Scene Here is a weekly photo-driven feature that captures moments in Valley culture from an outsider’s perspective. Reporters often don’t announce themselves when gathering information for the column. These pieces try to present places, people, and events from the perspective of a fly on the wall.

Scene Here: Frostilicus
Jan09

Scene Here: Frostilicus

As temperatures dip and the ice thickens on Heritage Park in East Longmeadow, ice skaters and hockey players of all ages lace up their freshly sharpened skates and brave the cold to carry on a generations-old winter tradition. Just ask Ryan Morton. He used to play here when he was a kid. Today, he’s shoveling off the ice for his three-year-old son, five-year-old daughter, and two older nephews, helping to ensure that the...

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Scene Here: A Respite from the Cold
Jan03

Scene Here: A Respite from the Cold

There’s always a little bit of added electricity in the air when a Nor’easter is bearing down on New England and the snowflakes start to fly. The cold brings out a sense of camaraderie in people: us v. the snow. Sometimes the best thing to do is to find a cozy corner (like this one at The Roost in Northampton), nestle in with your work, a cup of coffee, and a view of the outside, and watch others bundled up in their winter parkas and...

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Scene Here: Holidays in Whoville
Dec19

Scene Here: Holidays in Whoville

The quadrangle at the Springfield Museums, with its many sculptures of Dr. Seuss’ most famous characters, can inspire wonder in most visitors any day of the year, but there’s an extra bit of Seussian whimsy about it around the holidays. The characters — The Grinch, Max, Cindy Lou Who, Things 1 &2 — bathed in the glow of gently rotating colors, seem to come to life. Anyone pausing for a moment to revel quietly in the magic could be...

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Scene Here: The Rift in Holyoke
Nov28

Scene Here: The Rift in Holyoke

Reports of hate crimes have spiked across the nation in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, and dozens of people marched through Holyoke on the evening of Friday, Nov. 18, to protest the president elect’s campaign promises and policies that many say have fueled a spike in bigotry. Among the more colorful protesters is a person in a Spiderman costume, another in a Guy Faux mask, and a young man in a beret proudly...

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Scene Here: Atop Long Mountain
Nov14

Scene Here: Atop Long Mountain

Room to BreatheWhat pairs well with local beer and wine this week? My opinion: some peace and quiet. It’s not always appreciated, or sought out. But after a nightmare of an election season — full of vitriol, lies and low blows — I was feeling a serious need to go high.I found companionship with the Seven Sisters, the series of ridgeline summits along the Holyoke Range between Mount Holyoke and Mount Hitchcock. Last Saturday, my...

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Scene Here: Easthamptonshire
Oct24

Scene Here: Easthamptonshire

If Frodo had been living in Easthampton’s new Mill 180 Park when Gandalf stopped by, he probably would have turned down the wizard’s all-powerful ring. Hidden inside an old mill building — with food, lawn games, coffee, beer, and wifi at your fingertips — it’s already easy enough to disappear.Tolkien readers aren’t the only ones around here who may be tempted to stop in for an extended lunch break and quietly turn invisible for a few...

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Scene Here: Rent Rally
Sep26

Scene Here: Rent Rally

Several dozen protesters gathered this past Friday at Mason Square in Springfield, chanting What Do We Want? Affordable Housing! When Do We Want It? Now! and carrying signs down State Street — through one of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods — to Court Square in the heart of the downtown area. Organized by Arise for Social Justice and No One Leaves — Springfield, it’s no coincidence that the rally is  a stone’s throw from both...

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Scene Here: The Force … Is Getting Sleepy
Oct03

Scene Here: The Force … Is Getting Sleepy

More than 100 people stake out a plot of land at Pulaski Park in Northampton on this crisp Wednesday night for an outdoor screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. At the event kicking off this year’s Northampton Film Festival, people dress as Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, and the rest while kids from preschool to pre-teen do battle with light sabers and pose with a “real-life” Stormtrooper. As the trumpet flourish that begins the SW theme...

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Scene Here: Lesser Evils
Sep19

Scene Here: Lesser Evils

“The mythology is hold your nose and vote for the lesser evil and things will get better.“Lesser evil” politicians have been speaking for us and they are bought and paid for by their corporate influences consisting of “predatory banks, the fossil fuel giants, the war profiteers and the health insurance industry.”— Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaking during a campaign appearance at First Churches in...

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Scene Here: Keep Moving, construction on Pleasant Street in Northampton
Sep06

Scene Here: Keep Moving, construction on Pleasant Street in Northampton

From six directions, cars attempt to drive through the intersection at Conz and Pleasant streets in Northampton. It’s 88 degrees and the dirt kicked up by heavy machinery sticks to sweat, giving everyone a dirty looking tan. The Route 5 entryway to Paradise City is consumed by roundabout construction. A police officer with dark sunglasses and a neon vest, motions vehicles around a maze of orange cones and people in hardhats. He calls...

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Scene Here: Slippery Slope
Aug29

Scene Here: Slippery Slope

It’s human nature to want to see just how far an idea can be pushed. Take Slide the City for instance,  the 1,000-foot slip-and-slide that transformed Appleton Street into a lazy river for the Celebrate Holyoke festival this past weekend. It’s easy to imagine the thought process that gave rise to the creation of this monstrous rubber ode to summer childhood fun: Perhaps its creator was enjoying the ride on that iconic piece of...

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Scene Here: Mountain Park Funk
Aug22

Scene Here: Mountain Park Funk

The old familiar smell of hundreds of people’s body odors mingles with the dust kicking up under our feet and the marijuana smoke hanging low in the air to form that perfect outdoor concert aroma at Mountain Park in Holyoke Saturday.Turkuaz, each member head to toe in a vibrant rainbow hue, pumps the funk and gets the people moving. Beside me, a quartet of cool-eyed concert veterans parcel out acid. And to the front a pregnant woman...

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Scene Here: Rosco’s Not Feeling It
Aug15

Scene Here: Rosco’s Not Feeling It

Rosco just #can’t. After a full week of being a good dog — messing outside, not messing in the house, and being generally adorable — here he is, out on a river, of all places, hanging with these kids.“I’m too old for this,” he mutters to himself, sipping on an iced Dunkin’ coffee.Trish and Ashlee gather the dogs for a group shot to commemorate the sunny Saturday afternoon on the Connecticut River in Hadley.Being 10 years old, Rosco...

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Scene Here: Dreaming Away with Deer Tick
Aug08

Scene Here: Dreaming Away with Deer Tick

Down an old country road, tucked into the mountains in Becket, rests the 200-year-old Dream Away Lodge. The romantic name suits the intimate atmosphere with dim lighting and couples in every nook. It’s a lot like entering a good friend’s living room with unique, mismatched decor and a friendly black poodle hanging out. On this Saturday night, Ian O’Neil and Dennis Ryan of the folk rock band Deer Tick were performing an acoustic gig. I...

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Scene Here: Cat 4 Prez
Aug01

Scene Here: Cat 4 Prez

A crowd of several hundred people, made up largely of children, packed the lawn of the Springfield Museums Quadrangle on Tuesday morning in eager anticipation of a stump speech by the self-proclaimed “children’s candidate,” the latest to enter the presidential fray. The Cat in the Hat had announced his candidacy just that morning alongside his blue-haired running mates, Thing 1 and Thing 2, on the front steps of the childhood home of...

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Scene Here: Tuesday Night Classics
Jul25

Scene Here: Tuesday Night Classics

The setting sun glints off a sea of chrome and glossy paint jobs — fiery reds, cool blues, and slick blacks. The sounds of classic rock ‘n’ roll echo through Stearns Square and the smell of fried food lingers. It’s Tuesday Cruise Night, an event put on by the Springfield Business Improvement District this summer aimed at bringing people together with the near universal appeal of antique cars. Who wouldn’t turn their head at the sight...

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Scene Here: On Tap Festival at Berkshire East
Jul19

Scene Here: On Tap Festival at Berkshire East

Last Call, Franklin CountyThis past Sunday’s inaugural Franklin County On Tap festival drew over 400 intrepid fans of craft beer, cider, and mead to Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont to sample brews from a dozen local operations, including the newest: Hitchcock Brewing in Whately, pictured here, which shipped its first keg May 15. Visitors wandered among two floors of vendor tables inside the lodge, but the most fun was to...

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SceneHere: The Jam Must Go On!
Jul11

SceneHere: The Jam Must Go On!

The 30th Green River Festival at Greenfield Community College was awash in music, good vibes, and rain — big time. Day two of the three-day festival, Saturday, saw some severe downpours, but a little rain wasn’t enough to dampen people’s spirits.— Kristin Palpini, editor@valleyadvocate.com 

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Scene Here: Abuzz About Drones
Jun20

Scene Here: Abuzz About Drones

In a cozy courtyard in downtown Springfield, nestled among red brick buildings and gray concrete parking garages, a small white quadcopter suddenly whirs to life on a makeshift launch pad in small patch of grass. At the controls is 16-year-old Briyanna Henry, who’s learning how to fly the drone as part of a workshop put on by UMass Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program and Make-It Springfield, a pop-up makerspace on Worthington...

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Scene Here: Vigils for Orlando
Jun14

Scene Here: Vigils for Orlando

On June 12, the day of the massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, people in the Valley held vigils to mourn the tragedy and to comfort each other. In Greenfield, people sang “We Shall Overcome” on the town common. In Northampton, they held a vigil outside City Hall. — Kristin Palpini, editor@valleyadvocate.comPhotos by Matt Burkhart (Greenfield) and Dan Little (Northampton, photo includes...

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Retired: Northampton’s ‘Downtown’ Daniel Packs Up His Guitar
Jun06

Retired: Northampton’s ‘Downtown’ Daniel Packs Up His Guitar

Daniel Evans, 63, has been playing his guitar on Main Street in Northampton for over 15 years, but as of Sunday, June 5, the man locals have come to know as “Downtown Daniel” has officially retired. Evans, who’s struggled with homelessness, became a part of the fabric of downtown Northampton by frequently busking in front of Bueno y Sano.Since 2010, he’s been working with First Churches of Northampton on Cathedral in the Night and...

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Scene Here: Junior Jiu Jitsu / Warriors in Training
May23

Scene Here: Junior Jiu Jitsu / Warriors in Training

Through the open door of Springfield’s Virtue Brazilian Jiu Jitsu come the sounds of little bare feet rapidly thumping on gym mats. Inside, Kym Sturdivant’s watchful gaze over the tiny fighters is sober. Arms raised, the grade-school grapplers circle each other, analyzing their opponents. The first to spot a weakens strikes. As the students spar, the seriousness they try to emulate from their sensei melts away. Laughter is punctuated...

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Scene Here: Sunshine and Smokes
May18

Scene Here: Sunshine and Smokes

It’s 8:30 a.m. and the sun already feels warm on Main St. in Springfield’s South End. Birdsong can be heard beyond the roar of a passing bus. Across from a patchy, untended lot enclosed by a chainlink fence, children in backpacks skip along the sidewalk, weaving between adults. The warm weather seems to have them smiling too, off to their destinations with a youthful spring in their steps.On the sidewalk outside Harry’s Caffè and...

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Scene Here: Gorilla Fingers in the Mist
May03

Scene Here: Gorilla Fingers in the Mist

At Extravaganja 2016 at Northampton’s Three County Fairgrounds, the crowd is as high as the marijuana-leaf balloon floating overhead. About 24,000 red eyes look on as local musicians blast out funky jams and marijuana-tinged tunes. Police officers meander in pairs around the perimeter.Though there’s no shortage of customers at donut carts and french fry vendors, grape is the flavor of the day.“It’s dope,” remarks Devon Turner, 19, a...

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Scene Here: Afternoon Nighthawks
Apr25

Scene Here: Afternoon Nighthawks

A crisp smack of cold beer hits my palate; a dark, hearty rye. I’m engulfed by laughter and spirited conversation, lost in the dull roar, a wave washing over me. A sudden crash, a peaceful respite as it rolls back, redoubling its efforts at sweeping me away … but not for a little while longer.It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday at the High Horse in Amherst. A few tables have filled up in the dining section, but most of the barstools are...

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Seeing Springsteen, again and again and again
Feb16

Seeing Springsteen, again and again and again

So, yeah. I’m obsessed. I began following Bruce Springsteen as a schoolboy coming of age in mid-1970s Omaha. A few seconds after graduation, I loaded up my Mercury Bobcat (creamsicle orange paint, white vinyl top) and headed east. Crossing the Jersey state line, I popped in the cassette tape I had been saving for that moment and sang al’ong with Bruce about “barefoot girls sitting on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in...

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Scene Here: Free Radical
Feb08

Scene Here: Free Radical

The man is 74 years old. For half a century of tilting at the bone-grinding windmills of Darwinian capitalism, you’d think he’d be weary, wised-up, aching for retirement. But no, here he is in New Hampshire, on short sleep caught on a night flight halfway across the continent, taking another hotly fought step up the dreary electoral incline, to a big White House of justice up there somewhere, maybe, shimmering in the smog. Well, you’d...

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Scene Here: Songs Aloft
Jan25

Scene Here: Songs Aloft

The creaky floorboards cry out when Tom Matherly shifts his weight. He rocks from one heel to the other in his tan boots, staring down at the frayed red rug while he twists the tuning keys on his vintage electric guitar. He’s pausing his set list to play “The Man Who Sold The World” as a tribute to David Bowie, but this guitar is more than 40 years old, and it doesn’t hold its tuning like it used to.Maybe the temperature is to blame —...

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Los Tres Reyes
Jan11

Los Tres Reyes

DAN LITTLE PHOTO The camels may not be here at this year’s Three King’s Day celebration put on by Springfield’s Women of the Vanguard and various community partners, but the party’s so much fun that no one seems to mind. Arriving around 5:30 at Main Street’s Biergarten International — a half-hour after the party’s official start — I find the large open room has about 35 people in it, sitting and talking and enjoying the overhead music...

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Forecast: Messy
Jan04

Forecast: Messy

AMANDA DRANE PHOTOIt’s here — the white we all wanted on Christmas. But they sent the wrong stuff. Given the Valley’s tropical Christmas — we saw people posting Christmas bikini pics on social media — it’s really a mean joke that flakes fell last Tuesday while would-be revelers slept and that later the snow fans awoke to something masquerading as the real thing. Snow artist Dave Rothstein takes to Facebook to voice his discontent in a...

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Working for Workers
Dec14

Working for Workers

AMANDA DRANE PHOTO At Price Rite in Chicopee on a recent Thursday afternoon, the rally is in action. A man wearing a vest with Bernie Sanders buttons and Jobs with Justice pins approaches my car. I roll down the window at his polite but persistent behest. He hands me a piece of paper and smiles as I park. I get out of the car, but it seems I have already witnessed the full extent of the rally. Four people are passing out the same...

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The Nest
Dec07

The Nest

AMANDA DRANE PHOTO Outside the Nest, a house/underground music venue on a side street off Belchertown Road in Amherst, a cloud of smokers greet me. I follow the train of people kicking off their boots and shoes at the bottom of the basement stairs where a living room and kitchen make up one large room. The table and counters are packed with delicious-looking food. The Nest’s shows typically start with a potluck. “Dinner is an integral...

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Scene Here: Smith College Sit-In, Where is my utopia?
Nov23

Scene Here: Smith College Sit-In, Where is my utopia?

The Smith College Campus Center, a futuristic white building that rises over the campus like a spaceship, is full today. Where students usually walk through a mostly empty atrium, today almost every inch is packed, students and community members sprawling over floor space, leaning on blankets and backpacks. A standing crowd forms near the front doors; people lean over the sides of the upper mezzanine and the stairs. In one of the...

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Getting Lit
Nov16

Getting Lit

AMANDA DRANE PHOTO The holiday spirit arrives a bit early at Easthampton’s Keep Cottage Street Lit event at the Brass Cat. On this recent Wednesday night, the packed pub is a unified wall of happy noise as revelers clutch stemless, child-sized glasses and mill around the beer-tasting stations, pointing out this moment’s choice. The glasses and the portions may be small, but moving quickly from beer to beer, those attending get their...

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Scene Here: Bird Brain
Nov09

Scene Here: Bird Brain

Photo by Greg SaulmonMotivated by hunger and a bit of sport, the peregrine falcon searches for a high perch from which she can keep a sharp lookout for prey. Her favorite meals are pigeons, ducks, and shorebirds, but in the lush Pioneer Valley any kind of medium-size bird will do. Peregrine finds a cove on top of a silent brick warehouse by the Holyoke Dam over the Connecticut River. She waits patiently — still, except for the...

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