Pittsfield youths take center stage as 8th Third Thursday season begins
Photo Gallery | First Third Thursday of 2014
PITTSFIELD -- They danced, played drums and string instruments, sung, stood beside their very own artwork on display and shot hoops. City youths took center stage at the year's first Third Thursday festival on North Street and did not fail to entertain.
Thousands milled around the city's primary thoroughfare for the event, where food vendors lining the street offered everything from burgers to Egyptian wraps with fava, quinoa and pumpkin.
As organizers had hoped, city teens and elementary school youths stole the show. Examples of the event's theme, Creative Youth, could be found at nearly every corner, both planned and off-the-cuff.
Shirley Edgerton, program director for the state Department of Developmental Services, introduced the Pittsfield Youth Alive Step Team and Drum Corps to the main stage at 530 North St.
"It looks like we're about performance art alone but it's really bigger than that," Edgerton said. "We're about building life skills."
Fresh off a performance with the group, 15-year-old Pittsfield High School student Sheila Atiemo delighted over the creative freedom they're allowed during weekly practices.
"We all pitch in and add our own flair to whatever we're working on," Atiemo said. "I love getting up here and showing off the hard work we've put in."
Atiemo plays bass and alto saxophone and dances with the step group.
Etienne Brou, also a 15-year-old Pittsfield High student, received special notice after the performance for his growth in music.
Brou plays the djembe, a West African drum, "or whatever else is around, really. Usually it's just buckets."
"I've learned to put emotion into the playing and it's made me that much better," Brou said.
In the dance category, no one drew a bigger crowd than did 22-year-old Andres Ramirez of North Street's Funk Box Studio with his breakdancing and capoeira.
"Third Thursday is the perfect time to show what we teach students at the studio; it feels like an accomplishment," Ramirez said. "It's about having fun and expressing yourself."
The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts took the opportunity to open its "Art in Our Schools" exhibit on Renne Street, featuring more than 200 works from the city's public school students in grades six through 12.
"It's a wonderful example of our youth and their creativity," Jennifer Glockner, the city's administrative coordinator of tourism.
The music and celebration kept on until after dark. Third Thursdays continues to be a draw for the city and one can reasonably anticipate a "healthy" crowd for the next event June 19, themed "Healthy Pittsfield."
To reach Phil Demers:
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On Twitter: @BE_PhilD