Sunday September 23, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- At exactly 10:49 a.m. Saturday, it was time for the Berkshires to turn over a new leaf, so to speak. Shifting away from those dog days of summer, Saturday was the autumnal equinox, the first official day of fall, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.

Originating from the Latin words for "equal night," the autumnal equinox and its spring counterpart mark the only days of the year when the sun crosses the celestial equator, making both day and night approximately 12 hours long. The temperatures get a little cooler, while the days get shorter, a transitionary season before the winter chill sets in.

"Autumn is just so idyllic here," said Robert J. LaCosta of Selkirk, N.Y. In Lee on Saturday to promote his new hearing-aid business during Founders' Weekend, LaCosta said he is always blown away by New England autumns.

"I grew up in New Jersey, and always marveled at upstate New York and New England in the fall," LaCosta said. "There's something so mesmerizing about the atmosphere and the colors, and people come from all over the world to see it. We're lucky to live here."

It's a time of year that many of The Eagle's readers enjoy as well. According to an unscientific poll taken on The Eagle's website asking readers to name their favorite season, autumn generated the most results, with a little more than 45 percent of the total 459 surveyed choosing fall. Summer had the second most votes at 27.


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45 percent, followed by spring and winter at 16.99 and 3.9 percent, respectively, while more than 6 percent of those who voted said they don't have a favorite season.

Paul Campbell of Becket would definitely be in the fall category. Campbell, who was born right at the tail end of summer, said that the season is an enjoyable time to just stay indoors and sit in front of a fireplace while enjoying the leaves changing outside his window.

Campbell, the administrative coordinator for the Becket Arts Center, is helping to organize today's autumnal equinox party in North Becket Village. A joint effort hosted by the arts center, the Mullen House Education Center and the Becket Athenaeum, the potluck will run from noon to 5 p.m. as a way to celebrate the start of the season. The potluck will consist of live music, appetizers served at the athenaeum, a main course hosted at the arts center, and will conclude with dessert at the education center.

In only its second year, the potluck is designed to be a block party for the town, and Campbell said it's all about the community coming together to celebrate the start of fall.

"This is all a statement ac knowledging that while everything has flourished by the end of summer, the fall comes around and it signifies a new beginning," Campbell said.

But not everyone loves the fall. Doreen Bartini said she would definitely agree with the group of Eagle readers who chose summer as their favorite time of year.

"I'm definitely a summer person," Bartini said, while manning a booth outside St. Mary's Church in Lee at Founders' Weekend. "It's nice to see everyone out and about, but I know what's coming around the corner."

Fall facts

The fall foliage is at its best when the late summer weather is dry.

Enjoy those bright reds and purples in fall maple leaves? Those colors result from anthocyanin pigments that come from trapped glucose in the leaves. Vibrant reds, yellows and deep browns are actually present throughout the year, but become visible once the green cloryphyll seen in the spring and summer fades.

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, in Pittsfield, the day got shorter by six seconds between Saturday and today.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the actual time when day and night are both 12 hours long occurs a few days after the autumnal equinox.