PITTSFIELD -- A wider variety of groups is expected at this year's Gather-In as organizers strive for more diversity during the county's only traditional African-American neighborhood festival.

The annual event -- the only one of its kind in the Berkshires -- is Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at Pitt Park on Columbus Avenue.

Organized by the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP, "Gather-In" celebrates the African-American heritage with free activities that include live music, dance, food, vendors, informational booths and a free children's raffle for bicycles.

Originally started by the local NAACP 42 years ago, the newly restructured organization assumed leadership of Gather-In two years ago from the Westside Neighborhood Resource Center who had held the event the past several years.

Event co-chairman Henry Lee said the festival has more youth-oriented activities in order to attract more families to the gathering. In addition, organizers want representation from throughout the county.

"We have more churches involved this year as they are the foundation of any community," he said. "We want to get more young people to the park and get outdoors."

Gather-In is also about educating the public about its roots, evident by the special activity marking a key milestone in America's civil rights movement of the 1960s. The Lift Ev'ry Voice Festival committee will sponsor a group reading of Frederick Douglass' stirring address, "What to the Slave is Your 4th of July" at 3:30pm in honor of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.


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Readers will include local youth and community members.

The Gather-In -- held rain or shine -- is sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union with additional support from Berkshire Health Systems and the city of Pittsfield. For more information about participating in or supporting the Gather-In, contact Dennis Powell at (617) 501-5159 or (413) 464-9060.