Even though the holiday lights were strung up before the kids even trick-or-treated for their Halloween candy this year, the official start to the holiday season is this weekend by most people’s assessment. The Pioneer Valley will be abuzz with activity over the next few weeks, and choosing which events to attend can be a tough decision. To make it a bit easier, we’ve picked out a few events across the Pioneer Valley that are family friendly, affordable, and accessible for all.
Holiday Shopping and Festival of Lights. Friday, Nov. 24, 4 to 9 p.m. Free. Downtown Shelburne Falls. More information at (413) 625-2526 or email@example.com.
Bring some magic back into your holiday shopping by attending Moonlight Magic on Nov. 24 instead of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In the spirit of Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday following Thanksgiving, Moonlight Magic is a chance to get a jump on your holiday shopping while supporting small businesses and spending time outside at a free event.
The village of Shelburne Falls feels like a scene from an old-timey movie even without the festive decorations. With attractions like the Bridge of Flowers and the natural beauty of the glacial potholes, Shelburne Falls is already a year-round tourist destination for Western Mass. The village is a downtown center that is shared by two towns on opposite sides of the Deerfield River: Buckland and Shelburne. Moonlight Magic is a decades-old tradition that brings the two towns together by closing Bridge Street (including the Iron Bridge) and encouraging locals to get outside and spend an evening under the stars instead of in a mall.
The Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association (GSFABA) organizes the event, and starts coordinating the town’s decorations in early November. Festivities get started around 4 p.m. on Nov. 24 with the “festival of lights,” which is when Mohawk Trail High School students light 1500 votive candles donated by Yankee Candle all over the village. With the ambiance set, the Parade of Lights begins, featuring children’s book characters and Mr. and Mrs. Claus marching from Buckland across the Iron Bridge into Shelburne.
“It’s become a tradition,” said Carmela Lanza-Weil, executive director of the (GSFABA). “It’s just full of joy. People come back year after year.”
After the parade, visitors can wander back and forth across the bridge, which will be packed with vendors selling gifts, food, and drinks. Even the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum will have its 1896 restored trolley lit up with lights and running along the river. There will also be a schedule of events, featuring crafts and live entertainment. Additionally, Shelburne Falls’ businesses will be open late.
“The unique gifts you can buy here will be at every price point,” said Carol Foot, coordinator of the event.
“You buy your gifts from the person who made it,” Lanza-Weil added.
Pioneer Valley Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Sensory and Family Safe Presentation: Friday, Dec. 8, 4 p.m. Tickets $13 to $20. Celebration Event: Friday, Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m. Tickets $28 to $50. Academy of Music, 274 Main St., Northampton. Purchase tickets at (413) 584-9032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a tradition with my grandma to try and see a version of the classic story, The Nutcracker, together during the holidays. This year, I hope that we will make it to one of the Pioneer Valley Ballet’s (PVB) enchanting performances at the Academy of Music. While there are two shows a day from Friday, Dec. 8, to Sunday, Dec. 10, I recommend attending one of the two special performances on Friday evening.
This is PVB’s 39th production of The Nutcracker, which always serves as the company’s season opener. Martha Potyrala, Program and Operations Director at PVB, explained that The Nutcracker is a community-based production, meaning that anyone from the community can audition to perform on stage with pre-professional PVB students and guest artists from Boston, New York, and the Carolina Ballet. Over 250 community members from across the Pioneer Valley are involved in the performances. PVB’s Nutcracker is the longest running show at the Academy of Music, so thousands of people have been involved with the show over the years. There are many families in the Valley that have people from multiple generations who have been in the performance.
“It’s a long tradition at the Academy,” Executive Director of the Academy of Music Debra J’Anthony said. “It provides our patrons with an uplifting holiday event and allows community children to be involved in a ballet.”
The two specialty Friday night performances this season are a first. The performance at 7 p.m. is the Celebration Performance, which sounds like a great date night or early gift. The night will feature an acapella group before the show begins, live music at intermission, guest artist meet and greets, and a complimentary glass of champagne.
The performance at 4 p.m. is a sensory and family safe presentation that has lighting and sound accommodations for a “reduced sensory experience.” PVB used a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and advice from Autism Connections to make changes to the show, including reducing the lighting and sound contrast, removing intermission to make the whole performance shorter, seating audience members only in seats with easy aisle access, and including a narrator to help guide the audience at the beginning of the show. The Academy of Music is also wheelchair accessible.
“If The Nutcracker for us is community, then we need to have access for all of our community,” Potyrala said.
Holiday Extravaganza with the Grinch
Springfield Symphony Orchestra Concert. Saturday, Dec. 9, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Springfield Symphony Hall, 34 Court St., Springfield. Tickets from $22; kids 2 to 17 half price. Purchase tickets at (413) 733-2291 or BoxOffice@SpringfieldSymphony.org.
If you are looking to start a new tradition this year, the Holiday Extravaganza at Springfield Symphony Hall might be just the thing. Many families in Springfield are already in on the secret and attend the show every year. It’s a great opportunity to kick off the holiday season while also introducing young kids to the joy of live music.
The event will feature the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) performing under the direction of guest conductor Nicholas Palmer. The event will also include performances by the Springfield Symphony Chorus, the Children’s Chorus of Springfield, and Conductor and Cantor Martin Levson from the Sinai Temple in Springfield. The night is geared towards children, so the age requirement to attend is lowered to two years old, and the evening will include special appearances by Dr. Suess’ famous Christmas grump, the Grinch, and, of course, Santa.
For those who love holiday music, this event will not disappoint. The SSO will play holiday classics like Sleigh Ride in addition to kid friendly tunes from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the 1966 animated short based on the book of the same name by Springfield’s own Dr. Suess. Susan Bennett, the interim marketing and communications director at the SSO, said there will also be an audience sing along.
According to Bennett, Holiday Extravaganza is important because it is a chance for kids and families to experience the SSO without having to worry about being too loud or needing to leave early.
“Half the fun is watching the joy on the little kids’ faces,” Bennett said. “It’s a good way to build community spirit, and a good introduction to music for kids.”
Symphony Hall is accessible to wheelchairs and will have a cash bar and snacks available.
Other Events to Check Out
Tower Square Parade of the Big Balloons Friday, Nov. 24, 11 a.m., Main Street, Springfield. Free. (413) 733-3800 or http://www.spiritofspringfield.org
Winter Wonderland Light Display Friday, Nov. 24, to Monday, Jan. 1. Look Memorial Park, 300 N Main St., Florence. Free. More information at (413) 584-5457 or http://www.lookpark.org/special-events.
Bright Nights at Forest Park, Wednesday, Nov. 22, to Monday, Jan. 1. Forest Park, 300 Sumner Avenue, Springfield. Tickets are $18 Monday – Thursday and $21 Friday – Sunday and Holidays. More info at (413) 733-3800 or http://www.brightnights.org.
Holidays at Historic Deerfield, Friday, Dec. 1, to Sunday, Dec. 17, various events including tours, crafts, and wagon rides. 84B Old Main Street, Deerfield. More information at (413) 774-5581 or http://www.historic-deerfield.org/event.
Northampton Holiday Walk down Main Street, Saturday, Dec. 2, 5 to 8 p.m., Free.
Yuletide at Storrowton, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 3, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern States Exposition’s Storrowton Village Museum, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. Free. More information at (413) 205-5051, the Info Line at (413) 205-5115, and http://www.StorrowtonVillage.com.
Easthampton Holiday Whobalation, Sunday, Dec. 3, 6 to 8 p.m. Millside Park, 2 Ferry St., Easthampton. Free but donations encouraged.
A Christmas Carol, Friday, Dec. 8, 7 to 9 p.m. Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro, Vermont. Tickets are $15 general admission, $13 for students and seniors, and $5 for children 10 and under. Purchase tickets at (802) 258-1344 or email@example.com.
Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration, Friday/Saturday, Dec. 8/9, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. Shea Theater Arts Center, 71 Avenue A, Turners Falls. Tickets are $12 for adults; $10 for seniors and children 5 – 16; free for children under 4. More info at (413) 665-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
McNeill’s Pub Sings, Saturday, Dec. 16, and Holiday Pub Sing, Sunday, Dec. 24 from 3 to 5 p.m. McNeill’s Brewery, 90 Elliot St., Brattleboro, Vermont. Free. Info at (802) 254-2553 or email@example.com.