County Fair: Former first lady maintains ties with The Mount

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Former first lady Laura Bush and friends on Saturday toured the recent restoration efforts at The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton and a registered National Historic Landmark.

Bush, who serves as the honorary chairwoman of The Mount's National Committee, was joined by Mount Trustee Chairman Dan Kasper, Executive Director Susan Wissler and Facilities Director Ross Jolly.

The main focus of Saturday's behind-the-scenes tour, led by Jolly, was the recent repairs to the historic Stable's exterior which had sustained severe deterioration. The Stable is The Mount's primary cultural programming space, used to present lectures, dramatic readings, theater, music, storytelling, workshops, outdoor sculpture, films, and literary panels.

The project was approved last fall thanks to private donors who were dismayed with the Stable's exterior condition, as well as two major grants. The Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded $100,000 to The Mount from its Cultural Facility Fund. The Mount also secured $150,000 from a private foundation.

After touring the Stable, the group walked through The Mount's newest trail, which meanders through the meadow toward Laurel Lake and offers unique views back up to the mansion, according to an announcement from the organization.

Kasper and Wissler explained to the group that The Mount is exploring the creation of an extensive system of walking trails across their property as well as neighboring lands.

This is the most recent in a series of transformations of the historic property. Since 2010, The Mount has continuously expanded its role as a historic house museum to a year-round cultural center, offering a diverse line-up of music, theater, readings, lectures and an annual outdoor sculpture exhibit.

Being a longtime advocate for preservation, Bush said she was pleased to see the continuing efforts as well as the new initiatives at The Mount, the announcement stated.

The dual-purpose use of the property, as both a historic house and a cultural center, is a blueprint for preservation and sustainability that can be emulated at other important historic properties.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private nonprofit in Washington, D.C., recently included The Mount on its short list of preservation wins for overcoming past financial struggles and announcing that it was debt-free.

Bush has played a significant role in the The Mount's preservation efforts. In 2005, President and Mrs. Bush presented the Preserve America Presidential Award to The Mount in the Rose Garden of the White House.

She visited The Mount a year later to celebrate the return of Edith Wharton's 2,700-volume library. She has continued to show her support through the years, returning regularly on private visits to see the progress on the house and gardens.

Singing blues for students

After paying a successful tribute last year to the late B.B. King, the Berkshire Blues Benefit Jam returns at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday night to raise scholarship funds for students of the Berkshire Music School. This year's event will be held in the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza on West Street in Pittsfield, to accommodate the some 33 regional musicians who will be donating their time and musical talents to the cause. Last year's event, held at the Tavern at The A, was a standing-room only affair.

This year's lineup includes: Event sponsor, the Misty Blues Band, featuring Gina Coleman, Jason Webster, Jeff Dudziak, Rob Tatton, Bill Patriquin and Benny "Fingers" Kohn; Rev Tor, Steve Ide, Bernice Lewis, Tony Lee Thomas, Bobby Sweet, Jack Waldheim, Rob Sanzone, Tyler Fairbank, Tim Sears, John Zarvis, Wanda Houston, Dave Vittone, Chris Merenda, Robin O'Herin, Wendy Walz, Steve Dudziak, Jeff Link, Dan Teichert, Dave Lincoln, Jim Dignum, Tom Corrigan, Matt Berger, Derrick Rodgers, Jim Reynolds, Rebecca Mattson, Darren Todd, Aaron Dean, Frank Algerio, Dan Esko, Bill Patriquin Sr., Jenifer Schultheis, George Shoemaker, Bob Stannard and Ed Moran.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door for this age 21 and up celebration. Advance tickets are available online at mistybluesband.com or in-store at Wood Bros. Music in the Allendale Shopping Center in Pittsfield.

All are also invited to a pre-show Southern buffet dinner, $25 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 413-553-2184.

Learn more about the event and Berkshire Music School at berkshiremusicschool.org/berkshire-blues-benefit.

Runners gone wild

The local road racing scene takes to the woods at 9 a.m. this Sunday with the inaugural "Wild Thing Trail Run," a set of 5K and 10K races and a 5K walk through Kennedy Park in Lenox, with all proceeds to benefit conservation and education programs of Mass Audubon's Berkshire sanctuaries. Massachusetts Audubon's Pleasant Valley Sanctuary will serve as the start and finish line for the running courses, which feature the single-track trails and scenic carriage roads of adjacent Kennedy Park, while the walk will be held in the park itself.

Berkshire Sanctuaries Director Becky Cushing says it's been years since Kennedy Park has hosted races, where the more natural setting may be preferable to running on pavement.

"I am an avid trail runner and do a lot [locally] in the state forests," she said.

Cushing said that, "Kennedy Park is perfect for a beginner trail runner as it has wider, flatter trails." But, she noted, runners will find that the 10K course is more rugged than the 5K path.

The entry fee for the walk is a flat rate of $20. Entry fees for the trail races are $25, due by Friday; $30 Saturday and Sunday with in person race day registration from 7 to 8 a.m. Register online at: http://berkshirerunningcenter-com.3dcartstores.com.


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