LENOX -- Fall officially begins this weekend, and in Lenox the autumnal equinox will be celebrated with the annual Lenox Apple Squeeze, which begins on Saturday.
Designed primarily for Berkshire County residents, but with activities that attract visitors, the Apple Squeeze, which continues through Sunday, combines a traditional New England small-town street fair with a showcase where merchants and area non-profits can display their offerings.
"It's a great celebration of fall," said Jim Terry, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce committee that organized the Apple Squeeze, which was founded in 1980 by a group of local merchants.
The Apple Squeeze is among several harvest bashes that are designed to launch the busy autumn season. This year, the Lenox event will co-exist with the Lee Founders Weekend Festival, which runs from tonight through Sunday.
The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority will provide shuttle bus service between the two events on Saturday, with buses leaving on the hour at no charge. This is the first time that the BRTA has provided this service.
"The Squeeze has a broad appeal," said Terry. "Berkshire residents respond the most but many second-home owners look forward to it and come back every year, along with a few tourists."
Terry measures the Apple Squeeze's success by the crowds on the streets, "whether everybody had fun and the nonprofits were able to help support themselves.
He acknowledged that there was a lively debate about scheduling this year's Apple Squeeze on the same weekend as Founder's Weekend in Lee. But he said the scheduling shouldn't affect either event.
"I think it's fine," Terry said. "It just makes for a bigger celebration of the Berkshires, so people attend both of them."
Lenox business owners welcome the Apple Squeeze.
"It's great to get everyone into town, locals, Berkshire residents, enjoying all the different treats," said Olde Heritage Tavern owner and Selectman John McNinch. "Anytime you get people into town, it's great for the community and I'd like to see it thrive."
"Lenox needs to market itself to Berkshire County and get many people coming here for these kinds of events so they'll come back on other weekends," said Ken Fowler, owner of Shear Design and Select Board chairman. "That's where the bread is buttered. Originally, the whole idea was that this is a celebration for us, and we've regained that spirit."
Among the Apple Squeeze's prime attractions are hay rides provided by River Bank Farm of Dalton that take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Rides from Lilac Park down West Street have been organized by the Morris Elementary School PTO.
The PTO will transform Lilac Park into a Kids Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Live musical acts by area young people, carnival games and rides down a giant "Big Kahuna" inflatable two-story slide will take place.
A performance stage at the corner of Church and Housatonic streets will showcase a series of local musical acts.
Food, beverages and baked goods will be sold by 19 purveyors that include restaurants, churches and nonprofits such like the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
The Apple Squeeze represents "the best example of the New England lifestyle, epitomizing the beauty and charm of a small New England village," said Ralph Petillo, executive director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce and co-organizer of the event.
The festival is a major fundraiser for a long list of community organizations and supporters including the Lenox Library, Lenox His torical Society, the Com munity Center, the town's two schools, Shakespeare & Com pany, two humane societies and others. Petillo said.
The diverse lineup even includes a display of a classic 1966 Jaguar XKE Burgundy from Donovan Motorcar Service, and some late-model used cars from Scott Schiff's used car business at Donovan.
"Visitors get the feeling that this is ‘Hometown, USA,' " Petillo declared.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.
Apple Squeeze highlights. . .
The 33rd annual Lenox Apple Squeeze harvest festival will be held in the downtown historic district in Lenox from 10 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday. Here is a selective listing of event highlights.
10 a.m.-4 p.m. -- Kids Park in Lilac Park, off Main Street. Carnival games, rides down the two-story, inflatable "Big Kahuna" slide, bouncy houses, community art project, face painting. From 11-4, soundstage music performances by young artists, including The Rents and acts provided by Berkshire Rocks, including Berkshire Idol winner Christine Bile, Genie and the Barncats, Distance Shock, Mariah Lewis, Sarah Rayner, The Substitutes, Olivia Stein and Ella Sears.
11 a.m. -- Hay rides provided by River Bank Farm from Dalton.
11:30 a.m. -- Stevie Nichols & Friends (Firefly, 71 Church St.)
Noon -- The Gripweeds (Berkshire Classic, 74 Main St.)
Noon -- Mountain Breeze (Church Street Stage)
1 p.m. -- Nutshell Playhouse (Lenox Library, Main St.)
2 p.m. -- Tom Gizzi (Church Street Stage)
3 p.m. -- Terry a la Berry (Church Street Stage)
4 p.m. -- Albany Berkshire Ballet Jr. (Lilac Park)
11 a.m -- David Grover (Church Street Stage)
12:30 p.m. -- Bootleg (Church Street Stage)
1 p.m. -- Rob Zucker's Band (Berkshire Classic, 74 Main St.)