Dayton, Ohio, July 2013.
Every summer, as long as I can remember, there is a surge of cultural festivals in the great Gem City, Dayton. Who knew. While this post is not meant to be a homage to my adoptive hometown, no one can deny the fact that there are so many cultures represented here, and you know what, they are celebrated!
Dayton, while being credited as the birthplace of aviation, "cuna de la aviacion" and the home of the famous folks of the likes of Erma Bombeck, from May through September, becomes our own free pass to the United Nations. The International Festival, World A'fair, kicks off the season over at the convention center. Some of us had an annual date to, not only have the carnitas from the Mexican booth, but to make sure the Puerto Rico and the Cuba booths, were supplied with enough arroz con pollo and rum to last a lifetime. Y la musica... yes, the music, the dancing. That is what festival weekends in Dayton were made for!
Admittedly, and reluctant to own it, I have been absent from these laugh, dance and music fests for a number of years. Why you ask? Life got in the way, I guess. Work, ups and downs, mommy duties, you name it. Every excuse in the book, too: "No, I don't feel like it. By myself? Nah, no thanks. Yada yada yada."
Friday I got a text from my friend Jennifer... "We are heading down to the Celtic Festival if you want to meet us." After a short week of work, yet in full recuperating mode from perhaps the best 48+ hr trip home to Puerto Rico, I said heck yeah! Why not, I had no plans and staying home alone was certainly not going to be added.
The Celtic Festival in Dayton is huge! I can't remember the last time I went, but as soon as I walked down to Riverscape, memories rushed back. Good times, good times. With Jenn and Tony, kilt-wearing dudes sporting their SLAINTE shirts, I order my Guinness-like "light" beer and join in the reel! We danced, we sang, we even did an Irish polka and pretended to be featured in the middle of the "bottle dance" from Fiddler on the Roof when arms locked in unison. Let's dance!
Hundreds of miles away, in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico, a Jazz festival also shoot fireworks. Good friends, family and a home made fire pit, helped loved ones made new memories. I was in Dayton, they were in Puerto Rico. Thank you technology, for throughout the weekend some of us were able to share our memories with those with us in spirit, in music, in love and in our cell phones. ;)
Festivals are huge block parties. Open spaces were food and drinks are shared, good music is hummed to, or danced to, or out of tune-sung to! ;) Who cares. Festivals are fun and I missed that.
This weekend I wished I had certain someones with me to share these memories with, but I am grateful for the new memories I was able to make here.
A festival may be just a festival. During this weekend, not only I embraced my inner Irish lass, (LOL!), but I re-connected with a good friend that I don't get to hang out with often, that I don't see a lot and miss often. This festival served as a reunion and I am grateful.
May we have more festivals like this... I hear the Hispanic one is better than it was a few years ago! Vamos a bailar! Let's celebrate our cultures, our heritages, their cultures, their heritages, and most important, the cities that welcome all and make is all happen.