Thursday August 2, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Pittsfield Ethnic Fair has found a permanent home on South Street.

For the second consecutive year, South Street -- between Park Square and East and West Housatonic streets -- will host the annual event when it is held on Sunday.

The downtown block party celebrating the city's and Berkshire's cultural heritages will be held, rain or shine, from noon to 6 p.m.

The section of road will be closed to traffic, allowing thousands of people to safely visit the nearly 40 international food and craft vendors expected to line the usually busy thoroughfare.

The entertainment portion of the event will include two stages -- South Street side of the Crowne Plaza and Colonial Theatre parking lot -- featuring 11 musical groups and dance troupes.

An opening ceremony at noon will kick-off the fair and feature a military color guard and local Boys Scouts marching from Park Square to the outdoor stage next to the theater.

Last year, the multi-cultural fair was relocated to South Street because of streetscape construction on North Street. Organizers decided on a return engagement for 2012 and beyond because the South Street location proved popular with participants and thousands of fair-goers.

"It's easily accessible as you can get in and out of the area quickly," said Mario DeMartino, co-chairman of the fair.

City officials view the permanent relocation an opportunity to showcase the first block of South Street, especially the area's cultural attractions.

"It gives the Berkshire Museum and Colonial Thea tre another way to get in volved with the community," said Megan Whilden, Pitts field's director of cultural development.

The museum officials say they will have children's activities outside the front entrance and offer a 25 percent discount on general admission tickets to the cultural venue, excluding the performance of "Beauty and the Beast." The museum will be open for its scheduled Sunday hours of noon to 5 p.m.

Meanwhile from 1 to 5 p.m., the Colonial Theatre will perform musical numbers from "Oliver!," currently in rehearsal for a fall production. The free performances will be held every half hour, according to theater officials.

The Pittsfield Ethnic Fair was first held from 1971 to the mid-1980s, before it went dormant until 2006. A new ethnic fair committee was established to resurrect the event after residents clamored for its return, organizers said.

"Community organizations also see it as a way to make some money and get very good exposure for what they do throughout the year," De Martino said.

He noted increased sponsorship from local businesses and individuals will help offset the $15,000 needed to stage the ethnic fair this year. In addition, organizers will conduct a "bucket brigade," asking fair-goers to drop what cash they can into pails as they walk through the crowd.

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