Events across the Berkshires this weekend are garnering some national attention.
Charles Birnbaum is the president and founder of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Created in 1998, the organization aims to teach people how to identify and appreciate landscape and landscape architecture.
“We want people to understand how all of this fits together,” Birnbaum said. “From small neighborhood parks, to large parks, to scenic reservations, to golf courses; really understanding the whole landscape as a mosaic that fits together like a great puzzle."
In 2010, the organization started the What’s Out There program, coordinating regional attractions set in mostly metropolitan venues like Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. This weekend, the focus is on the Berkshires.
“This mountain range; this mid-ground, foreground, background that creates a setting for all of these places,” Birnbaum said. “What really makes them so remarkable and holds them all together is this incredible setting, at times powerful and voluptuous and others times very subdued and sublime. But, all of them are about the setting and I think that’s what really makes the Berkshires so astonishing.”
The foundation is partnering with local tourist organizations for its first rural-based event.
“The diversity and the riches of the landscapes; for those of us that are not there, we just had no idea,” Birnbaum said. “The greatest challenge was, how do you limit it to something that’s manageable over two days?”
One of the weekend’s standout attractions is the 22nd Annual Tub Parade in Lenox. The horse-drawn carriage parade traces its roots back to the Gilded Age when out-of-towners vacationed at the now historic cottage estates of the Berkshires during the summer. Ralph Petillo is the Director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce.
“The men would go on a fox hunt and when they came back the women had decorated their carriages with flowers, corn stalks and things of the day to signify them coming back from the fox hunt,” Petillo said. “They would parade their little carriages down the street.”
Petillo says Saturday’s parade will feature about 18 carriages along a route from Shakespeare & Company through the town and back to the starting point for an open field display. He says the event signified the end of summer for the vacationers a century ago and symbolizes the same today.
“We’re steeped in history and we have been able to maintain some of the qualities of life that occurred a hundred years ago,” he said. “Which to me, is a very refreshing thing living in the 21st century and yet being able to live basically a hundred years ago.”
On Saturday, tours at Mount Greylock will highlight the area’s hiking trails, natural makeup and history. At the mountain’s summit of 3,491 feet, the highest in the state, rests Bascom Lodge, which is celebrating its 75th year. Peter Dudek is one of the partners of the Bascom Lodge Group.
“It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was a work program during the 1930s,” Dudek said. “They had camps on the mountain and they built the roads and trails. Most of the materials of the lodge came from the mountain. The timbers were cut on the mountain and the stone was quarried on the mountain.”
Birnbaum says more than 800 people have registered for the weekend tours throughout the county, and some venues are offering additional tours to accommodate more visitors. Some of the historic tours are at the Freight Yard Historic District in North Adams, Ventfort Hall in Lenox and the W.E.B. Du Bois site in Great Barrington. For nature and wildlife seekers, there are also events at Bartholomew’s Cobble, the Housatonic River Walk and many others. Architecture enthusiasts have the opportunity to walk through Gilded Age estates like Naumkeg, Elm Court and others. Art, music and dance will also be on display at The Clark Art Institute, Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow. Tee times are also available at regional golf courses.