Thursday May 17, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A variety of young performers and a walk to benefit local mental health programs highlight the first Third Thursday of the season this evening.

The monthly downtown block party opens 2012 with "Celebrating Youth," a theme that has kicked off Third Thursday since its inception five years ago.

Third Thursday typically attracts 10,000 visitors, especially when Mother Nature cooperates -- and that should be the case today.

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"I think we will have a great turnout given there's a zero chance of rain in the forecast," said Megan Whilden, Pitts field's cultural development director. "We got the wet weather out of the way early this week."

The Youth Alive Step Team and Band, the Catholic Youth Center All-Star Cheer leaders, Kids 4 Harmony & the Sunshine Singers and the Hill crest Drummers are among the youth groups scheduled to appear on North Street.

Meanwhile, the local chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness will hold its annual fund raiser, the Minds Matter Walk, at Third Thurs day.


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NAMI's Berkshire County chapter has a goal to raise $25,000, donations that will help fund the nonprofit's programs and services for individuals with mental illness and their families. Walkers can register at the NAMI booth beginning at 5 p.m. with the three-quarter mile walk starting at 5:45 p.m.

Third Thursday activities are primarily scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. and feature live entertainment, food and craft vendors, and established downtown merchants offering specials or staying open for extended hours.

North Street, from Park Square to Maplewood Avenue, is off-limits to vehicular traffic from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. in order to keep the event pedestrian-friendly.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, having worked on North Street for years, is looking forward to another Third Thursday.

"Oftentimes, you see old friends you haven't seen in a while," he said.

However, a mayoral decision earlier this month nearly derailed the May Third Thursday. Bianchi had originally canceled the event due to the ongoing streetscape project on North Street. He quickly reversed his decision on May 7 following a flood of phone calls to his office and after meeting with City Hall staff.

Bianchi cited how many individuals and groups continue to thank him for changing his mind, especially the nonprofits.

"I didn't realize how much nonprofits rely on Third Thursday to get the word out about their groups," he said.

The popularity of Third Thursday is the main reason NAMI's Berkshire County chapter wanted to hold its Minds Matter Walk during the block party, according to organization officials.

"We realized this is an opportunity to put us in the spotlight and fight the stigma associated with mental illness," said Marilyn Moran, president of NAMI's Berkshire County chapter.

Moran noted that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.

If you go ...

What: Third Thursday in downtown Pittsfield.

When: 5 to 8 tonight

Where: North Street between Park Square and Maplewood Avenue, closed to auto traffic from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.