By Todd Fiorentino
Picture this. It’s Saturday, October 11th, about 10:00 a.m. You wake up, get the kids some Cheerios, watch a few cartoons and play toys. You’ve just about exhausted the indoor activities, and now they want action! Before the whining starts, you preemptively strike, “hey, guys, wanna go to Harvest Fest at the Berkshire Botanical Garden?” If they have any interest whatsoever in increasing their fun quotient, which all kids do (in my humble experience), they are going to jump at the offer.
There are some things that you just expect from a Harvest Fest. Admittedly, there is some overlap with the local farmer’s market scene. However, what makes this event so spectacular is the incredible entertainment venues, the unique vendors list (I had to scroll, and scroll, and scroll! to read them all), the history of the festival itself and the fact that all proceeds go to benefit Berkshire Botanical Garden, which is known for its lush pastoral setting and educational programs—from weekend warrior to master gardener.
One part massive tag sale, another part artisanal specialty product showcase and a third part family entertainment like you’ve never seen, no one is going to leave this Harvest Fest and lament how boring it was. As a father myself, I also truly appreciate that the haunted house, for instance, was designed with the acknowledgment that some little kids leave such spooky places with tears running down their cheeks. The creator, Christine the Happy Face Painter, intentionally created it without props that pop out or lunge at you from out of the darkness. The scenes are scary: Frankenstein’s wedding, alien autopsy, zombie baby nursery, witches convention and lifesize werewolf and Grim Reaper, but they don’t attack you.
For a little levity after a brief jolt of adrenaline from the haunted house, head over to see the court jester (Roger the Jester) for some tricks or pull a surprise from the Famous Pocket Lady. Look out Renaissance Fair because Phoenix Swords will even put on a sword fighting display that actually mirrors how a real dual would’ve taken place hundreds of years ago. These masters of swordplay have studied battles from between 1300-1700 and staged a rendition that is nothing like the over-produced Hollywood versions.
Take a break and do some early Christmas shopping from the countless vendors or peruse the massive flea market-style tag sales. Turn the kids loose in a guessing game to see who comes closest to the actual weight of the giant pumpkin. Or let them take a spin with the hula hoops for a retro experience. Listen to some jammin’ music by 8 Foot River (as well as country fiddling by Eric Martin) or take a hay jump to release your frustration after getting lost in the hay maze. What, the maze didn’t tire them out? How about an obstacle course, a little horseback riding (donkeys available for the little tikes) or jump rope? Or feed their destructive side with a little pumpkin smashing. Then, to calm them down, head over for story time.
As it is the Botanical Garden, there will also be education from Herb Associates for those with a curiosity for all things green. You can pick up a snack from the many food trucks and top it off with a cheesecake! Now that’s what I call a family outing!
Check out a few other fall festivals that happen every year in the Berkshires:
Fall Foliage Festival – September 29 – Oct. 5
Since 1955, North Adams has held a special week of events showcasing the beauty of autumn in North Adams. Complete with a children’s fair, road race, craft fair and performances, the Fall Foliage Festival is fun for the whole family. The highlight of the Fall Foliage Festival is the Fall Foliage Parade. The Fall Foliage Parade will take place on October 5, 2014 at 1pm.
Founder’s Weekend Celebration – September 12 – 21
It is the Town of Lee’s annual birthday celebration… 3 days of fun for the entire family… food, entertainment, sidewalk sales, special prizes, street vendors and so much more.
Lenox Apple Squeeze Festival – Sept 27 & 28
35th Annual Lenox Apple Squeeze Festival. A two-day festival celebrating autumn and the harvest with vendors, food, fun for kids, rides and more. Fun! 10am – 5pm.
Click here to find out all about the great events happening in the Berkshires.
Todd Fiorentino is a freelance writer for the Berkshire Visitor’s Bureau and a grant writing consultant. He holds a degree in professional writing from UMASS, Boston and has written extensively on health and wellness topics. Todd also runs Energy Rising Massage Therapy on North Street in Pittsfield.