Some say fall is the most beautiful season in the Berkshires. Countless Octoberfests and some of the best fall colors in the world are about to appear in the hills here. At 58 years, the Fall Foliage Festival Parade in North Adams is one of the area’s oldest institutions. Originally conceived by the leadership of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce (now 1Berkshire) as a way to celebrate the start of autumn and the fall foliage season, the first parade in 1955 was actually a drum and bugle corps competition. All in all, 10 bands participated – vying for an $80.00 dollar kitty in prize money. It was a big success and the festival stuck.
The Festival is still in North Adams, the smallest city in Massachusetts and the parade is small-town, low-tech and on a budget – but it’s spunky and fun. It always starts with a huge wallop of sound. Every available fire truck from surrounding towns – in fact, any vehicle with a siren attached to it – rolls down Main Street with sirens blaring. This will be followed by floats, bands, and loads of people carrying banners, shaking hands and tossing candy. Pulling up the rear, as always, is the Shriners driving crazy little cars down steep ramps off big trucks, circling Main Street like it’s a crazy Bond movie. Be sure to get a stadium horn too (outside of a South American Soccer match the parade is the only place I’ve ever seen these things sold. They’re loud!) All in all – it’s a cheap, noisy, heart-pumping thrill that gets this gorgeous season up and running.
Fall Foliage Festivities extend throughout the preceding week of the parade and can include a leaf hunt, a children’s parade, spaghetti suppers, Sunday morning breakfasts, and the crowning of a festival queen. The Parade happens, rain or shine on October 6th at 1 pm.
Enjoy-Your Berkshire Hidden Gem Hunter (BHGH)