Scene: Berkshire Museum Festival of Trees 2016

150-plus celebrated Hollywood-style


PITTSFIELD - The Berkshire Museum heralded the 2016 Festival of Trees exhibit with a walk down the red carpet.

Friday night, guests of the Festival of Trees gala donned their glitziest attire and strolled the lush red carpet into the spotlight where they were transported and transformed into a "Hollywood movie star."

The theme of the Now Playing Festive Premiere Party matched that of the scores of trees decorated in Hollywood film motifs.

Upon walking through the front doors framed in golden roped curtains stood Miss Elaine Chez of Milford, Conn., playing Joan Rivers in a dazzling ensemble of black and gold complete with feather boa.

"Are you ready for your close up?" Chez asked with her shiny microphone in hand. "Welcome, darling! This is a beautiful evening and you look fabulous, prettier than my daughter Melissa."

Berkshire Museum Director of Communications Lesley A. Beck perused the event in her paparazzi attire, snapping photos of guests on the red carpet just in front of the "Hillywood" backdrop.

Nina Garlington, the museum's chief engagement officer, wore a sleek black dress and stood with events manager Bill Blaauw.

"This is a longstanding event everyone looks forward to," said Blaauw, "and we know how to kick off the holiday season virtuous!"

Over 100 dazzling trees stood "bedecked in film world finery" sponsored by businesses, schools, and community organizations in a fascinating celebration of cinema.

Some of the tree themes showcased were: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," the "Tree of Hope," The apple tree in "Wizard of OZ,"the abominable snowman, trees laced in film, Miracle on Wendell, Peanuts, and "It's A Wonderful Life."

Movie posters surrounded the diverse collection of trees from classics like "Casablanca" to old Westerns like "High Noon" to the action-adventure "Die Hard" to the popular sci-fi "The Matrix," along with numerous blockbusters and opening films.

Dressed in their finest, museum Director Van Shields and his wife, Peggy Rivers, a visual arts teacher at Berkshire Community College, welcomed guests into the main ballroom. Mrs. Rivers wore a drop black velvet gown with gold wrap.

"What I really like about this event is it's the opening of the holiday season," said Shields, "and seeing the social circles overlap into the fabric of the community."

Standing with his wife Katherine Casey of Jacob's Pillow and son Fin, the museum's chief experience officer Craig Langlois said, "I like the way this event is purely community-driven and an opportunity to kick off the holiday season."

Enveloped in the polished marble of the ballroom was a decadent smorgasbord of imported cheeses, fresh fruits and breads, and the passing of hors d'oeuvres was provided by Savory Harvest Catering. A wine and beer station served both red and whites and specialty beers.

Guests hobnobbed, sipping libations in star-studded style.

"The Berkshire Museum is a cerebral part of the local tourism industry," said Kameron Spaulding, the executive director of The Lenox Chamber of Commerce, who attended with wife Anne Shippee Spaulding.

Sitting in the corner near the fireplace was a popcorn and candy table which made for a popular stop, adding to the theme of cinema. Cindy Saford of Pittsfield was happy to serve.

Cathy Deely was there in her shades and embroidered gold splendor.

"The Berkshire Museum is the heart of the Berkshires where during this festive time of year we come together," Deely said.

Tickets to the party were $50 for adults and $25 for a child, and museum members naturally received a discount. Proceeds benefit the education programs that provide more than 20,000 educational experiences annually. More than 150 guests attended.

At the end of the evening, it was clear that one Miss Autumn Appleby and her mom Alicia Starsja of Lee knew what it meant to live the dream - and not just the thrill of stardom, but of the magic and meaning so well connected with the holiday season.

All dolled up in her sparkling white dress with a touch of whimsy, the second-grader of Lee Elementary School wore a pointy elf hat and a shiny red nose to accessorize. Her father John Starsja is in maintenance at the museum.

"We decorated the 'Frozen' tree with my dad," said Miss Autumn. "I got a big Olaf and put stickers on, and I wrapped my own present!"

Now Playing: Festival of Trees 2016 is sponsored by Hill Engineers, Architects, Planners Inc.; Pittsfield Cooperative Bank; RBC Wealth Management; and Berkshire Magazine. Presenting partners for this year's Festival of Trees are the Berkshire International Film Festival and the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative.


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