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Hampshire County is the home to five prominent colleges and universities that cooperate with each other and are known collectively as the Five Colleges.They are UMass Amherst, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Hampshire.The region features alpine skiing at resorts such as Berkshire East and Blandford Ski Resort and seasonal festivals that draw millions of visitors, such as The Big E—all six New England states' collective, annual state fair in West Springfield—and Bright Nights at Springfield's Forest Park—an elaborate, high-tech lighting display during the holiday season.The Pioneer Valley includes approximately half of the southern Connecticut River Valley—an ancient rift valley created by the breakup of the supercontinent Pangea along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge during the Triassic and Jurassic periods of the Mesozoic Era.

(In 1777, General George Washington and Henry Knox personally selected that site for the United States' Federal Arsenal.) After nearly 30 years of decline, Springfield has since about 2006 experienced a cultural and economic resurgence, catalyzed by billions of dollars in private and public investment, including the funded construction of the United States' first high-speed bullet-train, known as the Knowledge Corridor intercity rail line as well as a sharp decreases in crime and new festivals that have renewed the city's traditionally robust civic pride.While the college towns in Hampshire County are known for their liberal political values and their embrace of alternative cultures and lifestyles, many of the county's outlying towns preserve their traditional, bucolic characters.In terms of political demographics, Hampshire County is one of the most liberal areas in the United States in both voter registration and election returns.During the Triassic time, Massachusetts's portion of the Connecticut River Valley formed a shallow arm of the sea," leaving deposits that enriched the Pioneer Valley's inordinately fertile soil.Geologically interesting parts of the Valley are the basalt flows and dinosaur tracks in South Hadley and Holyoke, Massachusetts, a chain of basaltic traprock ridges known as Metacomet Ridge along the ancient tectonic rift including the Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom ranges, layers of rock deposit laid down by the river, and varves and deltas deposited by Lake Hitchcock during the Pleistocene.

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