ADAMS — In October 1965, the volunteer group "Operation Wonderful Town" launched its first mission: draw visitors to Adams during the peak of the foliage season.
It was a success, and the Greylock Ramble was born.
"I wasn't completely clued into what was going on, but I can just imagine that that was his idea," said Heather Linscott, who was about 10 years old when her father, William Linscott, proposed the hike. "I can just see him saying 'Yeah, get the whole town to hike up Mount Greylock.'"
More than 50 years later, the whole town — and hundreds more from out of the area — are still doing just that.
The annual community trek up the state's tallest peak, standing a 3,491 feet, celebrates its 50th year running on Columbus Day. (There were two years in which the hike was not held.)
It's tough to know exactly how many people reach the summit every year, officials say. That number is weather dependent, and not every hiker grabs a certification of completion. Still, organizers estimate about 2,500 people will summit Mount Greylock on Monday.
The idea behind the Ramble, the North Adams Transcript reported in its inaugural year, was to "give Adams something to call its own, something which will bring people here and not just to the vicinity."
That philosophy holds true today.
"We like to promote Adams during Columbus Day weekend because the Ramble has such a history; it brings people from all over, not just the town residents," said Erin Mucci of ProAdams, which puts on the annual event
In addition to the usual certificate of completion, the first 1,000 hikers who reach the summit after 8 a.m. this year will receive a special 50th Ramble commemorative patch.
ProAdams also will host the 6th annual RambleFest, a downtown celebration featuring local music, local food, local beer and a variety of other vendors. It begins at noon Sunday at the Adams Visitor Center.
"We created RambleFest to help augment the hike and make it more of a weekend destination for visitors," Mucci said.
Prior to RambleFest, the Berkshire Running Center hosts a morning 8K and half-marathon that stretches from The Berkshire Mall to the Adams Visitor Center and follows the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, an event now in its second year.
ProAdams counts on the Ramble events as economic development tools.
"Sure they're fun things for people in the neighborhood, but we market these all over," said volunteer and co-chairman Ray Gargan.
And it seems to be working.
At the summit last year, Gargan said he met a couple from England who had made the Ramble part of their vacation itinerary.
"We want to get Adams on the Berkshire tourism maps," Gargan said. "We don't have a major museum or any big hotels, so we see these events as getting visitors to town."
Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter.