Winklepicker Festival gets cookin’ and turns up the temperature in Ashfield
Carlos Neville with a pot of his chicken and sausage gumbo that he prepared during his Cooking New Oreleans class on Saturday at Elmers Store in Ashfield .
Eli Mansur,7, of West Fairlee ,Vt , danced with style during the Kids Mardi Gras Ball at the Ashfield Town Hall on Saturday; Primate Fiasco played a set of their kids music which got the kids and parents dancing enthusiastically all around the floor.
Madison Nowakowski, 5, of Springfield, dances at right during the WinkclePicker Kids Mardi Gras Bal on Saturday at the Ashfield Town Hall . The band Primate Fiasco played a lively set of kids music to get the crowd on their feet.
ASHFIELD — The Winklepicker Festival was back for its second year, bringing some much-needed fun to a mid-winter weekend.
Though it took place a few days after New Orleans, La., celebrated Fat Tuesday, nobody seemed to mind that they were celebrating Mardi Gras a little late.
The weekend started at Elmer’s Store, with the annual “Love and Chocolate” Valentine’s Day weekend dinner. Saturday morning, the guests became the cooks, as chef Carlos Neville taught them how to make New Orleans classics like shrimp Creole, chicken and sausage gumbo, and crawfish beignets.
The afternoon was all about the kids, who got to make Mardi Gras masks or have their faces painted before their very own concert.
“The big draw for us was the Mardi Gras theme,” said Richard Pree. “It’s a great way to have fun in the middle of the winter.”
He and wife Wendy Pree took their grandkids, Owen, Eli, and Isla Munser, 10, 7, and 3, to the afternoon ball. The Prees come from Ashfield, and their grandchildren hail from West Fairlee, Vt.
They all came in costume; Richard Pree as a rather tall leprechaun, his wife dressed as a witch, Owen was a wizard, Eli came as the fiddler on the roof, and little Isla was Cinderella.
Upstairs in Town Hall, Primate Fiasco played kids’ songs with their own twist, on banjo, clarinet, sousaphone, sax and drums.
“They’re our favorite band,” said Emily Gopin. She and son Sovahn Crawford, 11, are big fans of the band’s full repertoire of kids’ and adult songs. They came out just to hear Primate Fiasco play.
“We’re from Charlemont, but sometimes I wish we lived in Ashfield; they do so many cool things here,” said Gopin.
The band’s rhythm was infectious, kids and adults dancing alike; this reporter even found himself tapping his foot to “Wheels on the Bus.”
Seven-year-old Eli Mansur could really get down; the youngster wowed the crowd with his breakdancing as well as more classical moves.
“I taught myself,” he said “Sometimes I dance along to the radio.”
The musically inclined Eli was full of energy, and excited to talk about his role in the school play.
“I’m the Fiddler on the Roof; I even get to play a real fiddle!” he beamed.
Those who weren’t natural-born dancers like Eli got a chance to learn a few moves of their own before the evening’s adult Mardi Gras Ball. Heidi Ehrenreich, who uses Zydeco and other dance styles as a dance and movement therapist, showed the crowd a thing or two about dancing Cajun style.
Then, Primate Fiasco once again took the stage at Town Hall, this time with a more adult set, as they warmed up the crowd for headliners Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.
In its first year, the event featured a small afternoon show, and a Buckwheat Zydeco concert that sold out at night. This year, organizers decided to hold two big nighttime shows, and also added the kids’ ball.
“It’s a little bit of a learning curve,” said Jim Olsen, of Signature Sounds. He, along with Elmer’s Store owner Nan Parati, and Carol Young, organized this and last year’s festivals.
“We’re going to do something different every year,” said Olsen.
The fun continued Sunday, with even more music and food. Special guest Charles Neville came by to play a few tunes and talk about his time playing and touring with the Neville Brothers Band, formed in 1977 and still active today. Then, a concert with Eilen Jewel closed out the weekend.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279