Sally Turner and Michael Dolinish of Mill River have been getting their Christmas tree at the New Marlborough Central School’s Holiday Fair for years. “It’s an annual tradition,” says Dolinish, who enjoys supporting the local school. While the fir trees hail from Vermont, the myriad of volunteers on hand is decidedly local—namely friends and family members of the scant 77 students, in pre-K through fourth grade, who attend one of the few remaining village schools in Berkshire County.
“We love it because the whole community comes out—not just to support us financially but to participate,” says Dan Weston, who teaches grades two and three there. Much of the elementary school’s old-fashioned charm is on display during the Holiday Fair, where a strong sense of community and inclusion prevails. The little red brick schoolhouse, which dates back to 1932, is a hub of excitement on the first Saturday in December. The sound of jingle bells in the frosty parking lot gives way to the boisterous shouts and footsteps of children inside.
“I think it’s a really fun fair,” says little Josephine, clad in a pair of red and white striped tights. “I look forward to it every year.” She disappears momentarily to offer a lollipop to a toddler sliding off of Santa’s lap. Her friends, who round out a trio of elves sporting matching felt hats and pointed booties, concur: “I think it’s a good deed to do something for the school,” says Kyley. “I’m not here to do work,” Charlotte chimes in, “I’m here to have fun!” Which seems to be the general theme of the event that draws a slew of visitors from all walks of life—parents, grandparents, former students and local residents—making it a true point of convergence for all ages.
A high point in the school year, the fair is sponsored by the New Marlborough Central School’s PTA and has been in existence for more than 22 years. Stephanie Bergman and Marie Kamens, last year’s PTA co-presidents, invested countless hours in the weeks and months leading up to the event. This year’s co-presidents are Dan Weston and Lynn Webster, both teachers.
Bergman, who works in development, enjoys being able to use her skills to help raise money for her daughters’ school. “I love this event,” says the South Egremont resident. “There are so many ways that people can contribute—from making crafts, baking, and volunteering to helping get donations. And shopping. There’s a way for everyone to participate!”
In the wrapping room, two of the volunteers are members of the school’s class of 2016. “I invited my old friends from 4th grade,” says Honey of Mill River, now in grade 8. “We love hanging out with each other.” She wraps a small gift while grinning at her friend and classmate, Shira, who looks on.
“We miss the school,” says Suzanne Sawyer of Monterey, whose four children attended New Marlborough Central. “We have to come back to support it.” Her arms are brimming with treasures. There is quite literally something for everyone: make-and-take crafts, a white elephant sale, music, food, a children’s only shopping room, face painting, an epic book sale, and tables upon tables of crafts, many of which are made by the youngest students.
Perhaps one of the biggest draws has been the annual silent auction showcasing a wealth of items donated by businesses throughout the community. Tables laden with prizes from throughout south county fill an entire classroom. Last year, there were gift certificates from Cantina 229 and Indian Line Farm, The Farm New Marlborough and Big Elm Brewery—all with direct ties to current or former students at the school.
“The Holiday Fair epitomizes the values of an effective school and community partnership,” says principal Charles Miller, who was a newcomer to this annual tradition last winter. “The fact that families, teachers, and community members collaborate to bring it all together is another testament to the way our community supports our school.”
On the day of the event, the small school swells with energy. A tiny voice erupts: “I haven’t bought any gifts for myself yet!” The beaming five-and-a-half-year-old holds her brown paper bag full of goodies over her head for me to inspect. “I got something for my sister, my daddy and his wife, and my mom,” she shares with delight. Which cuts straight to the chase of this coveted annual event—one that invites everyone to celebrate the spirit of the season while investing in the next generation.
COME ONE, COME ALL
New Malvorough Central School’s Holiday Fair is Saturday, Dec. 7, from 10-3 at 44 Hartsville-Mill River Rd., MA