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Village Pizza in Greenfield Celebrates 60 Years

July 23, 2021

It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts. By 1976, the rest of his family joined him stateside and helped to make Village Pizza the Greenfield institution that it is today. This year, two of George’s grandchildren organized a bl

It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza s

It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts. By 1976, the rest of his family joined him stateside and helped to make Village Pizza the Greenfield institution that it is today. This year, two of George’s grandchildren organized a bl

It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

By 1976, the rest of his family joined him stateside and helped to make Village Pizza the Greenfield institution that it is today. This year, two of George’s grandchildren organized a block party to not only celebrate the restaurant’s sixty-year anniversary, but also to give back by donating their profits to the Greater Western Mass Foodbank and the Shriners' Hospital.  

Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan bring us the story.  

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Two years later in 1976, the rest of his family joined him here stateside and helped to make Village Pizza the institution that it is in Greenfield today.

This year, two of George's grandchildren organized a block party to not only celebrate the restaurant's 60 year anniversary, but also give back by donating their profits to the greater Western Mass Food Bank and the Shriner's Hospital.

Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan brings us the story.

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: It was a rainy and drizzly Sunday in a summer seemingly full of days that looked just like this one. But on this particular Sunday of July 11th, 2021, no amount of moisture falling from the sky was about to dampen the spirits of anyone at the Bank Row Block Party in Greenfield.

This was, after all, a celebration of 60 years for the little pizza shop that could. George Balis and his sister Vicki, the son and daughter of Chris Bayless, who is part owner of Village Pizza, organized this event, bringing in countless local businesses to chip in one way or another.

But, in spite of being a tight-knit community here in the heart of Franklin County, combined with the popularity of the local pizza place that stood the test of time for six decades, it was still an element of surprise to the overall turnout.

George Balis, Village Pizza: I got goosebumps thinking about it. I really do.

You know, I didn't expect this many people to come, especially this many businesses on a day like today. I would have expected a phone call in the morning saying, "I'm sorry, I can't make it."

Brian Sullivan: But they did. And several of those businesses had tents set up for the block party, whether it was the local gym, the farmstand, coffee, and everything in between.

But judging by the number of people waiting for a slice, or even the size of the crowd that surrounded the pizza eating contest, it was clear that Village was the main attraction, with so many in attendance having some kind of special memory about the family-run restaurant.

Ann Foth, Former Greenfield Resident: When he first opened up here 60 years ago, I was one of his customers. They made the best pizzas around that I've ever had. And they're very wonderful people, you know, to deal with, to buy from.

It was just wonderful.

David Kells, Greenfield Resident: This is a place that people just come to and people have been coming to for years. You know, for me, back to -- back through middle school and high school and college. And every time you came back from college, the first place you went to on the weekend was Village.

Danny Dennett, Montague Resident: Mid 70s, I went to Alaska for a vacation and decided never to come back. My baby sister Michelle would go to Village Pizza, buy me pizzas, and she would freeze them and send them to me in Alaska.

Brian Sullivan: And if someone is willing to have pizzas mailed to them across the continent, then waiting a few minutes in line is child's play.

This here is the line for pizza, and I think it really speaks volumes about just how popular Village Pizza is in this town. But this whole event is about a lot more than a 60 year anniversary.

This is a celebration of the American dream, which for people like me who were born in this country and are still chasing it, may still feel elusive. But to talk to Chris Balis, it's an entirely different story.

Chris Balis, Village Pizza: We are the American dream. You know, my father came here in '66, worked very hard. He had three full -- almost three full time jobs. He worked one hundred and twelve hours a week. Then we followed, came here in '74 -- '76, I'm sorry, '76.

And ever since then, we've been here working and living the American Dream. It's what you put in it. You know, the opportunity I think is here for everybody that wants it.

Brian Sullivan: The Balis Family may not be the original 1961 owners, having purchased village in 1974, but the 400-pound mixer? That's original. As is the scale. And while we're at it, so is the work ethic that brings this family to the shop every morning at 5:30 to prep and keeps them here all day to make time with their customers.

Now, all of those years of service have culminated in a one day celebration, a chance for father and son to soak in the moment side-by-side, while donating the day's profits to two worthy causes.

Chris Balis: It means the world to me. It means giving back to the community. I want to thank the people that were part of this place that supported us, the town and the whole country that gave us the opportunity to better our lives.

 

It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts. By 1976, the rest of his family joined him stateside and helped to make Village Pizza the Greenfield institution that it is today. This year, two of George’s grandchildren organized a bl

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Springfield Trust Transfer Project’s Chalk for Change

July 23, 2021

Over the last few years, building, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed into public art displays with murals and messages created by street artists. This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School teamed up for the Trust Transfer Project. The program partners with artists to bring messages about public health to the city’s South End and Metro neighborhoods. Connecting Point's Ross Lippman sp

Over the last few years, building, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed into public art displays with murals and messages created by street artists. This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the

Over the last few years, building, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed into public art displays with murals and messages created by street artists. This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School teamed up for the Trust Transfer Project. The program partners with artists to bring messages about public health to the city’s South End and Metro neighborhoods. Connecting Point's Ross Lippman sp

Over the last few years, building, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed into public art displays with murals and messages created by street artists. 

This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School teamed up for the Trust Transfer Project. The program partners with artists to bring messages about public health to the city’s South End and Metro neighborhoods. 

Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spent the day with artists participating in Trust Transfer Project’s first endeavor — Chalk for Change — and shares the messages they are bringing to the city. 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Over the last few years, many of the buildings, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed with murals and messages created by street artists.

This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School partnered to form the Trust Transfer Project, a program that will see artists bring messages surrounding public health to the city's South End and Metro neighborhoods.

Their first project is called Chalk for Change and Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spent the day with participating artists and shows us the messages they're bringing to the city

Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: On one of the hottest days of the summer at Springfield South End Community Center, street artist Ramiro Dovaro-Comas has a challenge ahead of him.

Ramiro Dovaro-Comas, Street Artist: I'm glad you're here.

Ross Lippman: With temperatures reaching the 90s by nine a.m., the Dovaro-Comas is starting his first of three chalk art pieces.

Dovaro-Comas, along with seven other artists, are racing against the clock, creating new messages throughout the city for the Trust Transfer Project.

Vanessa Ford, Trust Transfer Project: The Trust Transfer Project is an incredible initiative that allows for artists to be, from the beginning, part of messaging -- health messages for the community.

And so we're hoping that, one artist at a time, one message at a time, we can fill our city with hope, inspiration, and encouragement to come back out as we enter into this new life after COVID-19 has impacted the community so, so greatly.

Ross Lippman: Each artist has been commissioned to design temporary chalk art installations, from Dovaro-Comas' "I'm Glad You're Here" in the South End to Marc Austin's "Message of Love "outside the Community Music School.

Marc Austin, Street Artist: Well, when they said that they were going to allow artists to kind of use their art to kinda convey how they feel with the coronavirus and everything going on, I jump right on. I felt like it was great.

Colors are really vibrant. I hope it brings a lot of life.

Eileen McCaffery, Springfield Community Music School: About two years ago, the Mass Cultural Council asked the Community Music School to be a design partner for something called Culture RX Initiative. It's basically this big idea that artists -- centering artists' voices is critical to improving public health outcomes in communities.

Karen Finn, Springfield Cultural Partnership: You may hear a song or see an image, or you're -- a piece of poetry, and you think, "I'm not alone," which is so important right now because we've all felt so alone and you can identify with art.

So, I think putting artists at the forefront of public health messaging -- or any messaging for that matter -- is incredibly important.

Nero, Street Artist: Speed is the name of the game today.

Ross Lippman: Timed projects aren't new --

Nero: Rain is coming.

Ross Lippman: -- to street artists like Nero. As the heat wave peaks in the morning, thunderstorms are on the way for the afternoon.

Nero: I got two more to do. Yeah.

Ross Lippman: Commonwealth Mural's partnered with the Trust Transfer Project to find artists. You've likely seen their work across Springfield. It's a city filled with larger than life murals.

Mural Artist: You could kind of start filling that in.

Ross Lippman: In total, 20 installations were completed in just a few hours, each a reflection of the artist's experience during the pandemic.

Mural Artist: That's going to be more graffiti-esque.

Ross Lippman: Trust Transfer organizers hope by giving artists the freedom to create their own designs, it'll allow Springfield residents to better connect with each message.

Eileen McCaffery: That's very different than having somebody tell you you should do something, right?

It's your own internalizing of it, your own artistic expression of it, and then being able to share it on a platform that allows people to really see the power of the arts to transform.

Vanessa Ford: If you kind of take a step forward and do this for your neighbor, do this for your family member, we can look at tomorrow as a brighter day. We can come out of this and in a more hopeful way.

And so, we believe that if you can use positive messages to spread health information, that it has a different impact because people kind of are motivated by joy.

Over the last few years, building, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed into public art displays with murals and messages created by street artists. This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School teamed up for the Trust Transfer Project. The program partners with artists to bring messages about public health to the city’s South End and Metro neighborhoods. Connecting Point's Ross Lippman sp

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FULL EPISODE: July 23, 2021

July 23, 2021

Trust Transfer Project Centers Artists’ Voices in Public Health Messaging Can centering artists’ voices in messaging can improve public health outcomes? It’s a big idea that the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School are trying to tackle in the City of Firsts. TTP’s first project is called Chalk for Change. Using streets as a canvas and chalk as the medium, local artists are creating chalk murals to bring public health me

Trust Transfer Project Centers Artists’ Voices in Public Health Messaging Can centering artists’ voices in messaging can improve public health outcomes? It’s a big idea that the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community M

Trust Transfer Project Centers Artists’ Voices in Public Health Messaging Can centering artists’ voices in messaging can improve public health outcomes? It’s a big idea that the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School are trying to tackle in the City of Firsts. TTP’s first project is called Chalk for Change. Using streets as a canvas and chalk as the medium, local artists are creating chalk murals to bring public health me

Trust Transfer Project Centers Artists’ Voices in Public Health Messaging 
Can centering artists’ voices in messaging can improve public health outcomes? It’s a big idea that the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School are trying to tackle in the City of Firsts. 

TTP’s first project is called Chalk for Change. Using streets as a canvas and chalk as the medium, local artists are creating chalk murals to bring public health messaging to residents in Springfield’s South End and Metro neighborhoods. 

We’ll meet the artists behind the murals and learn what messages they're bringing to the city through their colorful designs.   
And more western Mass stories tonight.... 
Moving Water is an in-person and virtual performance that tackles climate change and the global water crisis through the lens of theater.  Ko Festival of Performance's Sabrina Hamilton and Moving Water’s Rosalyn Driscoll share more about the piece and the important messages it explores. 

Then, Village Pizza in Greenfield is celebrating 60 years in business. The Greenfield institution is throwing a big block party to mark the occasion — and giving back to the community by donating their profits to two local charities.  

Finally, the work of internationally acclaimed artist is on display in the Springfield Museums’ new exhibit, “Ai Weiwei: Tradition and Dissent.” Curator of Art Maggie North discusses the exhibit and how Weiwei’s work addresses social justice issues while also exploring how the cultural present is informed by the past. 

Trust Transfer Project Centers Artists’ Voices in Public Health Messaging Can centering artists’ voices in messaging can improve public health outcomes? It’s a big idea that the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School are trying to tackle in the City of Firsts. TTP’s first project is called Chalk for Change. Using streets as a canvas and chalk as the medium, local artists are creating chalk murals to bring public health me

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Celebrating the 52nd Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (Digital Extra)

July 23, 2021

This week marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.  Not every household had a TV back then, so viewers flocked to friend’s houses, airports, and appliance storefronts to watch the drama unfold live.  To celebrate this historic moment, Producer Dave Fraser shares the memories of people wh

This week marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.  Not every househ

This week marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.  Not every household had a TV back then, so viewers flocked to friend’s houses, airports, and appliance storefronts to watch the drama unfold live.  To celebrate this historic moment, Producer Dave Fraser shares the memories of people wh

This week marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.  

Not every household had a TV back then, so viewers flocked to friend’s houses, airports, and appliance storefronts to watch the drama unfold live.  

To celebrate this historic moment, Producer Dave Fraser shares the memories of people who were fortunate enough to see it live and find out how the event impacted their lives.  

This story originally aired on July 18, 2019

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: This week marked the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. And when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon's surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.

Not every household had a TV back then, so viewers flocked to friends' houses, airports, and appliance store fronts to watch the drama unfold live.

To celebrate this historic moment, Producer Dave Fraser shares the memories of people who were fortunate enough to see it live and find out how the event impacted their lives.

Ellen Barry, Springfield, MA: In July of 1969, as so many millions did around the world, my family gathered around the television to watch the Lunar Landing.

What made that extra special for us is that my grandfather was in town to watch with us. So that day, this man, born in 1896 with a horse and buggies, watched the Lunar Module land on the moon and men walk on the moon.

 Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Astronaut: That's one small step for man one giant leap for mankind.

Ellen Barry: And from his perspective, with his perspective, that event was even more momentous for our family than it might have been had we not been experiencing it with someone who lived through the most dramatic hundred years of progress and technological change the way my grandfather had.

The way we like to put it, is "from carts and candles to computers and control modules."

John Ptaszek, Chicopee, MA: As I was sitting in the parlor watching the TV, which was very clear, I did see them take the steps down the ladder onto the surface of the moon. Dusty as it was, they did seem to move around well.

I felt that history was in the making at this point and that possibly this would be only the first step to marching out or going into the universe further.

Terry Hodur, Granville, MA: I had a summer job in a very beautiful hotel in Avalon, New Jersey. I was a waitress. This particular night, one of the cooks had brought in a TV, tiny by today's standards, and black and white. And they set it up in the corner of the kitchen.

It was so amazing because I did see him step with the moon live on that little tiny TV that night. And a big cheer went up and we were so excited and it was wonderful. That's something that I have never forgotten. It was great

Newsreel footage: And out come America's Apollo 11 astronauts waving.

Michael Dobbs, Reminder Publications: What impressed me about watching the TV and the news coverage was just how unlike it was ... anything I had ever seen in a speculative science fiction film.

The way that they had coordinated a capsule around the moon and then the actual Lunar Landing device. It was almost surreal because it was nothing like anyone had ever predicted

When you look back, I think that that was being interpreted as the beginning of a new era. We had done something that had taken us years to fulfill -- 'cause it was President Kennedy who said, you know, we're going to go to the moon. And, you know, you just sort of stood there with rapt attention at this event because it was genuinely surreal.

Don Rethke, Retired Hamilton Standard Engineer: When I was a young kid, farm kid out Wisconsin, if I couldn't lift that bale hay or jump that little ditch, I would tell my to my buddy, "that isn't possible. That is like going to the moon."

I don't know if you heard that phrase, but basically the day they land on the moon, that phrase went away.

Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Astronaut: Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D.

 

This week marked the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and when Neil Armstrong took the very first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest television event of the 20th century at that time.  Not every household had a TV back then, so viewers flocked to friend’s houses, airports, and appliance storefronts to watch the drama unfold live.  To celebrate this historic moment, Producer Dave Fraser shares the memories of people wh

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New England Sunsets: National Capture the Sunset Week (Digital Extra)

July 23, 2021

The diverse natural beauty here in New England offers a backdrop for breathtaking sunsets, providing us with countless opportunities to grab a camera or cell phone and capture the glory of the sun as it dips below the horizon.  This week is National Capture the Sunset Week, and in honor of that Producer Dave Fraser has collected some of our favorite snapshots to share with you.

The diverse natural beauty here in New England offers a backdrop for breathtaking sunsets, providing us with countless opportunities to grab a camera or cell phone and capture the glory of the sun as it dips below the horizon.  Th

The diverse natural beauty here in New England offers a backdrop for breathtaking sunsets, providing us with countless opportunities to grab a camera or cell phone and capture the glory of the sun as it dips below the horizon.  This week is National Capture the Sunset Week, and in honor of that Producer Dave Fraser has collected some of our favorite snapshots to share with you.

The diverse natural beauty here in New England offers a backdrop for breathtaking sunsets, providing us with countless opportunities to grab a camera or cell phone and capture the glory of the sun as it dips below the horizon.  

This week is National Capture the Sunset Week, and in honor of that Producer Dave Fraser has collected some of our favorite snapshots to share with you.

The diverse natural beauty here in New England offers a backdrop for breathtaking sunsets, providing us with countless opportunities to grab a camera or cell phone and capture the glory of the sun as it dips below the horizon.  This week is National Capture the Sunset Week, and in honor of that Producer Dave Fraser has collected some of our favorite snapshots to share with you.

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