More for kids on Third Thursday

St. Joseph's Church lawn set up for activities; General Dynamics to give engineering demos

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PITTSFIELD — A more kid-friendly Third Thursday enhanced by a large city company opens the 11th season of the Berkshires' biggest block party, which draws thousands of people to the downtown once a month through the late spring and summer.

The city-sponsored monthly street festival kicks off 2017 on Thursday with the traditional youth theme for May featuring several student-based dance, and musical groups headlining the North Street entertainment.

New this year, a kid zone on the lawn of St. Joseph's Church featuring several Third Thursday favorites such as a community art tent, bounce house and the #hoopsnotcrime basketball contest sponsored by the Pittsfield Police Department.

With the demolition of the former St. Joseph convent, organizers are taking advantage of the added open space to enhance the family atmosphere of the festival.

"Grab your food, sit on the lawn, watch the kids play and take it all in," said Pittsfield's Cultural Development Director Jen Glockner.

The kid zone this month features performances by the Hillcrest Youth Drummers and Berkshire Pulse with Aimee Gelinas. Adults can get into shape with Berkshire Yoga Dance and Fitness at 6:30 p.m.

Third Thursday also welcomes General Dynamics Mission Systems as a first-ever sponsor of a month, whose presence will be felt through September.

One of Pittsfield's largest employers will have an interactive engineering demonstration every month all season long, debuting on Thursday near the main stage at the corner of Columbus Avenue and North Street.

"It's important to let the community know how big of a deal they are to the city and what they do around the world," Glockner said.

Carlo Zaffanella, the company's vice president and general manager, views Third Thursday participation as an extension of the partnerships General Dynamics has formed with local schools.

"We want to encourage children of all ages to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers and hopefully come work at General Dynamics someday," Zaffanella said in prepared remarks.

After two years of spot performances, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival will be at all five Third Thursdays this season. The Becket-based performing arts organization on Thursday will present Ephrat Asherie Dance in excerpts of "Odeon." The high-energy hip-hop performance is set to the music of Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth, known for mixing European harmonies with African rhythms. Asherie, a 2016 Bessie Award winner for innovative achievement in dance, is a New York City-based dancer/choreographer. The show is 6:30 p.m. at the Palace Park Stage.

The tweaks of Third Thursday for 2017 follow two consecutive years of major changes to the pedestrian-friendly event.

Last year, organizers dropped October from the schedule primarily because the dropoff in attendance and vendor participation compared to the other five months. Third Thursday also went completely smoke free in 2016.

The current look of the block party was unveiled in 2015 with the refurbished Persip Park as the permanent main stage. Closed to vehicular traffic, the blocked off section of North Street of Third Thursday from West Street to Linden Street/Maplewood Avenue was divided into three distinct themes: relax, play, create.

Relax focuses on food and entertainment, play provides family-based activities, along with food vendors, with create at the north end highlighted by interactive art projects and activities.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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