Monday, August 27, 2007

Blasé Feelings at Bham Fest

Hot. Late afternoon. My son and I arrived at the Buckingham Festival late Sunday, after 4 p.m. I had to deliver family to Thurgood Marshall (BWI) Airport, so I was beyond fashionably late to the party, which started at 1.

I went with my son who’s 5. I may just be “faired-out” or maybe I am just ready for the school year to start, to get more structure back into the day—I don’t know—but this year’s fest felt dead to me. I write this knowing full well that many people worked very hard on this, and that I missed the first three hours of the party when I may have seen dancers from someplace like Bolivia.

When I arrived, though, the block of N. Pershing Drive between N. George Mason Drive and N. Glebe Road was, relative to previous years, empty, desolate. A couple hundred people crowded under the gazebo roofs or in the shade of the Glebe Market’s wall. A couple people tried dancing, but it just didn’t take. The county’s Carol Hoover, who helps run the event, told me the street had been much fuller earlier.

For my son, 4 p.m. can be a slow time, a good time to veg in front of a DVD, take a nap or read a book, so the games and face painting did not win his appeal.

We bought a flavored ice of blue raspberry, grape and banana from a small cart that was so close to the stage where a band played, the sound whisked my son’s voice away, and I had to bend close and tell him to look directly at me while he spoke.

We took our flavored ice on a shaded curb near the Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits, and shared a spoon. The space was empty, despite being shaded. As we ate quietly, I looked at the different tables. Some standards for the festival were there. Bridgeway242, a Ballston-based church, painted faces and made balloon animals. BU-GATA, the neighborhood’s main tenant association, had an information table. The county had an information table. A couple tables were makeshift restaurants with food like roasted chicken. Another was a jewelry store.

I wondered where some others were. Had I missed them where the crowds were thickest, or had they left or never shown up? Where was the Buckingham Community Civic Association this year? Where was AHC Inc. dispensing affordable housing information? Last year a legal services organization set-up a table, where were they?

A good journalist would have worked the crowd, talking to the people (like the couple who set up canvas folding chairs in the middle of the street nearby and held hands while they listened to the music), but I just wasn’t up for it. I really only spoke to Carol Hoover and the woman who sold the ice (business was good, she said).

I didn’t even talk to Pate McCullough or Lois Athey who were working the BU-GATA table. I didn’t re-introduce myself to Charlie and Lora Rinker, long-time housing activists, as they said hello to other people.

The ice tasted sweet, and I don’t get enough time just to sit and be with my son, so eating that ice quietly next to him was the highlight—and a damn fine highlight—of the event for me. The sugar and the cool air refreshed him enough that he wanted to throw the balls to knock over a stuffed animal. He missed all three times, but won a stuffed lizard anyway. (Thank you, event staff, for that.)

We walked then, and I thought of interviewing people, but didn’t. I snapped a few photos. But I think my son was just as happy to walk home a few minutes later, swinging his lizard by the tail.

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Mea culpa! The Buckingham Community Civic Association (BCCA) did not have a table at this year's Buckingham Festival because, frankly, the date sneaked up on me and I failed to get us organized in time. It's the same time every year, I know, but it just slipped off my radar this year for some reason. This was the first time we missed the Festival in the 4 years the BCCA has been existence.

I'm a huge fan of the Fesitval and am so sorry to have missed it this year. I'm disappointed it didn't generate the same kind of attendance as in the past. Next year, I hope we can generate more of a buzz for this event where more Arlingtonians will get a chance to experience the best of Buckingham. Maybe we'll be able to showcase the completed development project of the N. Glebe and N. Pershing intersection that has been in the works for so long.

Patrick Hope
I wish you had come by and said hello. I have to save my comments for another time
Perhaps the writer should have come over and said hello to the BU-GATA folks and to Charlie and Lora Rinker. Perhaps the writer should have stayed and listened to the exceptional young ladies who have overcome obstacles to win scholarships to college. Or stayed for the raffle that gave many kids who have nothing...a little something. These are families with children who don't have the means to go to the beach, the mountains or anywhere for a break..they don't even have a pool in which to cool off.
I went to the Festival a little before 1pm. There were plenty of people there. But where was the Buckingham Civic Association? Under the radar? Buckingham has been the talk of the County for over a year. Thank God for the faith community, Bridgewater 242. I am Catholic. You should be canonized. In addition, there were a legion of volunteers, none from the Civic Association, who worked from the time the street was closed until long after the Festival ended. These volunteers donated their time to make the Festival a success. Those tables and tents didn't jump to attention by themselves. These folks sold water, arranged for the music, monitored the tables and the participants, checked on the port a johns, and then stayed to break down the Festival, clean up and haul bags and bags of trash.
Let me tell you what you missed. Two wonderful groups danced to traditional music. These people wore costumes that would make anyone melt in the heat. I noticed that these two groups offered photo ops with the public and talked about their dances. The County showed up: Walter Tejada, Chris Zimmerman, and Paul Ferguson. Mary Hynes was there, as well as David Cristeal from Housing. Bridgeway did face painting and balloon animals and there was the game of chance..hence the stuffed lizard.
More importantly, you missed seeing two beautiful young ladies receive a scholarship at 5pm. Vicky Sorto-Sanchez & Vilma Giron worked on the raffle all day. They sold tickets, and agonized over the speeches they would deliver at 5pm. These two young ladies could have spent the day socializing with friends; showed up at 5pm and taken the money and run. But no, these are two young women with long term ties to the community. They stayed and encouraged the kids in the community. Vicky has been in the Gates for 18 years. She is going to NOVA. And Vilma, a resident of Buckingham Village for 18 years, has volunteered at Lubber Run Recreation Center for many years. She has also helped to tutor younger kids. She is on her way to Trinity College. They both encouraged the kids at the Festival to stay in school. Their message: education is everything. Both of these ladies come from families who don't have a lot to give. The parents work hard and do their best. Their children have inherited that same work ethic. I should be so fortunate as to have child like Vicky or Vilma. They would do any parent proud. For me, watching Vicky write her speech in front of me and worry that it wasn't good enough, I was in awe. What a wonderful young lady. Vilma is just as awe-inspiring. She is very poised and focused. These ladies know what they want and how to achieve it. They are happy to share their success story with anyone who will listen. It is a wonderful feeling to see these two young women on the cusp of their dreams. I am honored to allowed to share in their joy.
There was a raffle of games, backpacks & lunchbags with the grand prize being a bike and helmet. These are children who have nothing. A backpack stuffed with school supplies is a great gift...the rest is gravy. I am sure the organizers would have liked to have had a gift for every child there who have little or nothing. Maybe that is something we can aspire to do in the years to come. We need to remember there are many in our community who work hard, do the best they can
and still fall short to provide extras for their children. The basics are hard enough, but these families prevail.
A good journalist would have covered all of this. A good journalist would have worked the crowd. A good journalist would have given major kudos to the beautiful young recipients of the scholarships. If the journalist is "faired out" and tired from a summer of fun things to do elsewhere; perhaps he shouldn't pass judgement on the Festival that the poor people have. This was fun for a lot of people and a lot of folks put a lot of tme and effort into this. They all deserve more than a tired journalists take on all of this. Perhaps, if you couldn't give kudos to the Festival and talked to the people who were there, you shouldn't have written the blog at all. You should have just blown the whole thing off rather than criticize the event. Too many people worked too hard to deserve this kind of journalism. Maybe, in spite of what is said, this is a NIMBY community. I certainly hope not, I thought we were better than this.
Pate McCullough
To City Feline-
I live 2 blocks from the location of the Buckingham Festival and had no idea it was even happening until the street was closed. I do not believe this festival is for everyone in the Buckingham neighborhood. I believe the name and location of the festival should be changed to make it what it is: A Buckingham Village/Gates of Ballston festival. I don't believe the organizers truly care about making this an inclusive neighborhood event. No posters around the neighborhood? No contact with local condos? So for you to be smug about the absence of the Civic Association and the journalists comments is silly. The blogger wrote it as he saw it.

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