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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Festival entertains spirited few

PITTSFIELD ' Spirits were high, attendance was not, according to a consensus of vendors and attendees yesterday at the first Berkshire Spirit Fest at Bousquet Ski Area.
The event was presented by the Berkshire Spirit Ministries of Becket and L.O.V.E., a Pittsfield-based volunteer group that advocates compassion and inspiration through community music and art.
According to the Rev. Bettina Zumdick, one of the three founders of Berkshire Spirit Ministries, 50 percent of the proceeds from yesterday's festival will be turned over to Berkshire Community Action Council Inc., a Pittsfield-based organization with offices in Great Barrington and North Adams, that sponsors a host of programs designed to help area residents move from assistance to self-sufficiency.
"We chose BCAC because they know the needs (of the area), they know where the money should go," Zumdick said. "They're very connected."
Yesterday's event was an offshoot of a psychic fair in Lenox in November produced by Berkshire Spirit Ministries. The proceeds from that event went to BCAC's winter fuel-assistance program.
At yesterday's fair, BCAC staffers told Zumdick that funding was needed in the early summer to meet the increased nutritional needs for schoolchildren who no longer receive a free lunch.
In addition, said Zumdick, "we believe it's time to raise awareness of sustainable alternatives."
The festival featured speakers, bands and a number of booths that offered information on subjects including solar electricity, organic farming, biodiesel fuel, renewable energy, recycling and waste prevention.
There also were booths that featured jewelry, massages, Tarot card readings, psychic interpretations, channeling and clothing.
"We've included the alternative community because we wanted to be as inclusive as possible," Zumdick said. "Someone may come to a reader and also get a chance to learn about alternative energy sources."
The principal downside, according to most booth personnel, was a low turnout. By 2, only about 100 people had made their way to the festival.
"These (kinds of festivals) help to get the word out," said Laurenne Teachout, who was manning an information booth about Mountain Road School in New Lebanon, N.Y., "but it's too bad there aren't more people here."
The food included Indian and Mexican fare, natural foods from Guido's, and hamburgers and hot dogs.
"The food is very good," said Janice DiFilippo of Dalton. "But it's unfortunate there aren't more people."
"More people would bring more energy here, I think," said her friend, Jane Ruscetta, whose son, Tony Lee Thomas, was in the last band on the bill.
"He's a Berkshire treasure, it says right here in the program," said Ruscetta with a chuckle. "We're here for the day. We'll be OK if the rain holds off."
Throughout the day, a variety of speakers stepped to the stage, discussing global climate change, sustainable agriculture, biodiesel fuels and renewable energy.
Donald Campbell of Northfield, president of DCA Solar, gave an entertaining speech at midday about sustainable energy.
"How many of you out there think slavery is a good idea?" he asked the audience. "OK, no one thinks it's a great idea, which is good."
But, said Campbell, it would take about 300 slaves to generate the amount of energy used by every American on average in a year.
"Five percent of the world, (Americans), use up 25 percent of its resources," he said. "That's not good."
Campbell offered several basic tips about energy conservation, including turning lights off when leaving a room, closing windows on cold days and, overall, being aware of energy use.
"The good news is that events like this help us out by raising awareness," he said.
A number of local musicians and bands were on the bill, including Michael Haynes, Billy Pilgrim, Axis, Jerac Andre, Hector on Stilts, the Loveknot Shrine, Dooley Austin and the aforementioned Tony Lee Thomas Band.
Derek Gentile can be reached at dgentile@berkshireeagle.com or at (413) 528-3660.

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