County Fare: Pittsfield woman rides Berkshire Carousel all the way to Ireland

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This fall, Ann C. Mottley of Pittsfield took one lucky ride on the Berkshire Carousel.

Throughout the season up until Christmas Eve, riders who took a spin on the back of "Missie the Donkey" were entered to win a 10-day trip to Ireland. Mottley was the lucky rider whose name was selected in the Christmas Eve drawing from more than 500 other entries.

The contest was organized by Kevin O'Hara, author of "Last of the Donkey Pilgrims." The book details O'Hara's 1,700-mile trek through the Emerald Isle with Missie, a live donkey, as his travel companion. Berkshire Carousel, The Cruise Store of East Longmeadow and CIE Tours of Ireland sponsored the contest.

Mottley will join O'Hara and his wife and fellow tour guide, Belita, when they head to Ireland in April. But the winner and other guests on the trip will have the luxury of touring by bus and car, rather than on a donkey's back.

As for the carousel, the attraction is closed for the season for rides — it will reopen in May — but volunteers are always welcome in their workshop to learn carving, painting and other techniques.

Cariddi's last gift to North Adams Public Library

When state Rep. Gailanne M. Cariddi died in June, she bequeathed a "puzzling" gift to the North Adams Public Library — a total of $7,465.47 earmarked for "learning materials for astronomy only."

Library Director Mindy Hackner said she had no indication that Cariddi had an affinity for the subject, but noted that the library's astronomy collection could use a boost.

As part of its planning to use the gift, the library has decided "to kick off a yearlong series of heavenly events, dedicated to the memory of Gailanne Cariddi" on Jan. 18, by showing the 1977 science-fiction classic "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Designated as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant," the film entered the National Film Registry in 2007. Showtime, arranged through Movie Licensing USA, is set for 6 p.m., and the film will be screened in the third-floor community room at the library, 74 Church St., North Adams. Popcorn will be served.

The film is the first in a "Look Up" family film and event series that celebrates space and new discoveries.

The library will also be featuring fun STEM ideas for children and families and links to NASA's yearlong space education program.

In January and February, NASA will be highlighting the International Space Station. The library will follow up with opportunities to track the station in the winter sky and will link to activities that explore the two super moons this month, one that occurred Monday and one that will appear Jan. 31.

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Painting for a purpose

When it comes to looking for inspiration and a role model, Allison Gemmel Laframboise of Pittsfield tells County Fare she has to look no farther than to her own 6-year-old son, Kai Laframboise.

This past summer, the mother said, "my husband, Shaun, and I had just come from a fundraising event where an 8-year-old girl was selling friendship bracelets to help a classmate who had special needs. I was so touched by her compassion and generosity and told Kai about her. I also told him, 'You could do something like that to help people who may not have as much as you do.'

"He said: 'I could sell my art to raise money for other kids who need it!'"

Kai went straight to work, drawing and painting all sorts of colorful creations. He then set up a table on the corner of their front yard and painted "Kai's Art Shop" in red on a piece of cardboard to serve as a sign.

"When a car drove by, he held a piece of his art overhead to get the attention of passersby," Allison said. "Neighbors, friends and family started purchasing his pieces and his project gained momentum. The price for a piece of art? Whatever people wanted to pay."

She said Pittsfield Police Officer Darren Derby, who has a community policing mission that includes promoting positive connections with residents, found out about the art stand and decided to purchase a day's worth of drawings one afternoon.

"Because Kai once got to sit on Officer Derby's police motorcycle, he drew a special picture of him riding a police motorcycle — with the addition of lasers," the mother said.

Derby also helped find a local business to match what Kai had raised up to that point; Don Davis Heating and Cooling came by to purchase a piece for the amount Kai had already raised. Other local companies followed suit, including Greylock Plumbing & Heating, Ernie Weider Mechanical and Bob Harrison.

Kai's good intentions, with this influx of support, raised a total of $800 in art sales. His mom, in looking for a local nonprofit her son could support, connected with Bethany Kirchmann, director of development for Berkshire Children & Families, who indicated the need for winter clothes and Christmas gifts for children and families who might not have them.

Kai was able to purchase several winter coats, winter clothes, toys and other gifts for children in the community. Allison said Kirchmann explained to Kai that that this type of support is a huge relief to parents who struggle year-round to meet the basic needs of their family, and that it's a huge gift to the children to just feel normal by having something special to open on Christmas morning.

Kai told his mom "it feels really good to help other people," and he hopes to do it more in the future.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.


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