Photo Gallery | Inaugural Youth Expo at Boys & Girls Club
PITTSFIELD — Pine derby races, basketball, martial arts, dancing, cheerleading, theater, biking, farming and more came under one roof on Melville Street on Saturday at a new event meant to showcase county offerings for youth.
The inaugural Berkshire Youth Expo, inspired by local job expos, brought together youth programmers from all over the county to reach new kids and get them busy. The Boys & Girls hosted the event from noon to 4 p.m., drawing hundreds.
Event organizer Tina Wixsom, associate director of the Boys & Girls Club, said "a lot of networking" took place at the event, which put on display the "scope of what we offer as a community."
"We have extreme variety, there's something for everybody and [the kids] are not playing a video game," Wixsom said. "They're physical, they're involved, they're building character, self-esteem, confidence."
Wixsom said she's "already planning" next year's expo, which she hopes to make bigger and better.
"We're for youth, about youth and by youth," she said. "We're going to try this thing.
The event also offered high school students participating in the Boys & Girls Club's Keystone Leadership Group an opportunity to put in some community service and have fun doing it.
"There's a lot of cool things here in our community," said Alyvia Acta, 16, a Taconic student.
Acta, who specializes in automobile mechanics, spent the day working a desk with her mentor and teacher, Joe Rosier.
"It was a lot of fun," she said.
Her peer, Pittsfield High School junior Alicia McKeon, 17, said, "I loved the dancing and the martial arts guys. They were funny."
Youth Alive Step Team performed, and Andres Ramirez of Funk Box Dance Studios led his young disciples in a demonstration of break-dancing.
"I tell my kids it's infinite," Ramirez said. "You can do whatever you want. There's infinite ways to express yourself, or execute a move. Go with what you feel."
Ramirez said kids entering his program are often overcome by nerves, but within a few weeks have no problem performing in front of big audiences. He recently led his students in a 45-minute performance at Colonial Theatre.
Cheryl Cleveland, of Pittsfield Kiwanis Club, said she had a successful day at the expo.
"We met a lot of kids and parents and were able to get our message out: Whatever we do, we do to promote our community through our kids," Cleveland said. "And, of course, we need new members, and today gave us some good exposure."
She added, "If you want to have fun and do something for kids, come and join us."
Boy Scouts of America, ZenQuest Martial Arts Center and many more participated in Saturday's event.
Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.