LENOX -- In a bid to attract more Berkshire families to the summer concert experience at Tanglewood, the Boston Symp hony's first scheduled attraction of the season will be an expanded Family Fun Fest.
The third annual free event emphasizes child-friendly musical activities, games and prizes and runs from 1 to 6 p.m. this Friday, supported by the Newton-based Highland Street Foundation. The nonprofit organization, founded by the McGrath family in 1989, is sponsoring 67 "free Fun Friday" events across Massachusetts this summer, including eight others in Berkshire County.
Although Tanglewood's participation began in 2012 as part of its 75th anniversary celebration, the program was created six summers ago, said the foundation's executive director, Blake Jordan.
"The goal was to provide opportunities for families to visit great cultural resources when the economy was in a worse state," he said. "It was created to support lower-income families so anybody could visit the venues, from all income levels."
Last summer, 165,000 visitors took advantage of the weekly offerings at 60 sites, up sharply from the 10 attractions that yielded 60,000 participants in 2008.
The foundation is spending $700,000 on the program state wide this summer, and seeks total attendance of 200,000 people, Jordan said.
At the Boston Symphony's summer home, the Fun Fest focuses on area residents. BSO marketing studies indicate that fewer than 10 percent of Boston Symphony and Boston Pops patrons are full-time Berkshire County residents.
In addition to musical performances, the schedule for this Friday includes an educational scavenger hunt with prizes awarded to 750 children who complete it, an instrument playground, Kids' Corner and interactive craft activities.
Music will be offered by the college-age Tanglewood Music Center Fellows and students of Pittsfield's Berkshire Music School, while theatrical samplings will be provided by the Berkshire Theatre Group, Shakespeare and Company, and the Norman Rockwell Museum.
"It's very hands-on for families," said Jordan. "It's really incredible when you see people who plan all year to go and schedule their vacations around the festivals. Directors of the organizations love getting a different crowd from what they usually get, and hope that people will come back and visit again."
This Friday's Family Fun Fest has been expanded from three to five hours and includes a wide range of additional activities and performances, said Margery Steinberg, a BSO overseer and co-leader of the event (along with former school superintendent William Ballen).
While the event is free, advance registration is recommended by visiting tanglewood.org/familyfunfest.
Steinberg described the scavenger hunt as "the core of the Fun Fest" -- participants are given a large, colorful map listing 12 stops on the grounds with clues. Each location is stamped on the youngsters' maps when they reach it, with the prize station as the final destination.
"We tweak as we go along, trying to add new things each summer," she said. "It's appropriate for children of all ages and has a multi-generational aspect, as parents and grandparents bring kids."
Organizers, including at least 100 volunteers, are hoping for 3,000 visitors this Friday, an increase from last year's 1,200, a total evenly divided between adults and children but held down by a threat of severe thunderstorms.
"So little of our regular audience for the BSO and the Pops comes from the Berkshires," said Steinberg. "We wanted to encourage residents to come to the grounds for free, experience the music and know what a great resource Tanglewood is for locals, not just visitors."
She noted a wide range of affordable incentives during the concert season, such as a $75 "grass pass" entitling a full-time Berkshire resident to attend all BSO and most Boston Pops performances, and free lawn admission for young people 17 and under.
This season's Free Fun Fridays schedule in the Berkshires also includes Mass MoCA (also this Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.), the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival (July 4), Hancock Shaker Village and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (both on Aug. 1), the Clark Art Institute (Aug. 8), the Berkshire Museum (Aug. 22), as well as The Mount and the Norman Rockwell Museum (both on Aug. 29). Details: highlandstreet.org/freefunfridays.
Tanglewood Family Fun Fest schedule
Here are some of this Friday's free activities:
1, 2, 3 p.m.: Healthy Kids Cooking Demonstrations by Aura Whitman
1:30: Presentation by the Norman Rockwell Museum: Formal Gardens Tent.
2:30: Excerpts from "Seussical the Musical" by the Berkshire Theatre Group: Formal Gardens Tent
3:30: Brass Demonstration by Tanglewood Music Center students: Formal Gardens Tent
4:00: Performance by Voices of the Berkshire Music School Teen Cabaret: Chamber Music Hall
4:30: Performance by Allegro Strings of Berkshire Music School: Chamber Music Hall
Sunday, July 27: Family Day at Tanglewood, with arts and crafts, face painting, musical demonstrations, and balloon animal creations, leading up the 2:30 BSO concert.
Tuesday, Aug. 5: Tanglewood on Parade, a full day of musical activities, starting at 2.
Saturday, Aug. 23: Annual Family Concert featuring the Boston Cello Quartet, 2:30, preceded by activities for children starting at 12:30.