Memorial Day Races series in Lenox expands, adds music festival

LENOX — The fifth annual Memorial Day Races, a two-day series starting and ending at Tanglewood, may attract 1,500 to 1,600 participants, according to organizer Matt Linick.

It’s the first major attraction of the prime tourist season in the area, said Lenox Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ralph Petillo, who called the races “a wonderful addition to the Berkshires, especially Lenox.”

“It brings in people whom we hope will come back and enjoy the town on their own, a younger audience than we usually get in the summer, which is very good for us,” he said.

Last year’s races were attended by 1,400 participants, said Linick, 41, whose active-travel company, Running Away, is based in Boca Raton, Fla.

The event on the weekend of May 24-25 will feature the Memorial Day Marathon and Half Marathon, the Tanglewood 10K and 5K runs, the Memorial Day 15K Trail Race, a Trail-Road Challenge and Kids Race. Most events are on Sunday, with the exception of the 15K Trail Race and Kids Race, both held on Saturday.

So far, registrants are from Massachusetts — about 38 percent of the total — as well as the New York metro area and more than 25 other states and nations, including Florida, California, Canada, the Philippines and Brazil.

Most registrants stay overnight at sites such as the Apple Tree Inn and Cornell Inn, both in Lenox, and the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge.

A post-race party is held at the Olde Heritage Tavern in Lenox while other eateries and merchants benefit from the crowds, including Guido’s Fresh Marketplace and Price Chopper, Linick said.

New attractions this year include an early-morning, 55-mile Memorial Day Dirt Road Ride for mountain bikers on Sunday and a full-fledged, post-race SummerSound music festival at Tanglewood that afternoon.

SummerSound made its debut last May, Linick said, but it was far from a dry run; “It rained all weekend, with 55 mile-an-hour winds.”

The concert, from noon to 6, features Northampton-based Heather Maloney, a singer-songwriter who performs folk, jazz and pop.

Other bookings include the Boston-based Adam Ezra Group, an acoustic-rock band; The Interlopers, young Great Barrington musicians who now attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, and Skyfactor, a New York City band. Tickets are $15 for the general public; race participants are admitted at no charge.

The concert, organized by SummerSound Live, a subsidiary company owned by Linick, is building a stage for the festival at the main gate parking lot at Tanglewood. The Tanglewood box office will open during the weekend for summer concert ticket sales.

“If it’s remotely nice out, we expect a big crowd,” he said.

The goal is to create a two-day festival, Linick explained. Until this year, the event was known as the Memorial Day Marathon, but he changed the name in order to reflect the wider scope of attractions.

The new Dirt Road Ride is an informal, 51-mile trek through the Berkshires, limited to 300 riders. It will set out from Tanglewood at 7:45 a.m. May 25, proceed on Undermountain and Reservoir roads, and continue through portions of Richmond, West Stockbridge, Alford and a slice of nearby Columbia County, N.Y.

“It’s a self-supported ride,” Linick said. “Everybody rides on their own and we just mark it all for them.”

A pre-race Expo will be held on the Tanglewood parking lot grounds from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 24.

A portion of the weekend’s proceeds benefits Team Red White & Blue, a national advocacy group for veterans, and the Northampton branch of Soldier On, which assists homeless veterans at its Pittsfield facility on West Housatonic Street.

Last year’s event raised about $30,000 for Team Red White & Blue, then the sole beneficiary.

The festival’s major sponsors include Tanglewood, Greylock Federal Credit Union and the Arcadian Shop.

“Every year, Tanglewood has been more and more supportive,” Linick said. “It’s good for them and good for us.”