THE BERSKHIRES —It’s hard to believe it’s July already, but somehow here we are, ready to really get summer started in the Berkshires. Because somehow, despite the hot weather, it doesn’t really feel like summer until the Fourth of July.
Looking for some fun Fourth events, in between barbecues with friends and family? There are parades, of course, including the big Pittsfield extravaganza, which kicks off at 10 a.m. and marches from South and West Housatonic streets up to Wahconah Park. This year’s theme is “America The Beautiful: The Land That I Love,” featuring Mary K. O’Brien, a former Middle Berkshire register of deeds, as grand marshal. And there is a smaller but just-as-fun parade (in which candy is still thrown at the audience!) up in Williamstown. That parade starts at 11 a.m. and marches up Southworth and Main street and then down to Spring Street, where it ends in the public parking lot with a free picnic for everyone.
While you are in Williamstown, stick around for some education for the kids: a reading of the Declaration of Independence by the folks from the Williamstown Theatre Festival at 2 p.m, on the lawn of the Williams College Museum of Art on Main Street. If you stayed south to catch the Pittsfield parade instead, never fear: Head south to Lenox for Shakespeare & Company’s public reading of our nation’s founding document by Company actors, dignitaries and other special guests at 3 p.m.
Feeling artsy this holiday? There’s an activity for that, too. The 12th annual Berkshires Arts Festival will once again grace the lawns and air-conditioned pavilions of Ski Butternut in Great Barrington, offering fine arts and fine crafts, ongoing art and craft workshops, demonstrations, talks, activities for children, a dining tent, and live musical and theatrical performances. This festival starts on July 4 and continues July 5 and 6 and then the following weekend as well, July 12-14. The festival runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except the last Sunday, when it wraps up at 4:30 p.m. For details visit berkshiresartsfestival.com.
How about something on stage instead? Williamstown Theatre Festival has two shows at 4 p.m., including “Animal Crackers.” Good for kids 8 and up, “Animal Crackers” is a new interpretation of the Marx Brothers’ hit Broadway musical and classic film that overflows with mirthful melodies, dynamite dancing, and seriously silly slapstick. Special children’s ticket rates apply, so check out wtfestival.org for details. You can also catch a preview of “Oklahoma!” at The Colonial in Pittsfield at 8 p.m. to end the holiday. The show officially opens on July 5, but you can see the previews at reduced rates in the days leading up to the opening, including the Fourth of July. Directed by Eric Hill, this classic musical is fun for the whole family but also most suitable for the 8-and-up crowd. It features timeless songs such as “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin,’” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and of course “Oklahoma!” Visit berkshiretheatregroup.org for details. Oh, and don’t forget the 2 p.m. performance of “On the Town” in Pittsfield at Barrington Stage’s Quinson-Boyd Stage. It’s recommended for ages 12 and up and will definitely entertain the family during the Fourth of July Holiday. Read our family-friendly review here.
Music would be another fine way to end this most patriotic of holidays. At Tanglewood, Jackson Browne with special guest Sara Watkins replaces the usual James Taylor holiday performance, and while you may miss the hometown flair of Taylor, Browne promises to be a good show, too — and it’s the first time in 15 years he is coming to Tanglewood. (Interestingly, he last performed at Tanglewood with Bonnie Raitt on Aug. 24, 1998. He made his first Tanglewood appearance on July 31, 1973.) The show starts at 7 p.m. and will be followed by fireworks. Visit tanglewood.org for details.
But that’s not the only place you can end your day with fireworks. Again, you have two options: head north to North Adams or stay central in Pittsfield. In North Adams, at Joe Wolfe Field right on Route 8, the North Adams Steeplecats will play at 6:30 p.m. In Pittsfield, the Suns will play at 7 p.m. at Wahconah Park. Both games will be followed by spectacular fireworks displays, so let the kids stay up a little late for this all-American of activities.
After all, the Fourth of July only comes around once a year!
P.S. You may also want to take some time this week (July 4-7) to check out all the family fun Hancock Shaker Village has in store for families during its Berkshire Family Focus Days. Get a discount coupon here and check out what’s in store for you at our HSV summer family wrap-up here.