such as astronaut Ellen Ochoa)
  • Research guide on the Spanish missions in California
  • Teacher guide, games and more!

Old Fashion 4th of July Parade in the Hilltowns (2008)

61st Annual Independence Day Parade

The Spirit of Chesterfield will be the theme for the 61st annual Independence Day parade. Since 1947, the town has hosted this event that has grown in popularity to be a Hilltown tradition and favorite.

  • The Parade kicks off at 10:30 and will feature floats, bands, clowns, live animals and antique cars.
  • The Heritage Pops Orchestra will provide musical entertainment beginning at 11:30.
  • Visitors can begin the day with a Pancake Breakfast at 7 a.m. and then enjoy numerous displays on exhibit in town center including quilts and artwork.
  • Following the parade there will be a chicken barbecue, magic show, petting zoo, Firemen’s Muster, and continued opportunities to view the displays. The Bisbee Mill Museum and Historic Society will also be open to the public.

There will be plenty of parking (nominal fee to support the area Boy Scouts) near the parade route, and except for the food, all the other activities are free.

The Parade can always use more participants. Bands, horses and buggies, antique cars, floats, and kids with costumes are welcome to be a part of the festivities. Please contact Mary Ann Coleman at 413-296-4787.

Laissez le Bon temp rouler! (Let the good times roll!)

Notes from Nan: Things to Do When It’s Hot Out
BY HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

More news on Elmer’s Big Cajun fest!

I talked to Gus our guest chef this morning and Lord, this is going to be a spectacle! More than just fun, it’s an out-right spectacle! Most towns in the whole world never get this much outside!

So Gus and his crew are coming to Ashfield on Wednesday and on Thursday (June 18th & 19th) they’re setting up all their stuff to cook outside. We’re frying turkeys (first you inject them with the Cajun Injector, then you fry them, whole in the big rig Gus is bringing with him!) Cajuns like to cook and when they cook, they like to cook for lots and lots of people.

Then he’s bringing a big, black caldron in which to make his jambalaya—he says it tastes best that way and then he’s bringing some sort of other outside oven he calls the Cajun microwave and I have no idea what in the world that is, but I’m betting that it is something that was invented way before regular old American microwaves ever were.

And he’s adding to the menu: He’s now including some sort of Baked Eggplant thing.

Now, one would usually say, “You don’t want to miss this”, but I’m thinking that by the time the whole thing is said and done, you’ll want to cancel your summer vacation for this. This looks to be a whole adventure right here at home!

Come early (on Thursday or in the day on Friday just to watch and learn and talk with Gus. He has tales to tell! He cooks for people all over the world (big corporate people, big fancy people, little funny people) and FOR US AT ELMER’S! You are going to love yourself some Gus! Every body does!

Come for the food, come for the dance, come for the music, come just for the experience!

Friday, June 20th! 5pm! ($)

Now, this Saturday we’re having a smaller, less wilder outdoor event, and that will be … Read the rest of this entry »

Día Celebrations

Libraries Celebrate Día

As the nation’s population continues to become more diverse, hundreds of libraries will showcase their multicultural programs and services this April 30th during the National El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) celebration. This year marks the 12th anniversary of the observance, also known as Día, and libraries across the country will host Día celebrations with family programs including bilingual story hours, book giveaways, and other literacy events. Click here to see a list of local libraries in Western Mass and give them a call to see how they’re celebrating Día. Read the rest of this entry »

Legends & Lore of Easter Icons

Easter Symbols, Icons, Legend, Lore and Customs

Many traditions of Easter, a religious holiday, have their origins in pagan rituals and beliefs. The result is lots of legends and lore behind the popular icons, symbols and customs that are part of the Easter celebration.

Hallmark historian and archivist Sharman Robertson explains the meaning of the word “Easter” and highlights the origin of Easter customs:

The Word “Easter”

Centuries before Christ, the pagan tribes of Europe worshipped a beautiful goddess of spring named Eostre (EE-ah-tra). Festivals celebrating the end of winter and the birth of spring were held in her honor at the end of March, the time of the vernal equinox. Some historians believe the word Easter is a variation of her name.

Others see a connection between Easter and the rising of the sun in the east.  Read the rest of this entry »

Festive Food of Ireland

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The Festive Food of Ireland by D. AllenSt. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, responsible, we are told, for converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock to illustrate how three separate leaves united by one stem resembled the Trinity. To this day the shamrock, the emblem of Ireland, is proudly worn on March 17th.

Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s principal feast day, came as a welcome break during Lent in the days of austere fasting. As children we were all expected to ‘give up’ something for Lent. Our beloved sweets and sticky toffee bars were the most obvious if reluctant choice and any that came our way were carefully hoarded so we could have a mighty feast on St. Patrick’s Day.

Children still wear little green badges and the girls sport green ribbons in their hair. In many parts of the country people go to a ceili of traditional Irish dancing in the evening. Men who ‘take the pledge’ and forswear alcohol for Lent) still a surprisingly common occurrence) often celebrate on the feast day by drinking the Pota Padraig.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by Irish people both at home and abroad. In farflung corners of the world the Irish come together on this day to tuck in to corned beef and cabbage or boiled bacon and cabbage, the traditional emigrants’ meal.

(Excerpt from The Festive Food of Ireland by Darian Allen)


As you slide down the banister of life,
May the splinters never point in the wrong direction!

Celebrate Japanese Girl’s Day with a Mother/Daughter Tea

at the Children’s Art Museum

Kokeshi DollsHilltown Families and CAM present a special Mother/Daughter Tea this Friday, February 29th at 4pm, just prior to Japan’s National Girls Day at the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, MA (same building as the Trolley Museum).

This Mother/Daughter Tea is a community celebration to honor happiness and health of our girls. Peach Blossom tea and symbolic snacks will be served. Participants are encouraged to dress festively and to bring a snack to share, especially snacks that are pink (implies peach flowers), white (implies snow), and green (implies new growth) foods, fruit, sweet rice cakes, and vegetable sushi.

Collectively, participants can create a display to honor girls with small objects, pictures or poems brought from home. All are welcome to add to the display and to offer a word or two about their contribution.

Japan’s National Girls Day is also know as the Japanese Doll Festival, or Hinamatsuri. Girls are welcomed to bring along their favorite doll. Our craft will be Kokeshi Dolls, traditional wooden Japanese dolls (pictured above). All ages are welcomed. Pre-registration is required ($). Click here reserve your spot, or call 413.625.2030.

Suggested Titles:

  • Japanese Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Lanterns And Stars!
    by Betty Reynolds
  • Tea Ceremony: Asian arts & crafts for creative kids
    by Shozo Sato, Alice Ogura Sato, Masturah Jeffrey (Illustrator)
  • Best-Loved Children’s Songs from Japan
    by Yoko Imoto
  • Girl’s Day in Hawaii with Yuki-chan
    by Tokie Ikeda Ching, Sets Arai (Illustrator)

Celebrating the Chinese New Year with Your Kids

Chinese New Year 2008: The Year of the Rat

Last year was the Year of the Boar. This year, on February 7th, it’s the rat’s turn. Read Celebrating the Year of the Red Fire Pig, our Chinese New Year post from last year on Hilltown Families, and learn about superstitions, traditional foods, decorations, length of celebrations, great reading list for kids and a list of resources for actvities, lessons and crafts.

    Web Review: Chinese New Year on Kaboose
    Chinese New Year: “Celebrate the Chinese New Year holiday with great kids’ activities and crafts.” Crafts include making red envelopes, a Chinese orange tray, and paper plum blossoms. Also includes Chinese-style recipes and a short list of Chinese New Year books for children. From Kaboose.

    Reading List

    • Dara’s Cambodian New Year
      by S. Chiemruom,. D. Pin (illustrator)
    • Happy New Year, Everywhere!
      by A. Erlbach, S. Holm (illustrator)
    • My First Chinese New Year
      by K. Katz
    • Goodbye Old Year, Hello New Year
      by F. Modell
    • This Next New Year
      by J. Wong, Y. Choi (illustrator)

    Suggested Events 01/26/08 – 02/01/08


    Families wanting to broaden their children’s global awareness through fun activities like traditional folks arts, folktales and ceremonies, should check out the following series of three Art & World Culture Playshops happening at the Children’s Art Museum (CAM) in Shelburne Falls, MA (next to the Trolley Museum):


      This series will begin this Friday (February 1st) with Sand Mandalas & Prayer Flags of Tibet from 4pm-6:30pm. Sand Mandalas are an ancient Tibetan art form that were used to teach compassion, environmental relations and impermanency. With Tibet being one of the last ancient civilizations, teaching kids the history behind this ancient art form can supplement their global awareness of world civilizations and cultures. Making a sand mandala and prayer flags joins the art and history together into a creative and tactile experience. Click here to see a video of Tibetan Monks making a traditional sand mandala. All ages are welcomed. Pre-registration is required ($). Click here to reserve your spot, or call 413.625.2030. Co-sponsored by Hilltown Families.  (Postponed to Sunday 02/03 @ 10am)


      On Sunday, February 10th at 10am, Russian traditional folk art will be discovered with Matryoshka Madness. Not only can this traditional Russian icon be used to educate your kids about fertility and motherhood, it can also be used to teach them about world culture and customs too. In this playshop, families can discover Russian culture through the traditional Russian Folk Art by painting their own heirloom Matryoshka Dolls. (Please pre-register now for this class to reserve your Matryoshka Doll). All ages are welcomed. Pre-registration is required ($). Click here to reserve your spot, or call 413.625.2030. Co-sponsored by Hilltown Families.


      Then, on Friday, February 29th at 4pm, just prior to Japan’s National Girls Day, CAM and Hilltown Families will be sponsoring a Mother/Daughter Tea, serving Peach Blossom tea and symbolic snacks. National Girls Day is also know as the Japanese Doll Festival, or Hinamatsuri. Our craft will be Kokeshi Dolls. All ages are welcomed. Pre-registration is required ($). Click here reserve your spot, or call 413.625.2030. Co-sponsored by Hilltown Families.


      • This Saturday (01/26) check out the Deedle Deedle Dees at Lyman Hall in Northampton at 10am.
      • Next Saturday (02/02) join us for a kids rockin’ concert with Uncle Rock at the Florence Civic Center at 10:30am.



    • Become a Sponsor
    • To find out how you or your business can help support Hilltown Families by becoming a sponsor, drop us an email or give us a call at 413.296.0096 for more information. By having individuals in our community and area businesses become sponsors, Hilltown Families can continue to offer a weekly list of suggested events, a weekly podcast, updated resources, articles and much more.

      • Submit an Event

      If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, or would like to submit your event to the Hilltown Families calendar of Suggested Events, email Sienna at, or post your event on our community bulletin board. Comments are warmly welcomed!

      Local forecast | Get directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings & Delays

      Events Happening in the Hilltowns
      The following key represents the sum cost of one adult and one child:
      (>$) Under $10; ($) Between $10-$19; ($$) Between $20-$44; ($$$) Over $45

      Saturday – 01/26

      8am – FAMILY RADIO – (Air Waves) While traveling around town, tune-in to WXOJ 103.3 FM in Northampton, MA, from 8-10am to hear fabulous family-friendly music on Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child with the Deedle Deedle Dees! [All ages] (Free)

      8am & 9:15am – KIDS BASKETBALL – (Worthington) Throughout the winter months, the Worthington Recreation Department is offering co-ed basketball program for kids at the town hall. Grades 1-2 begin at 8am. Grades 3-4 begin at 9:15am. No registration is necessary. 413.238.5500 [Ages 6-9] (Free)

      9am – TRAINS! – (West Springfield) The Amherst Railway Society will be holding a weekend Railroad Hobby Show at the Eastern States Exposition on Saturday & Sunday. Bring your young train enthusiasts to see over 35 operating layouts, visit with historical societies, clinics and more. [Families] ($)

      10am – FAMILY BOOK CLUB – (Williamsburg) Family Book Club will be at the Meekins Library.Click here for more info. [Ages 9-12] (Free)

      10am – KIDS CONCERT – (Northampton) The Deedle Deedle Dees will be performing at Lyman Hall at the First Churches in Northampton, MA. There will be pancakes, carnival games, live music and dancing! Click here for more information. [Families] ($)

      11am & 1pm – THEATER – (Amherst) In the auditorium at the Eric Carle Musem, Castle Hill Theatre Presents an original adaptation of the Norse myth, Tatterhood. 413.658.1126 [Families] ($, ticket price does not include museum admission. Borrow a museum pass from your local library)

      1pm-3pm – NATURE EXPLORATIONS – (Williamsburg) Mass Audubon will be hosting Nature in Winter at the Meekins Library (indoors/outdoors). 413.268.7472 [Ages 4-8] (Free)

      1:30pm – 3:20pm – ICE SKATING – (Greenfield) The Collins/Moylan Memorial Skating Rink will have a public skate. Skate rentals available. 413.772.6891 [Families] ($)

      2:30pm-4pm – FAMILY ART WORKSHOP – (Haydenville) Art Star invites families to come make art together with art projects that celebrate the family. Materials included. 413.896.3709 [Families] ($)

      4pm-6:50pm – ICE SKATING – (Amherst) There will be a public skate at the Mullins Center Ice Rink. Skate rentals available. 413.545.3990 [Families] ($)

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Discover Russian Culture Through Matryoshka Dolls

      by Sienna Wildfield

      (cc) Jeff Belmonte

      “Mommy, where did I come from?”

      By the time my daughter asked me this question, she was four and I had been preparing for a couple of years by collecting Russian nesting dolls. I had been picking them up at tag sales and white elephant sales and they’ve become one of my favorite tools for addressing this simple yet complex question. I start with the big doll, her Great Great Grandmother, open her up and pull out her Great Grandmother, open her up and pull out her Grandmother, open her up and pull out her mother, open her up and pull out, well, her. It has proven to be an effective illustration.

      “The name [Matryoshka] wasn’t chosen by accident… Matryona (lovingly Matryosha, Matryoshenka) was a very popular and common Russian name for a woman. Also, the word was derived from the Latin “mater” (mother) which was perfectly suited for the toy. “* The first time I demonstrated the concept of maternal lineage to my daughter she stared at the dolls, the little gears turning inside her head… “How did I get in there?” I then did it backwards, replacing the dolls, working back in lineage: this is you, you came from me, I came from Gram, and so on. It was the backwards method that got her engine going and put the concept of lineage into form, and gave me some more time to figure out how to answer THAT question.


      (cc) yasmapazMATRYOSHKA MADNESS: Discovering World Cultures in the Hilltowns

      Not only can this traditional Russian icon be used to educate your kids about fertility and motherhood, it can also be used to teach them about world culture and customs too. As with our Sand Mandala Workshop that offers explorations of Tibetan culture, Hilltown Families and CAM will be offering a workshop for families to discover Russian culture through the traditional Russian Folk Art of painted Matryoshka Dolls: Matryoshka Madness.

      On Sunday, February 10th from 10am-12:30pm, families are welcome to come spend the morning making a family heirloom by painting your own Matryoshka Doll. Stories about the Matryoshka Doll will be read and kids can discover Russian tradition and customs while learning about this traditional Russian Folk Art at the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, MA. All ages are welcome. Pre-registration is required by JANUARY 20TH, 2008 ($). Click here to reserve your spot, or call 413.625.2030.


      Russia Today did a short piece during Moscow’s International Craft Fair on the Matryoshka Doll that takes a look at the dolls history and origin:

      Read the rest of this entry »

      Zoe’s Big Adventure Across Eastern Europe

      Zoe Travels the World: Join Us in Our Adventures
      By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

      (Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos)

      Hi, my name is Zoe. Some of you may know me as I live here in the hilltowns. And while I love the hilltowns, one of my favorite things to do with MamaT is to travel. I LOVE to travel! I’ve taken an airplane to Europe when I was four months old, and I’ve journeyed by car from the hilltowns to Florida. I’ve traveled by bus and by train, and I even spent seven months in India (in utero!). I don’t remember much about that trip, but MamaT has stories to share!

      This spring (March 2008) we’re taking off again. I can hardly wait! We are flying to Amsterdam (Holland) and then caravaning through Eastern Europe to Greece to visit my Giagia (greek for grandmother). MamaT says that our trip this spring is just a warm up for the BIG ONE … a journey over land from England to Tibet! And all along the way we are planning our adventures with visits to many cities in seven different countries, including:

      • Berlin (Germany)
      • Prague (Czech Republic)
      • Vienna (Austria)
      • Budapest (Hungary)
      • Bucharest (Romania)
      • Sofia (Bulgaria)
      • and then into Northern Greece

      You can follow our adventures right here on Hilltown Families. You can read our posts, which will include photos, activities, maps and links to suggested readings. And when we return we’ll be sharing more stories and craft projects at the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, MA.

      (c) 2006 Tony(a) LemosPOSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD

      If you would like to receive a postcard from us during our travels, send us your name and mailing address, along with a donation of $1.50 to cover costs and we’ll send you a card during our trip. Drop it in the mail to arrive before March 7th, 2008. Our road trip will begin the next day!

      About the Author: Tony(a) Lemos

      Tony(a) Lemos

      Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA and maintains an herbal practice in Northampton, MA. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She is the vice president of the North East Herbal Association, and has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering and the Women’s Herbal Conference

      New Year’s Eve with the Family


      This year’s First Night festivities in Northampton, MA, will begin on New Year’s Eve at noon. There will be a special 25th (Silver) Anniversary Show at the Northampton Center for the Arts, followed by a family parade. “Many silvery surprises including dancers, drummers, and giant puppets plus a special presentation of Mixed Nuts, by Double Vision. The Silver First Night Family Parade will begin at the Northampton Center for the Arts and make its way to Pulaski Park and on to Masonic, Center and Main streets. Look for the Giant Mystic Dancer Puppets!”

      • Click here to see the schedule of events.



      • Click here to read about and see photos from last year’s review of First Night Noho on Hilltown Families.


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