Third Thursday's 'Under the Sea' theme refreshes city



Kaden Paul MacKay was drenched.

The 4-year-old had just cooled off under the heavy spray from an open fire hydrant on Summer Street during Third Thursday.

"It was good, I'm going to play in the sand now," he said.

Kaden and his father walked across North Street to the temporary beach created in front of the YMCA, complete with plastic shovels and pails. There, 3-year-old Vanessa Stevens was filling a pail with the soft sand piled on the sidewalk.

"I'm making a sand castle for my mommy," she said.

Afterward, Kayla Stevens convinced her daughter that they should both take advantage of the refreshing gusher on Summer Street.

"I'm glad they opened the fire hydrant and brought in the sand -- it's awesome for the little kids," said Vanessa's mother.

Kaden and the Stevens were among the thousands of youngsters, teenagers and adults who tried to stay cool in 90-degree weather while enjoying Third Thursday, the city's monthly downtown block party.

The theme "Under the Sea" was fitting for the July rendition of the three-hour event on North Street. The makeshift beach, along with reggae music and a sneak preview of the local theatrical adaptation of the Disney animated film "The Little Mermaid" conjured up images of cool ocean breezes to help downtown visitors handle the current heat wave.

Ras Moon and Monsoon, Tropical Beat and Trio Candela filled the air with island songs. Meanwhile the cast of "The Little Mermaid Jr.," a production of the Barrington Stage Company Youth Theatre, performed "Under the Sea" and other classic songs from the popular children's movie.

Evelyn Mahon looks forward to playing Ursula the sea witch when the show opens next Wednesday.

"It's a fun role, as I love playing funny characters," said the 17-year-old from Williamstown.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movies, The Beacon Cinema held a special screening of "Jaws," part of its Throwback Thursday series during Third Thursday.

The classic 1975 summer blockbuster film of a 27-foot great white shark terrorizing a seaside resort was a popular draw, in part because of the air-conditioned theater, according to Sharae Gadson, the Beacon's floor manager.

"We had a lot of advanced ticket sales and phone calls even before the heat wave," she said.

Outside, smoothies, sno-cones, iced tea, lemonade and bottled water were big sellers for food vendors who lined North Street from Park Square to Maplewood Avenue.

Nevertheless, people also delighted in local food delicacies available during Third Thursday, such as the popular Reuben sliders served up by the Pittsfield-Ballina Irish Sister City Committee. The mix of cooked lean corn beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and melted Swiss cheese is the creation of committee volunteer Judy Gagon of Pittsfield.

"I love cooking shows and I'm a big foodie, but I don't think you'll see me on TV," said Gagnon, noting she cooks for fun, not to seek fame or fortune.

Third Thursday also serves as a promotional vehicle for local organizations' upcoming events.

Organizers of Pittsfield City Hoopla on Saturday were drumming up support for their arts festival inspired by the hula hoop craze of the 1950s. The event, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Springside Park, features such activities as fire dancing, live drumming, yoga and hooping workshops, to learn how to use a hula hoop.

Liz Stewart of North Adams took up hooping three years ago for medical reasons.

"I had back pain and I was told using a hula hoop would strengthen the core muscles," said Stewart.

Did it work?

"Yes," she added.

To reach Dick Lindsay:,
or (413) 496-6233


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