Summer in the Valley
Mark Your Calendar with These 20 Happenings
In the mood for some music or theater? Enjoy art or antiques? Feel like trying out some different kinds of food?
The Pioneer Valley offers myriad opportunities to enjoy the summer, so if you’re feeling stir-crazy — or the kids say they’re bored — check out these 20 summer destinations, which only scratch the surface of what’s available in Western Mass. Whether you’re into baseball or fireworks, concerts or dogs, you’re sure to find plenty to do.
Taste of Amherst
Town Common, Amherst
June 19-22: Kick off the summer by eating your fill during the four days of the 2014 Taste of Amherst. In addition to food offerings from about 20 town restaurants — most for $5 or under — the event will feature live entertainment by the River, 93.9 FM, as well as fun family events. The Taste runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and is presented by Atkins Farms Country Market, with sponsorship by the Amherst Business Improvement District, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and UMass Amherst.
Stearns Square Concert Series
Worthington and Bridge streets, Springfield
(413) 781-1591; www.facebook.com/stearnssquare
Starting June 26: Thursday evenings heat up in downtown Springfield for another season of concerts in Stearns Square, starting with a visit from Black 47 on June 26, this summer’s kickoff concert. And the bands — from notable local lights to internationally acclaimed acts — just keep coming, including FAT (July 3), the Spin Doctors (July 10), Roomful of Blues (July 17), Diamondback (July 24), Truckstop Troubadors (July 31), Maggie Rose (Aug. 7), John Eddie (Aug. 14), Doug Demings and the Jewel Tones (Aug. 21), and the Smithereens (Aug. 28). All concerts begin at 8 p.m., and there are no opening acts this year. What began 14 years ago as a way to liven up downtown Springfield — it was originally held in the Court Square area — has become a weekly destination for music lovers, people watchers, and scores of motorcyclists. The series is sponsored by the Springfield Business Improvement District.
Williamstown Theatre Festival
1000 Main St., Williamstown
(413) 597-3400; www.wtfestival.org
Admission: $15 and up
July 2 to Aug. 17: Sixty years ago, the leaders of the Williams College drama department and news office conceived of an idea: using the school’s theater for a summer performance program with a resident company. Since then, the festival has attracted such performers as E.G. Marshall, Blythe Danner, Colleen Dewhurst, and Christopher Reeve. This summer, the program will present a range of both classical and original productions, plus other programs like the interactive workshops, post-show Tuesday Talkbacks with company members, and ‘A Festival 4th,’ when actors will celebrate the Fourth of July by gathering at the Williams College Museum of Art to read the Declaration of Independence and the British reply before viewing the college’s noted Founding Documents collection. Williamstown’s classic small-town parade then kicks off on Spring Street at 11 a.m. and ends at the Clark Art Institute for the grand opening of its newly expanded campus.
Clark Art Institute
225 South St., Williamstown
(413) 458-2303; www.clarkart.edu
Admission: Free on July 4; otherwise $20 for adults, free for under 18 and students
Starting July 4: Immediately following the Williamstown parade, enjoy hot dogs, live music, balloons, and other family fun on the museum’s East Lawn before the Clark — which has been closed for an extensive renovation — officially reopens at 1 p.m. Admission is free on grand-opening day. Galleries will be open until 9 p.m., and the Eagles Band will perform at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9. Founded in 1936, the Eagles Band is the oldest continuing performance ensemble in the Berkshires, performing music from the late ’30s through the early ’50s, in styles ranging from traditional brass to contemporary and pop arrangements. Guests are welcome to return throughout the summer (admission $20, students and under 18 free), with new exhibitions including “Make It New: Abstract Paintings from the National Gallery of Art,” which will include Jackson Pollock’s “Lavender Mist,” opening Aug. 2. Perhaps the most impressive work of all is the Clark’s new, 42,650-square-foot Visitor Center — designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Ando, who is known for incorporating landscape into his design. The center boasts new dining facilities, a museum shop, outdoor terraces, and 11,070 square feet of additional special exhibition space. And if you can’t make it to Williamstown on July 4, there’s always…
Main Street, Monson
(413) 267-3649; www.monsonsummerfestinc.com
July 4: In 1979, a group of parishioners from the town’s Methodist church wanted to start an Independence Day celebration focused on family and community, The first Summerfest was held at the church, featuring food, games, and fun activities. With the overwhelming interest of nonprofit organizations in town, the event immediately grew, and relocated onto Main Street the following year. With the addition of a parade, along with booths, bands, rides, and activities, the event has evolved into an attraction drawing more than 10,000 people every year. The festivities will be preceded this year by a town fireworks display on June 28.
Star Spangled Springfield
July 4: Speaking of fireworks, what’s a better end to an Independence Day filled with food, family, and outdoor fun than taking in a spectacle of the skies? Springfield’s annual show, starting at 9:30 p.m., is a welcome tradition, but it’s hardly the only one. For example, South Hadley and East Longmeadow have slated their displays for July 3, Old Sturbridge Village will light up the night on July 4, and Westfield and Greenfield have events scheduled for July 5. Many other cities and towns are planning fireworks as well; check with municipal offices for times.
Berkshires Arts Festival
Ski Butternut, 380 State Road, Great Barrington
(845) 355-2400; www.berkshiresartsfestival.com
July 4-6: Now in its 13th year, the Berkshires Arts Festival has become a regional tradition. Thousands of art lovers and collectors are expected to descend on the Ski Butternut grounds to check out and purchase the creations of more than 175 artists and designers, as well as experiencing theater, music, and dance from local, national, and international acts. Founded by Richard and Joanna Rothbard, owners of An American Craftsman Galleries, the festival attracts top artists from across the U.S. and Canada. Visitors can also participate in interactive events like puppetry and storytelling, all the time enjoying a respite from the sun under tents and in the ski resort’s air-conditioned lodge.
297 West St., Lenox
(617) 266-1200; www.bso.org
Admission: $21 and up
Starting July 5: Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, and like previous years, it has a well-stocked slate of concerts in store for the 2014 season, including an All-American Opening Night Gala Concert on July 5 and a special gala concert on July 12, a dance-inspired program featuring both the Boston Symphony and fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s prestigious summer music academy. This season, Tanglewood will offer a special focus on American music with orchestral, opera, and film presentations in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, and opera, chamber music, and recital programs in Ozawa Hall, which marks its 20th anniversary season in 2014. Check out the website for the extensive roster of shows and events, including a number of non-classical shows, such as Tanglewood regular James Taylor, who perform in the Koussevitzky Music Shed on July 3 and 4, with both performances followed by fireworks displays.
Brimfield Antique Show
Route 20, Brimfield, MA
(413) 283-6149; www.quaboaghills.com
July 8-13: What began humbly — when a local auctioneer decided to hold open-air auctions on his property, and grew into a successful flea market — eventually began including neighboring properties as it grew. It expanded in the ’80s and ’90s to a one-mile stretch of Route 20 on both sides, and these days, the Brimfield Antique Show is a six-mile stretch of heaven for people to value antiques, collectibles, and flea-market finds. Some 6,000 dealers and close to 1 million total visitors show up at the three annual, week-long events; the first was in May, and the third runs Sept. 2-7. The Brimfield Antique Show labels itself the “Antiques and Collectibles Capital of the United States,” and — judging by its scope and number of visitors — it’s hard to disagree.
Green River Festival
Greenfield Community College, One College Dr., Greenfield
(413) 773-5463; www.greenriverfestival.com
Admission: Weekend, $75; Saturday, $49.99; Sunday, $34.99
July 12-13: For one weekend every July, Greenfield Community College hosts a high-energy celebration of music; local food, beer, and wine; handmade crafts; and family games and activities — all topped off with four hot-air-balloon launches (rides are available) and a spectacular Saturday-night ‘balloon glow.’ The music is continuous on three stages, and this year features Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, Lucius, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Trampled by Turtles, Grant Lee Phillips, and more than two dozen other artists. Children under 10 can get in for free, as the family-friendly festival features children’s music performers, a kid’s activity tent, games, circus acts, a Mardi Gras parade, and other surprises. New for 2014 is the Maker’s Market, a collective of fine artisans from across Western Mass., offering an impressive array of handmade crafts and jewelry. The festival began in 1986 as purely a hot-air-balloon affair, but quickly integrated musical entertainment into the event. Now, its one of the most eclectic events in the Valley.
Hampshire College, 893 West St., Amherst
(413) 256-4900; www.yiddishbookcenter.org/yidstock
Admission: Festival pass, $145 for members or $185 general admission; tickets may be purchased for individual events
July 17-20: Boasting an array of films, concerts, lectures, and workshops, Yidstock 2014: The Festival of New Yiddish Music lands in Amherst in mid-July. The third annual Yidstock festival will bring the best in klezmer and new Yiddish music to the stage at the Yiddish Book Center. The festival pass includes admission to all concerts, lectures, and workshops. The weekend will offer an intriguing glimpse into Jewish roots and jazzy soul music through popular Yiddish bands like the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Klezmatics, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, and more. Friday and Saturday feature dance workshops as well.
New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game
MacKenzie Stadium, 500 Beech St., Holyoke
(413) 533-1100; www.valleybluesox.com
July 20: The Valley Blue Sox (formerly the Holyoke Blue Sox) continue to bring plenty of baseball excitement to Holyoke and its surroundings, playing in a league that attracts some of the top collegiate talent each summer. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for these guys to really showcase their talent in a professional setting,” General Manager Hunter Golden said. “Major League Baseball is a big believer in our product and the caliber of players we bring. Watch the College World Series, and chances are you’ll see half our roster.” This year MacKenzie will host the league All-Star Game, starting at 12 noon on July 20, but the club will play plenty of other home games into early August — usually featuring giveaways and other promotions — to provide families with a fun, affordable evening out.
Bang on a Can Plays Art
1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams
(413) 662-2111; www.massmoca.org
Admission: Festival pass, $75; individual concerts, $15-$24
July 26 to Aug 2: The Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival, a residency program for composers and performers, will take place from July 15 through Aug. 4 at MASS MoCA. The heart of this three-week workshop is a week-long series of 14 concerts running from July 26 to Aug. 2, highlighted by two major Saturday events in the museum’s Hunter Auditorium. The first is David Lang’s “death speaks” on July 26 at 8 p.m., featuring the Bang on a Can All-Stars with special guest Shara Worden. Lang combed through every song by Franz Schubert and pulled out just the moments when Death is a character, speaking directly to us, and then set those texts to new music. On Aug. 2 at 4 p.m., the museum will present the six-hour Bang on a Can Marathon with special guests Steve Reich and Glenn Kotche of Wilco. The festival finale will include more than 50 musicians and composers from around the world, and will feature Steve Reich’s newest composition “Radio Rewrite,” a remix of two songs by Radiohead. Another highlight will be a rare performance of Edgar Varese’s riotous masterpiece “Ionisation,” the first piece ever written for percussion ensemble.
Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival
Court Square, Springfield
Aug 9: Following in the footsteps of the Hoop City Jazz and Arts Festival, which drew more than 20,000 people to downtown Springfield, is the inaugural Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival, intended to celebrate the emergence of Springfield’s Cultural District and promote an arts-driven, community-oriented, and sustainable revitalization of the city. The event will offer a festive atmosphere featuring locally and internationally acclaimed musical artists, a variety of ethnic cuisines and local food producers, and more. This inclusive event aims to bring people from Springfield and the surrounding region together to foster connection, stimulate the local economy, and highlight positive initiatives contributing to the betterment of Springfield’s residents, and uniting the city with the rest of the Pioneer Valley. The festival is being produced by Blues to Green, a nonprofit organization led by Kristin Neville, wife of legendary jazz musician Charles Neville. The organization’s mission is to use music and art to celebrate community and culture, build shared purpose, and catalyze social and environmental change.
Dog Shows at the Eastern States Exposition
1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield
(413) 737-2443; www.thebige.com
Aug. 20-24: The Big E fairgrounds certainly haven’t gone to the dogs, but it will seem that way for five days in August, when dog shows take over the Better Living Center. The Elm City Kennel Club Dog Show will be in town on Aug. 20 and 24, the Newtown Kennel Club Dog Show will take over on Aug. 21 and 23, while the Northwestern Connecticut Kennel Club Dog Show will make an appearance on Aug. 22. Come see dogs in all breeds compete for best in class and best in show.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
358 George Carter Road, Becket
(413) 243-0745; www.jacobspillow.org
Aug. 23: In its 82nd season, Jacob’s Pillow has become one of the premier venues for dance in the U.S. Dance enthusiasts will surely marvel at the dozens of free and ticketed recitals performed by celebrated companies from around the world, not to mention Jacob’s Pillow’s other offerings of photography and art exhibits, seminars, discussions, and film screenings. The season concludes on Aug. 23 with the Festival Finale, featuring a performance by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet or LeeSaar. The ticket also includes entry to a festive after-party, with drinks, desserts, photo-booth fun, and DJ BFG spinning live at the ultimate dance celebration. Proceeds benefit the community programs of Jacob’s Pillow.
Three County Fair
41 Fair St., Northampton
(413) 584-2237; www.threecountyfair.com
Aug. 29 to Sept. 1: In 1818, the Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Agricultural Society was formed, with the purpose of promoting agriculture, agricultural education, and agricultural science in the Commonwealth. The society relied on exhibitions, displays, competitions, and demonstrations to fulfill its purposes, awarding prizes in agricultural and domestic categories. Almost 200 years later, the society’s original purpose still provides the umbrella under which the Three County Fair is presented to the public. Over time, however, various entertainment events became part of the annual fair, from carnival rides and games to thoroughbred horse racing, horse demonstrations, crafts, and, of course, plenty of food. “Taste the past, enjoy the present,” fair organizers say, and visitors will certainly experience a good deal of both.
10 North St., Blandford
(413) 848-0995; www.theblandfordfair.com
Aug. 29 to Sept. 1: Not much has changed in the 145 years of the Blandford Fair, but that’s what makes it so charming. This Labor Day weekend, at the 147th edition of the event, fairgoers can witness the classic rituals of the giant pumpkin display, the pony draw, and the horseshoe tournament, plus more modern additions, like the fantastically loud chainsaw-carving demonstration and the windshield-smashing demolition derby. With many more exhibits and attractions to offer, a weekend at the Blandford Fair is an ideal way for families to close out the summer.
Old Sturbridge Village Family Fun Days
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA
(800) 733-1830; www.osv.org
Admission: Adults, $24; children, free
Aug. 31 to Sept. 2: Bring the whole family to Old Sturbridge Village on Labor Day weekend, when the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast opens its doors to children for free (normally, youth admission is $8). Guests are invited to play baseball the way early New Englanders did, make a craft, join a game of French & English (tug of war), meet the oxen in training, try their hand at marbling paper, see a puppet show, watch a toy fire-balloon flight, visit the Freeman Farm, stop and see craftsmen at work, and much more. In addition, the weekend will feature appearances by Bob Olson, performing 19th-century magic, as well as the Old Sturbridge Village Singers and the Old Sturbridge Village Dancers. Let your kids step back into the 1830s and enjoy the last summer weekend before school.
St. George Cathedral, 22 St. George Road, Springfield
(413) 737-1496; stgeorgecath.org
Sept. 5-7: Every year, St. George Cathedral offers thousands of visitors the best in traditional Greek foods, pastries, music, dancing, and old-fashioned Greek hospitality. In addition, the festival offers activities for children, tours of the historic St. George Cathedral and Byzantine Chapel, various vendors from across the East Coast, icon workshops, movies in the Glendi Theatre, cooking demonstrations, and a joyful atmosphere that the whole family will enjoy.