The seeds are sown for a bigger Apple Squeeze in Lenox this year
LENOX — As the summer tourism season begins to wind down, plans for a major expansion of the town's autumn Apple Squeeze extravaganza have been completed with the approval of the Select Board and Police Chief Stephen O'Brien.
The 37th Chamber of Commerce harvest festival, set for the weekend of Sept. 24-25 from 10 to 5 both days, remains a merchandising magnet for local businesses and a longtime favorite of area residents as well as visitors.
But this year, it will feature a much more robust, two-day entertainment schedule, with well-known Berkshire-based vocalists and bands, as well as a professional stage that will require a daytime traffic shutdown of Main Street from the war monument at Walker Street to Housatonic Street.
According to Chamber Director Kameron Spaulding, who is organizing his first Squeeze since being named to the post last February, the Sept. 24 headliners are folk-country rockers The Felice Brothers, who are touring to support their new album, "Life in the Dark."
The band, based in New York, was founded in 2006 and first performed in the city's subway system. The three brothers are from Palenville, N.Y., in the Catskills, a short distance from the town of Woodstock. Songwriter Ian Felice now lives in Hillsdale, N.Y., a few miles west of Great Barrington.
A four-star (out of five) review in the Guardian newspaper and website points out that the new, deliberately lo-fi album was recorded on a farm, with clucking chickens providing backup.
"Their Dylanesque Americana — all wheezing accordion, fiddles and folk tales about forgotten bandits — occasionally conjures up the atmosphere of a heady barn dance. But this rustic, deceptively homely backdrop provides a clever vehicle for songs that subtly but powerfully address the suddenly shakier foundations of Trump-era America," wrote reviewer Dave Simpson.
Returning from last year's Apple Squeeze is veteran pop-standard and TV entertainer John Davidson ("The Hollywood Squares," "That's Incredible!") who has carved out a late-in-life local performing career since moving to Lenox.
• Jamie Kent, named by Rolling Stone as one of the "30 Must See Acts" of Country Music Association (CMA) Fest 2016, alongside Eric Church, Carrie Underwood, and Chris Stapleton.
• Massachusetts-based The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, songwriters of Americana, rock and roots-folk music. The collaborative band includes singer-songwriter Billy Keane of Pittsfield, Greg Smith, originally from Charlemont, and Chris Merenda of Great Barrington, as well as Tory Hanna and David Tanklefsky. Their first complete album is "The Heart of the Run" and a short documentary about the band has been making the rounds of film festivals.
• Also: Joe Mansman and The Midnight Revival Band, Izzy Heltai and Secret Creature, Black Mountain Symphony, Heart of Gold, Tantrum and others to be announced.
Most businesses downtown are in favor of the street closing, Spaulding informed the Select Board at a recent meeting.
He said signs would be installed on the Route 7 & 20 bypass informing motorists on the reconfigured traffic pattern. The two-day Main Street shutdown would extend from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, and from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25, following removal of the stage, he added.
On Saturday night, there would be a partial reopening, though the lane closest to the Adams Community Bank would remain off-limits to traffic throughout the weekend in order to store the stage.
O'Brien told the Select Board that a police detail would be provided and that he had no issues with the plan, which was approved 4-0 by the board members.
"Obviously, Apple Squeeze is a signature event for Lenox," said Selectman Channing Gibson, "but that doesn't mean it can't get better and change and grow with new ideas." He applauded the Chamber's efforts, "taking something that was already working and trying to make a better version of it."
Off-site parking with shuttle buses will be provided this year, Spaulding pointed out.
Unlike previous Squeezes, vendors will line both sides of Main Street, he explained, easing some of the congestion for the public and allowing room for an additional 25 street-side merchants.
The festival features handmade crafts, sculptures, original art work, handmade jewelry, textiles, wood carvings, leather goods and hand-woven clothing. Local farmers sell the bounties of the fall harvest, and food vendors line the downtown streets, along with purveyors of wines and craft beers. Church Street will be promoted as a food court, Spaulding said, with multiple food trucks.
A popular Saturday attraction is the Kids' Park at Lilac Park, with carnival games, bouncy slide and live music from the Kids' Park Sound Stage.
Information: lenox.org/apple-squeeze-2016 or 413-637-3646.
To contact Clarence Fanto: 413-637-2551.
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