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Bits & Bytes: Ventfort Hall holiday tea; MMRHS students to attend music fest; Swing Night at Race Brook Lodge; Giving Tree clothing drive; Berkshire Amistad open house

The Giving Tree is making history in its 35th year of providing much needed gifts of warm winter clothing to hundreds of children in central Berkshire County.

Holiday tea and cookbook celebration at Ventfort Hall

Cookbook front cover
The front cover of Ventfort Hall’s new cookbook.

Lenox — Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum invites the public to “A Very Special Holiday Tea” to celebrate the publication of its new cookbook, “Tea at the Mansion: Recipes from Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum.” With the mansion decorated for Christmas, the festive event will take place on Sunday, December 6 at 3 p.m.

The food to be served at the tea will be made using recipes selected from the cookbook and will include Pistachio Cranberry Cake, Walnut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Scones and Devonshire Cream, Swedish Spice Cake, Thin Sand Tart Cookies, Cocoa Butter Sticks, Pink & White Shortbread Cookies, Double Chocolate Zucchini Cookies, and more. Savory offerings will include sandwiches filled with roast beef and arugula, turkey and cranberries, ham and ginger, and strawberry cream cheese.

Pianist Karen Tchougourian will play classical and contemporary music. As a winner of the annual Artists International Competition in New York City, she debuted at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in 1996 and has won many concert awards. Tchougourian is a native of Armenia and has lived in the United States since 1993.

The cost of the tea is $40 and attendance is by reservation only. Reservations must be made by Friday, November 27. For information or reservations, call Ventfort Hall at (413) 637-3206 or visit


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MMRHS music students make Western District ensembles

Great Barrington — The Monument Mountain Regional High School (MMRHS) Music Department has announced that seven music students have been selected for the Western District Massachusetts Music Educators Association Senior Festival. The students were selected by audition and will perform at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center at 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2016 with music students from throughout western Massachusetts.

The students selected for the chorus are Madeleine Redpath, Hayden Stein, Alex Leonard, Alessandra Reese, and Cedar Potter. Joining the jazz ensemble will be Kevin Costello on trombone and Wilson Sprague on tenor saxophone. Jack Bertelli will play alto saxophone in the concert band and Kyle Germain will play percussion in the orchestra. Costello and Sprague both scored highly enough to be recommended for an All-State Festival audition.

MMRHS music teachers Jeff Stevens, Julie Bickford, and Juraye Moran coordinated the Western District auditions and participation.


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Swing Night at Race Brook Lodge with One Straw Revolution

Sheffield — Race Brook Lodge will bring back its Swing Night, an evening of live music and swing dancing, on Saturday, November 28 at 8 p.m. with a revival of the One Straw Revolution band.

One Straw Revolution is well known by the southern Berkshire community who watched them bring the house down in the late 1990s at the now-defunct Old Egremont Club. Jonathan Suters will play guitar, his father Roger Suters will play bass, Max MacVeety will play drums, and his father Bobby MacVeety will round out the line-up on guitar and vocals.

The Stagecoach Tavern will serve a $35 Prix Fixe dinner for ticket purchasers before the dancing begins. For tickets and more information, see the Berkshire Edge calendar or call the Race Brook Lodge at (413) 229-2916.


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Thirty-fifth annual Giving Tree clothing drive

Pittsfield — One of western Massachusetts’ oldest seasonal charitable efforts, the Giving Tree, is making history in its 35th year of providing much needed gifts of warm winter clothing to hundreds of children in central Berkshire County.

These new strides in tackling the challenge of providing customized assortments of winter clothing gifts to suit the needs of more than 700 income eligible local kids ages 0-12 are being made possible due to an unprecedented level of support emerging from the local business community.

35th anniversary sponsor Berkshire Money Management is leading the charge to help Combat the Cold this year by taking one hundred names of those in need, and supporting Berkshire Community Action Council‘s efforts to chronicle the history of the Giving Tree effort as it continues to advance and adapt to the changing needs of the 21st century community.

New efforts to raise awareness and a greatly expanded presence in downtown Pittsfield are among this year’s supported initiatives. The schedule of events is as follows:

Friday, November 27

Black Friday at Berkshire Mall with a live broadcast by Live 95.9 WBEC-FM, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturday, November 28

Small Business Saturday in downtown Pittsfield with Giving Tree station at Palace Park, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6

Satellite location for the Giving Tree at Berkshire Community College’s Handmade Holiday Festival, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13

Satellite location for Giving Tree at Shire City Sanctuary’s Holiday Shindy, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.


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Berkshire Amistad to host open house

West Stockbridge — On Saturday, November 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Berkshire Amistad will have host an open house at its warehouse, 186 Great Barrington Rd.

Berkshire Amistad uses shipping containers that deliver bananas to grocery stores to ship useful items back to Honduras and other countries in Central America. The organization that has been shipping clothing, shoes, sewing machines, and more to Central America for 30 years is preparing its tenth 40-foot container.

The organization is seeking donations of useable goods for the container. For more information contact Eddie O’Toole at (413) 645-2003 or email



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