NORTH ADAMS — Thinking about going to the beach on Friday, but would rather avoid traffic jams and a three-hour car ride? Walk over to the Eagle Street Beach instead.
But there is no Eagle Street Beach, right? On Friday there is.
Once a year, Eagle Street shuts down to traffic and opens for beach-time fun when 500,000 pounds of sand cover the city street. From 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 15, bring your best sandcastle tools and your imagination — along with some sunscreen and best beach attire — to the 18th annual Eagle Street Beach party.
"It's such a fun day and it's become the thing to do," said artist Eric Rudd, who first thought of and organized the beach-covered street as a large art installation that quickly became a free family fun event.
At first, Rudd said, he thought of covering the street with sod to create more green space. But then he thought of sand.
"The first year, early in the day, I looked around and there was no one there," he said, remembering the inaugural beach party. "I thought, 'oh no, what did I do?' But then a few kids came and before a half hour had past it became Coney Island in the middle of North Adams."
One can imagine the logistics of dumping 500,000 pounds of sand onto a city street can be daunting, but with the help of the City of North Adams, it's a win-win situation, according to Rudd. The sand is donated by Specialty Minerals in Adams, and the city trucks pick up, deliver and take away the grainy stuff, keeping it stored for less beach-like conditions in the winter when it comes in handy on icy roads.
But don't think this sand will be like the grainy stuff we often see on North East beaches, said Rudd. What covers Eagle Street is more like what you find in Miami.
"I always joke the only difference between Eagle Street Beach and Miami Beach is when you dig down far enough on Eagle Street, you'll hit a road," he said.
Thanks to other generous donations from people and businesses in the community, almost every child takes home a prize of some size, according to Rudd, for their sandcastle creations.
"We tell everyone to come to the beach," he said. "Everybody walks away with something."
The sand art varies from the basic to the more complex, said Rudd, who encourages families to bring buckets and tools and food coloring if they want to get colorful — but please, no spray paints.
The event, like the creation of art itself, has transformed and grown over the years. Most notably there is the addition of the adult portion of the event, an evening Mexican Fiesta from 7 to 10 p.m. Dance barefoot in the sand to live music while sipping on margaritas.
The best part, according to Rudd, is seeing families work together to create art, sometimes not even realizing just playing in the sand and creating things is an artform.
"The question is, 'How did Michelangelo get his start?'" he said. "Who knows, maybe it was by playing with sand as a child."
If you go ...
What: Artist Eric Rudd's 18th Annual Eagle Street Beach Party
When: 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., Friday, July 15
Where: Eagle Street, North Adams
The Eagle Street Beach and Fiesta are supported by the Berkshire Art Museum and artist Eric Rudd, Specialty Minerals, North Adams Chamber of Commerce, City of North Adams, Desperados Restaurant, Mildred Elley - Pittsfield Campus, Adams Community Bank, MountainOne Bank, Smith Watson & Co. CPA, Keith Bona, Don Dix/DWD Masonry, North Adams' Steeplecats, First Baptist Church, and the merchants and businesses on historic Eagle Street.