STOCKBRIDGE -- Every year, on the first Sunday in December, the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce orchestrates a trip back into time.
Main Street is blocked off, several antique cars are strategically positioned along the street and, voila! Stockbridge of the early 1960s is recreated, as shown in Rockwell's iconic painting, "Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas".
"It's really lovely," said Lori Mintini of Bronxville, N.Y. Mintini, 35, and her fiancé, Rich Lornon, drove up from New York to spend a day in the Berkshires.
"I know you probably hear this from everybody, but it does feel as though you've walked into the painting," she said.
PHOTO GALLERY | Holiday fun during Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas
Although the street is blocked off, visitors pack it. The event starts at noon and runs only until 2 p.m., although most stores are open for several hours after that.
As of about 12:30, cars were parked as far east as the entrance to the Berkshire Theater Festival and as far west as the former town hall.
Vistiors are also brought in by bus, jumping the foot traffic along this one-block stretch of Main Street to about 3,500 people for the day, according to estimates.
"It's one of our busiest days," said Andy Talbot, owner of the Seven Arts Gift Shop at 44 Main Street. "There's a lull now, but that won't last."
Seven Arts is the home of all things Rockwell: puzzles, magnets, prints, post cards and just about anything else one could envision. (For the record, the Seven Arts Gift Shop is that cute little light-colored building smack in the middle of the painting. If you have a color print, it's the cute little yellow building in the middle.)
In fact, if one were to take a fancy to the artist's Main Street recreation, Talbot has prints of the picture available for $149.
However, as of about 1 p.m., he only had three left.
Most people, admittedly, weren't actually shopping. Sleigh rides, music by the Monument Mountain Regional High School Band and the Stockbridge Handbell Choir, holiday caroling, a food booth and many other activities are scheduled during the afternoon.
For those interested in the real image, a trip up the road to the Norman Rockwell Museum is the answer. The real painting is in the main gallery right near the front of the museum.
And, in fact, quite often, visitors to Main Street will take that drive, according to Barbar Rundback, a greeter at the museum.
"Yes, you can tell because they're wearing the ID buttons from the Main Street event," she said.
Rundback is usually posted at the desk at the front of the museum, so she admitted that she didn't know if people fresh from the Main Street tour come up to the museum to buy a "Stockbridge Christmas on Main Street" print, or poster or puzzle or key chain or mug.
"That's beyond my area of expertise," she said with a laugh.
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‘Stockbridge Christmas at Main Street'
Although it was completed 47 years ago, Norman Rockwell's "Stockbridge Christmas at Main Street" painting still resonates with his admirers, other artists and even casual fans. Laurie Norton Moffatt, executive director of the Nortman Rockwell Museum offered up a few tidbits about the painting.
n Although it was completed in 1967, it actually took Rockwell 14 years to finish it for publication in McCall's magazine. Hence, the one newer car in the corner at the Red Lion Inn.
n The market in the center of the painting has a large, modern-looking picture window. That was the site of Rockwell's studio in those days. The window was installed to provide him with the steady, white northern light that many artists covet.
n See the mountains behind the buildings? When you look at the street in real life, there are no moutains in the background. It was a bit of artistic licence on Rockwell's part to feature the beauty of the Berkshire hills.