Harvest Run Cook Off: Competition is heating up for 1950s-themed contest

PITTSFIELD — Ladies, don your poodle skirts, saddle shoes and bobby socks. Men, cuff your jeans and pull out your high school Letterman's sweater. The 1950s are back.

Berkshire Healthcare Systems will host a 1950s-themed community cook-off competition — drive-up diner food, casseroles, TV dinners, maybe, who knows? — featuring the food service directors from six of its nursing homes in Berkshire County. The cook-off is being held in conjunction with the Harvest Run at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at Berkshire Community College on West Street, behind Paterson Field House. The cook-off begins immediately after the race. The public is welcome to watch the race and sample the many dishes.

Affiliates of Berkshire Healthcare Systems scheduled to participate include Hillcrest Commons, Williamstown Commons, North Adams Commons, Mount Greylock Extended Care, Kimball Farms and Fairview Commons.

"The Harvest Run began in 2002 and then we added the cook-off in 2011, " said William Kittler, administrator of Kimball Farms Nursing Care Center in Lenox and an organizer of the Harvest Run. "It was a good venue to add food. All of the Berkshire Healthcare Systems nursing homes were offered a space at Berkshire Community College near the finish line."

He added the cook-off quickly became thematic, saying that each facility will decorate its tent to coincide with the 1950s theme and the employees manning the booths will be "dressed like it was 1955." The cook-off was initiated about three years ago, Kittler said, and three celebrity judges were added. This year's judges will be returning judge Ellen Kennedy, president of BCC in Pittsfield, and two Berkshire Healthcare Systems board members.

"The winner gets a plaque to hang in their facility and bragging rights," Kittler said. "An added perk is the winner gets to choose the theme for the next year's cook-off."

In addition to the cook-off, each facility is judged separately on how its tent is decorated and staff members' attire in relation to the theme.

This will be Kimball Farms food service director George Lavalle's third year competing in the cook-off. He took third place in the 2015 event, which had a tailgating theme. The activities department at Kimball Farms won second place in 2015 and third place in 2016 in the decorating competition.

"It's a tough theme to go off on," Lavalle admitted. "There were a lot of weird food in the 1950s — things we don't have on the table today. I have no idea what the other facilities are doing."

The Kimball Cruise-In, as it has been dubbed, will feature chili based on Steak 'N Shake, a drive-in popular in the 1950s, KFC "secret recipe" chicken that Lavalle plans to replicate and, for dessert, homemade fudge.

"We looked at vintage cookbooks from the 1950s and they all seemed to have recipes for fudge," Lavalle explained, adding all of the recipes will be available at the tent.

In keeping with the drive-in theme, Julie Wood, activities director at Kimball Farms, said the entire front of the tent will be a cardboard cutout of a 1950s car. It also will have a menu board and '50s-type decorations, including fuzzy dice on the car, made by the residents at Kimball Farms. Photos of 1950s toys, places and restaurants will be displayed. Staff members manning the tent will wear white soda jerk hats and the women will wear rolled up jeans and over-sized white shirts.

"It's a real opportunity for the nursing home culinary departments. The chefs are all amazing and it's a fine display of really good food," Kittler concluded.

The Harvest Run, a 5K trail run, which includes a three-person relay race, will be followed by a one-mile Kids' Race at 10:45 a.m. To register online or for further information, visit www.berkshirecc.edu/harvestrun, or call 413-236-2185. Printable registration forms are also available. Runners may check in on the day of the race beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Cash prizes will be awarded to the overall male and female 5K finishers and to the top three relay teams. The top three male and female finishers in seven age categories will also be recognized. Ribbons and cider doughnuts will be awarded to all one-mile finishers.

Online registration is $30 and $15. Race day registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at BCC's Paterson Field House.


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