North Adams WinterFest offers chance to 'have a little fun'

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NORTH ADAMS — With the temperature hovering around 30 degrees, hundreds of locals spilled out into the downtown area Saturday to shake off midwinter cabin fever and see old friends at the 22nd WinterFest.

And also to eat a bunch of chowder.

About a half-dozen ice sculptors were at work in various spots on the sidewalk while crowds moved from one activity to another. By noon, nearly everything was rolling in full gear, except for the Children's Winter Carnival at the First Baptist Church, which lost its heat shortly before start time. The carnival had to be canceled.

Not to worry, though: There still was sledding at Colegrove Park, hot chocolate and cookies at MountainOne Bank, rides on the horse-drawn wagon and a community campfire on Holden Street.

And there was the chowder cook-off at The Green, which drew several hundred tasters, as it does every year.

Carolin Redmon, of Nova Scotia, and Kate Harrison, of Adams, said they liked the corn chowder from Ramunto's, and the seafood chowder from Gala Restaurant.

"This is a good chance to get out of the house and have a little fun," Redmon said. "Get rid of the cabin fever,"

"We used to brings the kids every year for the chowder cook-off," Harrison added. "It's always good."

Just then, her adult son, Wyatt, showed up with a cup of chowder in hand.

"I came to eat chowder," he declared, "100 percent!"

Colleen Taylor of the Freight Yard Pub and Restaurant and the Trail House Kitchen & Bar was there with her grandmother's Irish corn chowder recipe, at her mother's suggestion.

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"I figured if it's going to make my mother happy, I'm all for it," Taylor said.

So, her mother worked with the Freight Yard chef to expand the recipe for 3 gallons. She was happy with the results.

"My mother said he did a good job," Taylor said with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, in the former Sleepy's space, the farmers market was in full swing, with local farmers and artisans selling their wares.

Off to the side, at a small table, three men huddled around glasses of beer and yellow checklists. They were the judges of the homebrew beer competition sponsored by Bright Ideas.

Because the brewers aren't licensed to sell beer to the public, the competitors' entries could only be tasted by the judges, although Bright Ideas was selling its own beer to thirsty shoppers.

But the judges were fairly well-adjusted to the drudgery of drinking 13 different brews all afternoon.

Colleen Rafferty, operations manager at Bright Ideas, said they had been hoping for at least seven entries, but wound up with 13 entries from 11 homebrewers.

Brewer John Cassell won first place for his Pilsner and second place for a Vienna lager.

As the winner, Cassel's Pilsner will be brewed by Bright Ideas brewmaster Danny Sump. It will be a 200-gallon brew that will be served on tap at Bright Ideas.

"Imagine going into a local bar and drinking your own beer from the tap," said Orion Howard, owner of Bright Ideas. "That's got to be fun."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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