Third Thursday turns 10: Birthday bash features Shakespeare, Ethnic Fair and free cupcakes

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PITTSFIELD — Outdoor theater, streetscape art, ethnic food and free cupcakes highlight a jam-packed Third Thursday to commemorate its 10th anniversary.

Given the July downtown block party is food-centric, dishing out cupcakes to celebrate the occasion was an obvious choice, according to city organizers.

The tasty treats will be available at Persip Park at 6 p.m., followed by the unfurling of a 65-foot birthday banner requiring many volunteer hands to hold up for an aerial photograph.

New to this month's edition is rolling in the annual Downtown Pittsfield Ethnic Fair stretching the entire length of the Third Thursday venue on North Street from Park Square to Maplewood Avenue. In addition, music and dance from different cultures will fill the stage near Park Square.

"We will have an amazing stage of Latin music, Italian music and belly dancers," said Executive Director Kristine Hurley of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., the coordinating agency for the ethnic gathering since it returned seven years ago.

Since the ethnic fair is often held 2-3 weeks after July Third Thursday, that was one reason to combine the two.

"We also found both events had nearly all the same vendors, so adding the ethnic fair was a no-brainer with the July food theme," said Jen Glockner, director of the city's Office of Cultural Development, the overseer of Third Thursday.

Another Third Thursday newbie is the Pittsfield Artscape Committee unveiling the inaugural Pittsfield Paintbox Project. Around 6;15 p.m., a procession from Persip Park leading to the eight city-owned downtown utility boxes local artists have transformed into streetscape art.

The city's former cultural development director, Megan Whilden, is thrilled by the continuous upgrades to an event she helped create almost a decade ago.

""I'm so excited to see [Third Thursday] still be creative and adapting to new opportunities every month and every year," she said.

Since the original May to October street festival debuted in 2007, upward of 10,000 people each month have enjoyed the live music, street performers, food and craft vendors who join the established merchants to help boost the local economy. This year, organizers dropped October due to a lack of interest in recent years, but will incorporate some of the October events into a Saturday fall celebration.

One of the first major changes for Third Thursday occurred during the fourth season. In 2010, organizers instituted a pedestrian-friendly policy of closing North Street from Park Square to Maplewood to vehicular traffic allowing attendees to freely and safely enjoy the three-hour event.

Last year, the blocked off area was divided into three distinct themes: relax, play, create.

From Park Square to Columbus, people can relax at cafe tables on North Street by dining on a variety of prepared food while enjoying live music and entertainment.

A children and family section between Columbus and Union Street will feature opportunities for youngsters and adults to play, do arts and crafts and partake of food vendors.

The creative section from Union to Maplewood is highlighted by a variety of visual and performing artists.

The 2015 July Third Thursday also marked the new opening night for Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park with "The Tempest" this year's production at The Common on First Street. All shows begin at 8 p.m. running Thursday through Sunday for each of the next three weeks.

For sneak previews of "The Tempest", along with Berkshire Theatre Group's "Beauty and the Beast" and Barrington Stage Company's "The Wiz" head to Palace Park on North Street during the 5-8 p.m. time frame. The latter two shows open later this summer in downtown Pittsfield.

As Third Thursday has evolved over 10 years, Whilden hopes it has greatly influenced a generation of city youth.

"They've grown up with a Pittsfield where there's been a wondful coming together and celebration of community in the heart of the downtown," she said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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