Updated: Nov 25, 2019
Here in the Valley, we don’t have a lot of celebrities roaming the streets. There’s a Rachel Maddow sighting every now and then (she apparently has a place near Ashfield), Ken Burns is an alum of Hampshire College and has recently been tapped to help with the school’s fund-raising, and Harrison Ford’s kid goes to school at Amherst College so there’s a Harrison-Calista sighting once in a while. Aside from that, we have some famous local children’s book authors, some indie musicians, and that’s about it.
But we do have a local celebrity, who can pretty much be spotted anywhere in the area, usually hosting fund-raisers of various sorts and at music events.
His name is Monte Belmonte.
His day job is morning DJ at WRSI in Northampton. There, he offers a wide-ranging playlist of well-curated music and hosts a variety of guests, including playful conversations about wine with local merchants and lighthearted political discussions with Mass. Senator Jim McGovern.
In the age of cynical morning radio programs, Monte’s show is a breath of fresh air.
But probably even more impressive is that he is the leader of multiple fund-raising efforts for various good causes. His annual Monte’s March is a 2-day, 43-mile walk from Springfield to Greenfield to benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. (This year’s event is Nov. 25 and 26.) He also heads up the Cancer Connection Campout in downtown Northampton in February. And when he’s not on the radio or doing fund-raisers, you can find him at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls, where he is president of the theater’s board and usually helping out at the beer taps or just enjoying the amazing music and other productions that hit its stage.
That alone seems like a resume of high praise, but what makes all of it work is Monte’s colorful and lighthearted personality. His humor brings a lightness to every event he is involved with.
For his walkathon, which is a trek along highways and through small towns in usually pretty crappy weather, he often dresses in costume (one year, as a astronaut, another as Evel Knievel) and pushes a shopping cart as he leads a line of walkers, ranging from politicians and local businesspeople to musicians and activists through the Valley towns along the route. It’s a pretty amazing sight to see – and hear, as he broadcasts along the route, interviewing participants as he goes. Last year, the event raised more than $290,000 for the food bank.
His 2-day campout fund-raiser is also filled with humor and guests as he broadcasts from the campsite, on Northampton’s courthouse lawn. Monte apparently doesn’t like sleeping outdoors and once claimed that if the event raised $100,000 on the first day, he’d sleep indoors.
Monte may not be well known outside of the Valley, but his willingness to lend his charm for a good cause is worth celebrating.
To read more and/or support Monte's March, click HERE.