The draws at North Adams' WinterFest: Chowder, a fire pit - and Clydesdales

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NORTH ADAMS — Walking through downtown Saturday, the sound of two Clydesdales hauling a wagon full of winter celebration attendees brought back sounds that would have been normal on Main Street toward the end of the 1800s.

Indeed, the horse-drawn carriage was one of the more popular activities for the city's 23rd WinterFest. The gorgeous creatures patiently pulled the wagon from MountainOne Bank west, then made a U-turn and a run along the eastbound side to turn around again and return to the loading zone. The line was pretty long, considering that the temperature was hovering in the low 20s, up from about 5 degrees at 10 a.m., when the celebration began.

There also was interest in the fire pit on Holden Street, because that's where the roasting of marshmallows was happening. Hot cocoa and cookies helped keep folks warm while awaiting the horse-drawn carriage at MountainOne, and there were ice sculptors hard at work all along the north side of downtown.

The Common Folk Artist Collective studio and store was a popular place to get warm and pick up a few sale items. The farmers market and craft market offered other choices for shoppers.

But, as usual, the chowder cook-off was a steaming bowl of success that drew hundreds to the Green at 85 Main Street to get a taste of chowder from the 13 competitors.

Attendees could come in for free and taste samples from every booth. Many taste testers went back for more.

Vying for the coveted first-place prize were A-OK Berkshire Barbeque, the Berkshire Food Project, Berkshire Palate, Boston Sea Foods, Bounti-Fare, Clarksburg School, Gramercy Bistro, Grazie, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, McCann Tech Culinary Arts, Sweetwood of Williamstown, Wigwam Western Summit and Wild Oats Market.

At Berkshire Palate's table, co-owner Paul Brassard was offering samples of the roasted jalapeno and corn chowder.

"People seem to be digging it," Brassard said. "Quite a few are coming back for more."

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Pat Cariddi was there offering a potato-bacon leek chowder created by students at McCann's culinary arts program. He said that by being there, he was hoping that more people would become aware that McCann has the program that trains people in the chef business.

It helped that they also like the chowder.

"People do seem to like it," Cariddi said. "And this really is fun — I've been seeing people all day that I've known my whole life."

One woman, who would only give her first name — Diane — said she has been coming to the chowder cook-off for years.

She already had tried a dozen types of chowder and was headed to the last contestant.

"This is my breakfast, lunch and dinner," she said with a chuckle.

So far, she said, MCLA's chowder was her favorite.

"Just something about the thickness and the potato, the right amount of everything," she said. "And they put a twist of bacon and scallions on top."

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


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