, Newburyport, MA

February 7, 2014

Something for the winter doldrums

Newburyport Daily News

---- — We’re in that deep part of the winter when fall seems like it was ages ago and there is no sign of spring to be found anywhere. And so it is refreshing to see that there are some efforts afoot to make this Heartbreak Hill stretch of the winter marathon a little more bearable.

Here’s a couple that caught our eye:

The return of bald eagles to this region has been well documented and observed for several years. This weekend is the time to get out there and see them for yourself.

The annual Eagle Festival comes to Newburyport on Saturday. A full slate of programs and events will be held throughout the day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Most events are centered around the Joppa Flats Audubon Center and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, both on Plum Island Turnpike and at Newburyport City Hall. There are also field tours of popular eagle-watching sights along the Merrimack River.

This is a great way to experience the rebounding eagle population and to learn from experts. This has been a good winter for eagle sightings in the area; no doubt eagle watchers will come away satisfied.

Fans of the arts and architecture on the North Shore have something to cheer in this weekend’s reopening of the Ames Memorial Hall at Salem YMCA.

Built in 1896 as a concert and lecture hall, the space fell into disrepair after being converted into a gym in the 1970s.

A fundraising campaign led by former Salem State President Nancy Harrington and local businessman David Ives brought $1.1 million. That took care of a wide range of work. The hall now has an expanded stage and backstage, a restored balcony and new lighting and sound systems. The building is now handicapped accessible and, for those steamy summer nights, air-conditioned.

The state-of-the-art improvements were accompanied with respect for the building’s history. Plaster moldings and decorative details were restored rather than replaced, and the marble staircase and original stained-glass windows have been refurbished.

“There was a lot of attention to history. … We restored as much history as we could,” said Chris Lovasco, COO at the YMCA of the North Shore.

The hall will be home to the Y Theatre Company, which has served 600 to 700 children since its founding in 2008.

“It’s a wonderful space for kids to perform, but also it’s a center for arts for the entire community,” Lovasco said.

The work will be unveiled tonight with a performance by opera star Marquita Lister. Tomorrow, the center will host performances by the Y Theatre Company, the Salem Theatre Company and the Boston Ballet, among others.

It’s a fitting way to celebrate the return to prominence of one of the city’s gems.