Blackout Friday is a lights-out affair
Founded by Pittsfield native Matt Pennell and Jackie Rivera, the entertainment group has held three events — a male revue show, a costume party and a drag show — since the beginning of October. The first two drew 75-80 people, the organizers reported. Its most recent event, the Pittsfield Pride Drag Show, sold out Tavern at the A on Nov. 3, they said.
"Our mission statement is to provide a safe, drama-free, affordable, fun night for Pittsfield, or for Berkshire County [as a whole]," Rivera said during a joint telephone interview with Pennell.
On Friday, Weekend Warriors will hold its next party: "Blackout Friday," a lights-out affair with black lights and DJ Young Champ spinning at Tavern at the A. (The event's title is not a reference to or promotion of binge drinking, the organizers wrote in an email.) Glow sticks will be available; white or neon clothing is encouraged. The idea is to capitalize on Berkshire natives — particularly a younger demographic — returning to the county for Thanksgiving weekend.
"When college kids are home for Thanksgiving, they want something to do," Pennell said.
Three weeks later, the entertainment group will add to the list of ugly sweater romps around the county with its Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at the Pittsfield American Legion.
Like Weekend Warriors' prior events, the organizers will aim to keep the holiday-oriented events drama-free. But what does that term mean?
For Rivera, it's about safety. Weekend Warriors hires professional security guards for their events, she said. Both organizers also regularly circulate throughout the crowd, aiming to quell any disputes before they escalate. Rivera, is, however, realistic.
"We can't prevent every single fight," she said.
She's aware that Berkshire County nightclubs and other venues have been in the news for the wrong reasons sometimes. While Rivera didn't want to call out any specific bars, a natural comparison would be to Chameleons, a bar that was once a home to the Berkshires drag scene. It was shuttered in the aftermath of a shooting and subsequent liquor license suspension, according to an Eagle story from 2014.
"I want to focus on family...and not take part in Pittsfield's drama any further," Chameleons Owner/Manager Melissa Drumm-Sweener said at the time.
Chameleons' closing expedited the decrease in the area's drag events. Rivera and Pennell are now trying to reverse that trend, seeking to bring drag shows back on a regular basis in addition to their other parties. They also want to appeal to people who have had negative experiences with Berkshires nightlife in the past.
"There [are] a lot of events that tend to be a little crazy, or [they're] not catered to everybody, so it's fun that we've had a more relaxed, happy group of people that have come out," Pennell said before Weekend Warriors' initial drag show, an event that went off without any major incidents.
Weekend Warriors formed when Rivera, 35, who had been bringing male revue shows to the county for a couple of years, and Pennell, 25, a salesman for LuLaRoe clothing, decided they should team up to host an event. They planned the "Clothes On / Clothes Off Party," an event featuring Men in Motion and DJsnake413, according to the group's Facebook page. In the process, they realized that they wanted to have a more enduring impact on the county's nightlife than a one-off party.
"We decided that we wanted to bring entertainment and events...to the Berkshires because [of] the lack of events and entertainment in the Berkshires," Rivera said.
They followed up their first event with "Friday the 13th Costume Party," a Halloween-themed gathering at The Garden Grill & Tavern in Lanesborough. But the group is trying to move away from themed events in the future. It would like to expand its offerings beyond nightlife, ultimately having its own venue to host community gatherings.
"Right now, we've started off with the themed parties that are nightlife and aimed towards the younger crowd, but come the new year, we do want to branch out and do more all-ages [events] and not necessarily nightlife," Pennell said.
A weekly flea market is in the works, and Rivera mentioned that a pig roast was a possibility, too. The organizers are open to suggestions.
"We want to do what people want," Rivera said.
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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