Stage ready for FreshGrass

3-day festival kicks off tonight at Mass MoCA

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NORTH ADAMS — Rain isn't in the forecast, but a deluge of music lovers is expected in North Adams this weekend.

The eighth annual FreshGrass Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — featuring a musical lineup ranging from internationally acclaimed acts to local favorites — is expected to draw more than 6,000 visitors to the city.

The museum is anticipating a bump in attendance thanks to the diverse lineup, which includes headliners like Flogging Molly, Trampled by Turtles and Indigo Girls.

"It has a reputation; it's a must-attend music festival," said Jodi Joseph, a museum spokeswoman.

That excitement spreads to local hotels.

The Porches Inn on nearby River Street is full this weekend — though it always is on the weekends, noted general manager Melahat Karakaya. What makes a festival weekend different, she said, it that all of the guests are in town for a single event.

"We love this kind of weekend," Karakaya said. "It's a different vibe, and everybody's here for fun."

The 90-room Holiday Inn also confirmed that it is completely booked for FreshGrass weekend.

FreshGround, the festival's own campground on State Street, still had campsites available as of Thursday morning.

Preparations were already well underway at A-OK Berkshire Barbecue, which opened just weeks ago at the Mass MoCA campus on Marshall Street, and will be a vendor inside the festival this weekend. Co-owner Aaron Oster had amassed about 700 pounds of brisket and whole pig, well as 200 pounds each of cabbage, onions and carrots for side dishes in preparation for the festival — enough to serve up 3,000 meals of pulled pork or brisket, coleslaw and carrots.

"It's sort of a best guess," Oster said of the demand.

For many, attending the festival has become annual routine.

"We sell hundreds and hundreds of tickets before we announce a single band," Joseph said.

Despite the influx of visitors, Mass MoCA says it has refined festival logistics over the last eight years to ensure it has a little impact on city traffic as possible. Satellite parking is now centered along Route 8, so instead of running shuttles in three different directions it heads down only a single path.

"We've really kind of streamlined the festival infrastructure to have the least impact on North Adams," she said.

The festival — where people arrive and depart at different times throughout the weekend — isn't expected to cause the same traffic headaches that a single, well-attended concert can.

"There's not a crush like there sometimes are for other events," Joseph said.

To put on the festival, Mass MoCA puts to work more than 100 employees, about 20 former employees who come back to help out, and hundreds of volunteers.

"It's an all-hands on deck effort for Mass MoCA," Joseph said.

FreshGrass favorite The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow will kick off the festivities tonight.

"Right from the beginning, we're going to have a really fun weekend," Joseph said.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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