Saturday October 6, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- For 78 years, South Berkshire's leading fall-season country fair has marked the peak of foliage season, and this year is no exception.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden's Harvest Festival, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday, rain or shine, promises an augmented slate of activities for all ages, musical entertainment, an emphasis on locally grown foods supplied by Berkshire farms and purveyors, a bevy of regional artisans and crafters, a two-day silent auction, a large-scale tag sale and other enjoyments.

Western-style horseback riding by Sunnybanks Ranch, hay rides, a haunted house, hula-hoop lessons, face-painting, a bounce house and a petting zoo from Misfit Farm are on the agenda.

In recent years, 10,000 to 15,000 people have attended the festival, said producer Amy Cotler, in her second year organizing the event on the Botanical Garden's 15 acres at the intersection of routes 102 and 183, two miles west of downtown Stockbridge.

Unlimited free parking is offered for the first time this year, she said. Parking in lots surrounding the property has cost $10 per vehicle in the past.

Adults will be charged $5 admission, while the festival is free for children under 12.

Proceeds support educational programing at the Botanical Garden.

"It's the oldest festival of its kind in the Berkshires," said Cotler, a founder of Berkshire Grown who has been a freelance writer in recent years.


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While many activities are free, some attractions such as horseback rides and the petting farm are ticketed.

Cotler described the festival as a "family tradition -- grandmothers who came here when they were kids are now bringing their grandchildren."

Among new attractions is an obstacle course for kids and adults run by the Berkshire South Community Center. There's also a "monster photo booth, with crazy wild stuff," Cotler said.

For the second year, there will be a full-fledged farmers market.

"Food is near and dear to my heart," said Cotler, who was scurrying around the garden making last-minute preparations on Friday.

Choices include farm-fresh sausages from Raven and Boar, Berkshire Mountain Bakery pizza, Lakota's Barbecue and ethnic treats from Lucia's Kitchen.

A variety of artisan food producers will be at the festival selling items that can be taken home, while more than 70 crafters will showcase goods at affordable prices, Cotler emphasized.

With the lack of frost prolonging the growing season, "the garden looks spectacular," she pointed out.

"There's a ton of things for kids to do," she added.

Musical entertainment includes Alan Chartock's Berkshire Ramblers, Terry a la Berry's music for youngsters, the Lucky Fives, 8 Mile River Band, Higher Help, Down Home, Frank Schapp and a roving banjo player.

"Gently used" purses, hat, ties and other accessories will be on sale.

More information: www.berkshirebotanical.org.

To reach Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.