By Amy Krzanik
George Manley, Stephanie Mendoza and Julia Dixon at the Taggart House. Photo courtesy of Marc J. Wrzesinski.
If you’ve ever been single and attempted to mingle in Berkshire County, you’ve probably come up against at least two obstacles -- distance and quantity. Due to the seeming lack of available partners, singles turn to online dating sites and apps, where planning a first date often means traveling to Albany, Springfield or even farther to meet a potential match in person. That’s a long way to drive only to be disappointed.
Berkshire Creative’s Managing Director, Julia Dixon, understands how daunting dating in the Berkshires can be. The 31-year-old Dixon is experiencing the issue from two angles: as a single person and as part of the Berkshire Initiative for Growth (BIG) which aims to identify some of the factors involved in recruiting and keeping young people in the area. Along with employment and housing, being able to find a spouse and start a family is a concern for those deciding where to start their lives.
This past January, while discussing dating woes over Bloody Marys at Pittsfield’s Thistle & Mirth
, Dixon, Stephanie Mendoza and a few of their friends hatched BerkshireFlirt
. The social networking group’s aim is to get people in a room together in real time, and help facilitate conversation with ice breakers, cocktails and snacks – more like a traditional house party and less like a high-pressure speed-dating event. Because while online dating can help pinpoint with whom you’re more likely to get along, it leaves out a huge part of the equation — in-person chemistry. “I don’t like learning about people through data points," Dixon says, alluding to things like height, weight, and occupation that some people use to dismiss suitors out of hand when online.
Photo courtesy of Marc J. Wrzesinski.
The first Flirt event, on February 14 at the bar where it all began — Thistle & Mirth — was a hit, with all 40 free tickets claimed before the doors even opened. Dixon says the turnout was diverse, with a good mixture of folks ranging in age from early 20s to late 30s.
Through BerkshireFlirt events, Dixon is ideally hoping for three things to happen: that people chat and network, that they meet someone with whom they’d like to go on a date, and that single men and women make new friends. As their friends pair off, it can feel isolating for those not in a couple.
“People don’t date anymore." Dixon says, “They drink at bars, get too drunk, and end up having a one-night stand or jumping into a relationship with someone they don’t really know."
The next BerkshireFlirt event, on Friday, March 27, will be larger, with 60 free tickets up for grabs and going fast. "We are so excited that George Manley is donating the use of his home for this free event," Dixon says. Taggart House
, Manley’s downtown Stockbridge abode, will host an hour of icebreakers beginning at 8:30 p.m., followed by dancing to the sounds of DJ RothFitz. Hors d'oeuvres, including Berkshire Bark chocolate, and a variety of cocktails, including beer and Prosecco, will be available.
Ideally, BerkshireFlirt would like to throw a singles mixer each month, and a handful of local venues have already offered to host them. “Public response has been overwhelmingly positive," Dixon says. She encourages people to come out to events, and to like and share BerkshireFlirt’s facebook page
. “Married people shouldn’t be afraid to support us and help us reach more people. Everyone knows someone who’s single. It’s a constantly evolving demographic — people get together, they break up; our demo could change within a couple of months. The more people who know about it, the better.“
“My goal is to change the culture of dating a little bit," says Dixon. “Plus it’s a good excuse for people to get dressed up and go out."
BerkshireFlirt Singles Mixer
Friday, March 27 beginning at 8 p.m.
Taggart House, 18 Main St., Stockbridge, MA
Icebreakers at 8:30 p.m., Dancing at 9:30 p.m.