Time to Shine
Our Annual Guide to Summer Fun in Western Mass.
Vacations are highlights of anyone’s calendar, and summertime is, admittedly, a perfect time to get away. But it’s also a great time to stay at home and enjoy the embarrassment of riches Western Mass. has to offer when it comes to arts and entertainment, cultural experiences, community gatherings, and encounters with nature. From music festivals and agricultural fairs to zoos and water activities — and much more — here is BusinessWest’s annual rundown of some of the region’s outdoor highlights. For a more comprehensive list go HERE. Have fun!
Music, Theatre, and Dance
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
358 George Carter Road, Becket
(413) 243-0745; www.jacobspillow.org
Admission: $19 and up
June 13 to Aug. 30: Now in its 83rd season, Jacob’s Pillow has become one of the country’s premier showcases for dance, featuring more than 50 dance companies from Cuba, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Canada, and across the U.S. Participants can take in 200 free performances, talks, and events; train at one of the nation’s most prestigious dance-training centers; and take part in community programs designed to educate and engage audiences of all ages. Never Stand Still, the acclaimed documentary about Jacob’s Pillow, will be screened on Aug. 30 at 4:30 p.m.
297 West St., Lenox
(617) 266-1200; www.bso.org
Admission: $12 and up
June 19 to Sep. 5: Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, and like previous years, it has a broad, diverse slate of concerts in store for the 2015 season, including the Festival of Contemporary Music on July 20, the String Quartet Marathon on July 29, Chamber Music Concerts on Sundays throughout July and August, and a roster of popular-music shows featuring Sheryl Crow with the Boston Pops, Diana Krall, Huey Lewis and the News, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, and Idina Menzel. To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Tanglewood has also commissioned some 30 new works for performance during the 2015 season.
Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival / Bang on a Can Plays Art / Fresh Grass Festival
1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams
(413) 662-2111; www.massmoca.org
Solid Sound: Festival pass, $149; individual days, $65-$99
Bang on a Can Plays Art: Festival pass, $75; individual concerts, $5-$24
Fresh Grass: Festival pass, $93
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is known for its roster of musical events during the summer. Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival (June 26-28) returns with three days of music — from the festival’s namesake band plus dozens of other artists — and an array of interactive and family activities. The Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival, a residency program for composers and performers, is highlighted by Bang on a Can Plays Art (July 25 to Aug. 1), a weeklong series of shows culminating in a blowout finale on Aug. 1. Finally, the Fresh Grass Festival (Sep. 18-20) showcases more than 20 bluegrass artists and bands over three days. Whatever your taste in music, MassMOCA delivers all summer long. And check out the galleries, too.
Williamstown Theatre Festival
1000 Main St., Williamstown
(413) 597-3400; www.wtfestival.org
Admission: $35 and up
June 30 to Aug. 23: Six decades ago, the leaders of Williams College’s drama department and news office conceived an idea: using the school’s theater for a summer performance program with a resident company. Since then, the festival has attracted a number of notable guest performers, including, this summer, Kyra Sedgwick, Blair Underwood, Cynthia Nixon, Eric Bogosian, and Audra McDonald. This season will spotlight a range of both original productions and plays by well-known writers such as William Inge and Eugene O’Neill, as well as a number of other programs, such as post-show Tuesday Talkbacks with company members.
CityBlock Concert Series
Worthington and Bridge streets, Springfield
(413) 781-1591; www.springfielddowntown.com/cityblock
July 2 to Aug. 27: The Stearns Square Concert Series reverts to its original name this year, but the Thursday-night lineup remains studded with national touring acts and local lights, including Jane Monheit (July 2), Jon Butcher Axis (July 9), Willie Nile (July 16), Cinderella’s Tom Keifer (July 23), Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers (July 30), Denny Laine of Wings (Aug. 6), Dana Fuchs Band (Aug. 20), and FAT (Aug. 27). The 6:30 p.m. shows will be preceded at 4:30 p.m. by a new Local Music Showcase on a second stage, featuring up-and-coming acts. The series is sponsored by the Springfield Business Improvement District.
Green River Festival
Greenfield Community College, One College Dr., Greenfield
(413) 773-5463; www.greenriverfestival.com
Admission: Weekend, $99.99; Friday, $19.99; Saturday, $59.99; Sunday, $59.99
July 10-12: 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 and a spectacular Saturday-night ‘balloon glow.’ The music is continuous on three stages, and this year features Steve Earle & the Dukes, Punch Brothers, Tune-Yards, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, J Mascis, and more than three dozen other artists. Children under 10 can get in for free, and they’ll want to, as the family-friendly festival features children’s music performers, a kids’ activity tent, games, circus acts, a Mardi Gras parade, and other surprises.
Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival
Court Square, Springfield
(413) 303-0101; springfieldjazzfest.com
Aug 8: The second annual Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival celebrates the emergence of Springfield’s Cultural District and promotes 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, dance and theater workshops, local arts and crafts, and plenty of food. More than 5,000 people are expected to attend and enjoy the sounds of jazz, Latin jazz, gospel, blues, funk, and more. The festival is produced by Blues to Green, which uses music and art to celebrate community and culture, build shared purpose, and catalyze social and environmental change.
Worthy Craft Brew Fest / Valley Fest
Worthy Craft Brew Fest: 201 Worthington St., Springfield, MA
(413) 736-6000; www.theworthybrewfest.com
Valley Fest: Court Square, Springfield, MA
(413) 303-0101; www.valleybrewfest.com
Admission (both): Free
If you like craft beer, you’re in luck this summer, with two events coming to downtown Springfield. On June 20, Smith’s Billiards and Theodores’ Booze, Blues & BBQ, both in the city’s entertainment district, will host some 20 breweries, with music by General Gist and the Mexican Cadillac. The event will also feature a home-brew contest; Amherst Brewing will make the winner’s beer and serve it at next year’s Brew Fest. Then, on Aug. 29, White Lion Brewing Co. will host its inaugural beer festival, called Valley Fest, at Court Square. MGM Springfield will be the presenting sponsor. More than 50 breweries and many local food vendors will converge downtown, and attendees will have an opportunity to sample more than 100 varieties of beer and hard cider alongside pairing selections by local chefs.
Springfield Dragon Boat Festival
121 West St., Springfield, MA
(413) 736-1322; www.pvriverfront.org
June 27: The third annual Springfield Dragon Boat Festival returns to Riverfront Park. Hosted by the Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club, this family-friendly festival features the exciting sport of dragon-boat racing and will include music, performances, food, vendors, kids’ activities, and more. Watch the dragon-boat races, starting at 9 a.m., and stay for a day of fun along the riverfront. The festival is an ideal event for businesses and organizations looking for a new team-building opportunity, and provides financial support for the Riverfront Club as it grows and strengthens its presence in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.
Berkshires Arts Festival
Ski Butternut, 380 State Road, Great Barrington
(845) 355-2400; www.berkshiresartsfestival.com
Admission: $6-$13; children under 10, free
July 3-5: Now in its 14th 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 and music from local and national 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.
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 27.
Brimfield Antique Show
Route 20, Brimfield, MA
(413) 283-6149; www.quaboaghills.com
July 14-19, Sep. 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). 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.
Iron Bridge Dinner
Iron Bridge over Deerfield River, Shelburne Falls and Buckland, MA
(413) 625-2526; www.mohawktrail.com
Aug. 16: Local restaurants and food providers will prepare an elegant, one-of-a-kind dinner on the Iron Bridge for ticket holders at sunset. Seating is at 5:30 p.m., and dinner begins at 6 p.m. Athletes from the Mohawk Athletic Assoc. will serve the meal, while local musicians serenade the diners. The Iron Bridge spans the towns of Buckland and Shelburne, and this event, modeled after a similar community dinner in France, celebrates all the connections there are between the two communities. Held rain or shine. Tickets go on sale July 17.
Various locations and admission costs; see websites:
www.thewestfieldfair.com; www.cummingtonfair.com; www.3countyfair.com; www.theblandfordfair.com; www.fcas.com; www.belchertownfair.com
Starting in late August and extending through September, the region’s community agricultural fairs are a treasured tradition, promoting agriculture education and science in the region and supporting the efforts of local growers and craftspeople. The annual fairs also promise plenty of family-oriented fun, from carnival rides to animal demonstrations to food, food, and more food. The Westfield fair kicks things off Aug. 21-23, followed by the Cummington Fair on Aug. 27-30, the Blandford Fair and the Three County Fair in Northampton on Sept. 4-7, the Franklin County Fair in Greenfield on Sept. 10-13, and the Belchertown Fair on Sept. 18-20, to name some of the more popular gatherings.
History and Culture
Hancock Shaker Village
1843 West Housatonic St., Pittsfield, MA
(413) 443-0188; www.hancockshakervillage.org
Admission: $8-20; children 12 and under, free
In 1774, a small group of persecuted English men and women known as the Shakers — the name is derived from the way their bodies convulsed during prayer — landed in New York Harbor in the hopes of securing religious freedom in America. Nearly 250 years later, their utopian experiment remains available to the public in the restored 19th-century village of Hancock. Through 20 refurbished buildings and surrounding gardens, Shaker Village successfully illuminates the daily lives of its highly productive inhabitants. After spending a day in the recreated town, visitors will surely gain a greater appreciation of the Shakers’ oft-forgotten legacy in the region.
Hampshire College, 893 West St., Amherst
(413) 256-4900; www.yiddishbookcenter.org/yidstock
Admission: Concert pass, $160; tickets may be purchased for individual events
July 16-19: Boasting an array of films, concerts, lectures, and workshops, Yidstock 2015: The Festival of New Yiddish Music lands in Amherst in mid-July. The fourth annual Yidstock festival will bring the best in klezmer and new Yiddish music to the stage at the Yiddish Book Center. The festival includes concerts, lectures, and music and dance workshops. The weekend will offer an intriguing glimpse into Jewish roots and jazzy soul music through popular Yiddish bands like the Klezmatics, Klezperanto, Sklamberg & the Shepherds, and more. The festival pass is sold out, but four-day concert passes and tickets to individual events are still available.
Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival
Look Park, 300 North Main St., Florence, MA
(413) 862-8095; www.glasgowlands.org
Admission: $16; children 6-12, $5; under 6, free
July 18: This 22nd annual festival celebrating all things Scottish features Highland dancers, pipe bands, a clan parade, sheep herding, spinners, weavers, harpists, Celtic music, athletic contests, activities for children, and the authentically dressed Historic Highlanders recreating everyday life in that society from the 14th through 18th centuries. Inside the huge ‘pub’ tent, musical acts Albannach, Soulsha, Prydein, Jennifer Licko, Charlie Zahm, and the Caseys will keep toes tapping in the shade. Event proceeds will benefit programs at Human Resources Unlimited and River Valley Counseling Center.
Pocumtuck Homelands Festival
Unity Park, 1st St., Turners Falls, MA
(413) 498-4318; www.nolumbekaproject.org
Aug. 1: This celebration of the parks, people, history, and culture of Turners Falls is a coordinated effort of the Nolumbeka Project and RiverCulture. The event features outstanding Native American crafts, including baskets, pottery, jewelry, and demonstrations of primitive skills; Native American food; and live music by Native American flute maker Hawk Henry, Medicine Mammal Singers, Urban Thunder Singers, and the Visioning B.E.A.R. Singers. Attendees may also take part in craft activities, storytelling, and traditional dances. The Nolumbeka Project is dedicated to the preservation of regional Native American history through educational programs, art, history, music, heritage seed preservation, and cultural events.
Old Sturbridge Village Family Fun Days
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA
(800) 733-1830; www.osv.org
Admission: Adults, $24; children, free
Sep. 5-7: 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, MA
(413) 737-1496; stgeorgecath.org
Sep. 11-13: 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.
Old Deerfield Craft Fair
10 Memorial St., Deerfield, MA
(413) 774-7476; www.deerfield-craft.org
Admission: $7; children under 12, $1
Sep. 19-20: With New England in its autumnal splendor, the village setting for the Old Deerfield Craft Fair couldn’t be more picturesque. This award-winning show has been recognized for its traditional crafts and fine-arts categories, and offers a great variety of items, from furniture to pottery. And while in town, check out all of Historic Deerfield, an authentic, 18th-century New England village, featuring restored museum houses with period architecture and furnishings, demonstrations of Colonial-era trades, and a world-famous collection of Early American crafts, ceramics, furniture, textiles, and metalwork.
More Fun Under the Sun
Berkshire Botanical Garden
5 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge, MA
(413) 298-3926; www.berkshirebotanical.org
Admission: $15; children under 12, free
If the flora indigenous to, or thriving in, the Berkshires of Western Mass. is your cup of tea, try 15 acres of stunning public gardens at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. Originally established as the Berkshire Garden Center in 1934, today’s not-for-profit, educational organization is both functional and ornamental, with a mission to fulfill the community’s need for information, education, and inspiration concerning the art and science of gardening and the preservation of the environment. In addition to the garden’s collections, among the oldest in the U.S., visitors can enjoy workshops, special events, and guided tours.
Berkshire East / Zoar Outdoor
Berkshire East: 66 Thunder Mountain Road, Charlemont, MA
(413) 339-6617; www.berkshireeast.com
Zoar Outdoor: 7 Main St., Charlemont, MA
(800) 532-7483; www.zoaroutdoor.com
Admission: Varies by activity
Neighbors and friendly rivals in Charlemont, Berkshire East and Zoar Outdoor don’t shut down when ski season ends in early spring; they morph into hubs for warm-weather fun. Berkshire East touts its 5,450-foot mountain coaster, as well as three different zipline canopy tours, whitewater rafting and ‘funyaking’ on the Deerfield River, and other activities. Meanwhile, Zoar Outdoor also offers plenty of options for the adventurous soul, from kayaking, whitewater rafting, and canoeing on the river to rock climbing and ziplining in the trees down a scenic mountain. The staff also lead overnight rafting and zipping tours into the wilderness.
Lady Bea Cruise Boat
1 Alvord St., South Hadley, MA
(413) 315-6342; www.brunelles.com
Admission: $10-$15; kids 3 and under, free
Interstate 91 is not the only direct thoroughfare from South Hadley to Northampton. The Lady Bea, a 53-foot, 49-passenger, climate-controlled boat operated by Brunelle’s Marina, will take boarders up and back on daily cruises along the Valley’s other major highway: the Connecticut River. If you don’t feel like sharing the 75-minute narrated voyage with others, rent the boat out for a private excursion. Amenties include a PA system, video monitors, a full bar, and seating indoors and on the sun deck — but the main attraction is the pristine water, sandy beaches, and unspoiled views along the river. Summer cruises generally run Thursday through Sunday.
62 Nash Hill Road, Ludlow, MA
(413) 583-8370; www.lupazoo.org
Admission $8-12; children under 2, free
Lupa Zoo brings the African savannah to Western Mass. residents. The late Henry Lupa fulfilled his lifelong dream of creating a zoo right next to his Ludlow house, filling it with hundreds of animals and instilling a warm, familial atmosphere. Visitors can be entertained by monkeys, feed giraffes on a custom-built tower, and marvel at the bright colors of tropical birds. In addition to offering animal shows and animal-feeding programs, the staff at Lupa Zoo promotes conservation and sustainability.
Nash Dinosaur Track Site & Rock Shop
594 Amherst Road, South Hadley, MA
(413) 467-9566; www.nashdinosaurtracks.com
Admission: Adults, $3; children, $2
Walk where the dinosaurs walked, literally. It’s hard to believe that the first documented dinosaur tracks found in North America were on the shores of the Connecticut River, near today’s site of Nash Dinosaur Track Site and Rock Shop in South Hadley. Originally uncovered in 1802 by a farmboy plowing his family farm, the findings weren’t officially called dinosaur tracks until the 1830s. Over the years, thousands of dinosaur tracks have been discovered; many were sold to museums and private individuals all over the world, but many more can be seen due to the extensive work of Carlton S. Nash. Visit the site and learn about some of this region’s earliest inhabitants, and also about the geology of the area.
Six Flags New England
1623 Main St., Agawam, MA
(413) 786-9300; www.sixflags.com/newengland
Admission: $59.99; season passes, $66.99
Continuing an impressive run of adding a new major attraction each spring, Six Flags New England recently unveiled the Wicked Cyclone, converting the 1983 wooden coaster into a wood-steel hybrid with overbanks, corkscrews, and plenty of air time. Other recent additions include the 409-foot-tall swings of New England Sky Screamer, the 250-foot Bonzai Pipeline enclosed waterslides, and the massive switchback coaster Goliath — in addition to a raft of other thrill rides, like the award-winning Bizarro coaster. But fear not: the park has attractions for everyone along the stomach-queasiness spectrum, from the classic carousel, bumper cars, and two kiddie-ride areas to the giant wave pools and lazy river in the Hurricane Harbor water park, free with admission.
Valley Blue Sox
MacKenzie Stadium, 500 Beech St., Holyoke
(413) 533-1100; www.valleybluesox/pointstreaksites.com
Admission: $4-$6; season tickets, $89
Through Aug. 1: Western Mass. residents don’t have to trek to Boston to catch quality baseball (and this year, that’s especially true). The Valley Blue Sox, members of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, play close to home at MacKenzie Stadium in Holyoke. These Sox feature a roster of elite collegiate baseball players from around the country, including some who have already been drafted into the major leagues. Myriad food options, frequent promotional events like postgame fireworks, and numerous giveaways throughout the season help make every game at MacKenzie a fun, affordable outing for the whole family. Play ball!
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]