Daylights: Acrobats and lambs will leap


Hancock Shaker Village

The annual family festival of farmyard fertility "Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm" is well underway at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, with the historic Round Stone Barn and surrounding farm buildings filled with pens of baby calves, lambs, kids and piglets, not to mention fluffy fowl from chicks to ducklings. As an added attraction on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, human kids can learn more about the art of Sheep Shearing in a weekend celebration.

For as long as sheep have been raised and herded, farmers have prized the soft fleece that sheep share when the weather turns warmer -- if accompanied by much bleating complaint about the indignity of the shearing.

Experienced and knowledgeable shearers will demonstrate both traditional and more modern practices, gathering the abundant and much-coveted wool provided by Merino sheep, a breed which was the mainstay of the historic Shaker flock, with their ample wrinkled folds of fleece-bearing skin.

Throughout the ages, textile workers have developed the skills needed to process the lanolin-rich virgin wool and spin the valuable fibers into long-lasting cloth known for its warmth and wearability. Representatives from local spinning and weaving guilds will showcase their crafts, offering hands-on opportunities for young and old to try out the techniques of carding, spinning and weaving for themselves.

Admission is $17 for adults, and $8 for youth aged 13 to 17. Children aged 12 and under are admitted free. Information: (800) 817-1137.


The Pittsfield Family YMCA knows how important it is for the physical well-being of kids to keep them moving -- and on Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m., "Healthy Kids Day" at the Y will give kids and families the chance.

Each year, the popular free program attracts more than 1 million kids and parents at some 2,000 Ys nationwide.

A full schedule includes gymnastics, Zumba and yoga. Hop into the pool for aquatic adventures and take part in Marco Polo games and relay races, then head off on a scavenger hunt and try out some breakdancing and martial arts moves.

After all that energizing exercise, cool down with some cool stories from local author Ty Allen Jackson, founder of Big Head Books, and enjoy face painting, art projects, balloon animals and a well-deserved snack. Families can also check out health and community services and sign up for summer programs at onsite information booths.

The event is open to everyone, and admission and all activities are free. Information: (413) 499-7650.


The much acclaimed Cirque Shanghai acrobatic troupe from China will bring thrills and gasps of amazement to the Mahaiwe audience on Friday at 7 p.m. when the Great Barrington playhouse presents "Bai Xi," a spectacular display of agility, skill and colorful cultural creativity.

Cirque Shanghai is one of a growing number of Chinese acrobat companies touring North America and the world demonstrating the 2,000 year old artform, attracting sellout audiences for mind-boggling shows that take acrobatic accomplishment to the apparent limits of human ability.

Twisted contortions that turn bodies into pretzels, gravity-defying balancing acts, fast-paced tumbling and hoop diving marked by precarious precision as well as elegant aerial acrobatics are just some of the hallmarks of this talented troupe of dedicated performers.

The title "Bai Xi" -- which means "100 amazing acts" -- refers to the earliest name for acrobatic presentations as enjoyed by emperors of the Han Dynasty. This contemporary showcase of physical prowess highlights the ancient cultural origins of the company while incorporating the latest in lighting, stage effects and costuming, along with a mix of modern and traditional musical accompaniment.

Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under. Box office and information: (413) 528-0100.


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