Fall Into Festival Season
Celebrate apples, tunes, community, and autumn’s splendor
Photos Denise B.chandler
A guitar player picks up a bluegrass strum, and people pause between bites of gingerbread or look up from checking the glaze on handmade ceramic mugs. On a sunny afternoon, the air has an edge like the tang of hard cider. Fall festivals are spreading across September, blending New England tradition and contemporary music, art, and flavor. In the Berkshires, some have a long reach.
In Lenox (September 23-24, 2017), a lineup of nationally known musicians is coming to town this year with bluegrass, folk, rock, and soul, says Kameron Spaulding, director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce.
The annual downtown festival is growing rapidly. Last year’s Apple Squeeze drew an estimated 25,000 people, the festival’s largest crowd ever, and this year he expects even more.
The festival’s main stage brought in a nationally known group last year, and this time around it will have half a dozen. The SteelDrivers will headline, winners of the 2016 Grammy for Best Bluegrass album. Sierra Hull will join, riffing on mandolin full-speed with a brimming sense of humor. A 2017 Grammy nominee, she also won Mandolin Player of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards in 2016.
Billy Strings, a young bluegrass soloist and IBMA award winner based in Traverse City, Michigan, and Whiskey Shivers, a bluegrass-rock band from Austin, Texas, are touring together with sold-out performances. Wild Adriatic rounds out this top lineup, Spaulding says, after hosting their own festival in the Adirondacks.
Out of Boston come Dwight & Nicole—Dwight Ritcher and Nicole Nelson’s blues-soul-rock band. Maya Angelou called Nelson magnificent, and when she performed “Hallelujah” on NBC’S “The Voice,” all four chairs turned for her.
The high-energy reggae group, the Elovaters, will also take the stage, and so will Swale, Freevolt and 5 GUN DRAW. Fifteen local bands will play on two more stages, and an After Dark segment will keep the festival going on Saturday night with local bars, lawn games, and a fire to keep warm.
Sam Adams will return with its Angry Orchard Beer Garden. In the day, food trucks will join food booths, many from local restaurants and nonprofits, offering tacos in a bag, corn chowder, and apple treats from slushies to strudel.
The festival’s arts-and-craft portion also is growing. More than 200 artists and artisans will display their wares around downtown’s new outdoor sculpture. They’ll bring local and handmade goods and food; paintings, photos, and sculpture; porcelain, candles, beads and baskets, woodwork, and more. Sunday events will include headline musicians, a 5K run, a kids’ Olympics, and an obstacle course. The chamber is expecting such large crowds that it will set up off-site parking and shuttles.
Live music and fireworks will crown Lee’s annual downtown festival (September 14-17) in the town’s 240th year. A light show will follow the annual Taste of Lee on Friday night, where local restaurants celebrate with tethered balloon rides to benefit the little league.
On Saturday, after the Hometown Parade and Green Eggs cook-off, an artisan-and-craft fair will expand into the park by the Congregational Church, and the Otis Classic Car Club will host an afternoon show.
The weekend will add a touch of history, from floats in the parade to a tour of the cemetery. Sunday morning at the Greenock Country Club, the Lee and Lenox Community Tennis Association will present a vintage tennis tournament in Gilded Age style.
Hancock Shaker Village Country Fair
In Pittsfield, Hancock Shaker Village (HSV) will hold its 20th annual Country Fair (September 23-24) with carefully chosen artisans and chicken races. This year will add tethered hot-air balloon rides and a hot-sauce contest open to all, says marketing and communications director Maribeth Cellana. State Senator Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and Brian Alberg, chef of HSV’s Seeds Café, are among the judges.
The Singing School will perform Shaker shape-note singing on Saturday, the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow on Sunday, and the new Shaker Barn Music series will open its fall season with R&B, jazz, and folk singer/songwriter Milton on Saturday night.
Quilt Days begins on September 22, with historic and handmade quilts and a raffle: Every year for 30 years, the Quilting Friends of Hancock Shaker Village have given a handmade quilt to the village to benefit its programs. They gather in the Brick Dwelling dining room on Wednesdays from spring to fall and sew together. The light is good there, and the room is cool on hot days, and they talk with visitors as they stitch overlapping patterns of the tree of life.