Cleveland Dragon Boat Festival; Out of the Shadows; 83rd Annual Obzinky Harvest Day Festival
On Saturday, August 12th, we started the day at the Cleveland Dragon Boat Festival at its new locale at Wendy Park on Lake Erie. This was our first time at this event; we had only intended to watch the races but when we found out that "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" could table there for a reasonable price we decided to do so for a couple of hours.
Before we arrived, we checked out the "Cleveland Dragon Boat Association" website to learn more about the sport and found out that a Dragon Boat is 40 feet long and holds a 22 person team consisting of 20 paddlers, a steerer to guide the boat and a drummer to help the paddlers row in rhythm. Usually races last between 2 to 4 minutes.
From a historical standpoint, we read:
"Dragon boat racing began more than 2000 years ago on the banks of the life-sustaining rivers in the valleys of southern China as a fertility rite to ensure plentiful crops...The race was held to avert misfortune and encourage the rains needed for prosperity-and the object of their worship was the dragon. The most venerated of Chinese zodiac deities, the dragon of Asia has traditionally been a symbol of water. It is said to rule the rivers and seas and dominate the clouds and rains..."
In current times, as the "Cleveland Dragon Boat Association" wrote in its program notes, "Dragon boating builds camaraderie; it's a great exercise and offers an experience of life in Cleveland like none other."
It was inspiring to see several breast cancer survivor teams competing here and spirits were quite high. Everyone seemed to like the new change of location and we expect that Wendy Park will be home to the festival for quite a few years to come. Suprisingly, we ran into some friends of ours we didn't expect to see like Ms. Shannon Cochran, Executive Director of Cleveland's St. Patrick's Day Parade and Mr. Stanislav Zadnik, who is very active at St. Casmir Church.
While we tabled, people stopped by to say "hello" like Ms. Montrie Rucker Adams, of "Crain's Business Diversity Council" who has written several articles about Ms. Margaret W. Wong over the years. On the topic of immigration, one man stopped by to say that even though he matured in the 1960's he had never been actively involved in social/political matters before but since January 20th (the day that the Trump Administration assumed power) he has joined the ACLU and the Natural Resources Defense Council and taken part in at least two actions.
Opening ceremonies were conducted by Ven Shih Ying-Fa who prayed, "may these vessels and those who guide them be protected against all undue influences and may they all return safely."
His prayers were answered when one of the Dragon Boats was capsized due to the choppy water. To be sure, its team lost the race but they managed to pull the Dragon Boat to shallow water where they emptied the water from it and and proudly completed the race to loud cheers from all of us on the shores.
We left the festival a bit early so that we would have enough time to get over to Ursuline College in Pepper Pike to attend the "Out of the Shadows" community dinner presented by the "Friends of HOLA" in order to honor "N.E. Ohio's Latino workers and their families." We did not table there but we are proud to say that "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" was one of the sponsors of the event.
During the course of the evening; which mostly consisted of visiting with friends, taking part in raffles, and consuming an outstanding (very appropriate adjective-we made two trips to the buffet table) dinner provided by "Don Tequila" in Mentor; Ms. Lisa Ciocia and her "Friends of HOLA" team were thanked for working so hard to put all of this together. Ms. Ciocia, herself, recalled an recent "Plain Dealer" editorial which quoted the late Archbishop Oscar Romero who said that "those who have a voice must speak for the voiceless."
In addition, a person who was deservedly singled out for recognition was a kindly person named Michele who, instead of asking for presents for her birthday, asked that her friends contribute to the support of a refugee family from Afghanistan who has recently resettled in Cleveland after living for years in a refugee camp.
As Ms. Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA Ohio, said during a speech that she gave, another reason for this community dinner was to raise awareness and garner support for the "HOLA Center & Kitchen Incubator" which, as our program notes read, concerns the establishment of "a community center and kitchen incubator in Painesville. The center aims to boost regional economic development, create entrepreneurial opportunities for small businesses and offer specialized workforce skills-training and development. Located in the heart of the Hispanic community, the center will utilize a long vacant space and leverage a key regional asset: the immigrant community. The 20 Hispanic-owned businesses in Painesville city alone could grow with the support and training the center will provide. Additional entrepreneurs with home-based businesses will be able to grow with the use of the licensed commercial kitchen. An attached small cafe will serve Latin American fare and sell locally produced products. In the first year of operation, the business incubator will create over 20 jobs..."
It was also written in the program that "HOLA Ohio has successfully used legal advocacy and grassroots organizing to keep together dozens of families facing deportation. Additional initiatives include workforce training, citizenship workshops, voter registration..."
Among the people who turned out to support HOLA Ohio were Ms. Kathy Flora and Ms. Patricia Denny both of whom were also at last week's ACLU program featuring Lorain's Police Chief Cel Rivera and Ms. Anabel Barron of "El Centro" and the IRTF program at St. Paul's Community Church on Franklin Avenue. Other people who were there that we recognized were Mr. Pradip Kamat, Ms. Harriet Applegate, Ms. Anne Hill, Mr. Michael Oliver, Ms. Wyn Antonio, Ms. Betsy Rader (a candidate for U.S. Congress in Ohio's 14th district), Mr. Bob Smith of Global Cleveland (who accompanied Mr. Joe Cimperman who was one of the speakers) and Professor Maureen McEnery of CWRU who attends St. Dominic Church along with Ms. Margaret W. Wong and told us to be sure to say hello to Ms. Wong on her behalf. We had a particularly enjoyable conversation with Mr. Kenny Santiago Marrero, an actor who is involved in several socially-conscious film/theatrical endeavors at this time.
To be sure, the short after-dinner program had several fine speakers who addressed the need to have an effective organization like HOLA Ohio particularly at this time to counter the moves of the Trump administration. In addition to Ms. Dahlberg, these speakers were:
***Ms. Dora Acosta, a successful young woman who has earned a B.A. in Marketing from CSU. Brought to this country by her family undocumented at age eight, she became a U.S. citizen last year in 2016 and is now a candidate for Painesville City Council. Ms. Acosta talked about the challenges that she faced as a young undocumented person living in the shadows and how she had to struggle to keep her husband from being deported which she finally managed to do with the help of HOLA Ohio.
***Mr. Brandon Chrostowski, the founder of "Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute" which provides support and technical training in the culinary arts and the hospitality industry to those re-entering society from prison. Mr. Chrostowski spoke of how much we all stand to gain by assisting individuals who wish to make a positive change in their lives and, along these lines, expressed his steadfast support for HOLA Ohio and its Painesville project.
***Mr. Joe Cimperman, the President of "Global Cleveland" who was introduced by Ms. Dahlberg as "a champion of diversity in Cleveland" and we wholeheartedly concur. Mr. Cimperman spoke of the values of diversity and compassion and, most importantly, how we must continue to not only maintain but to advance these values despite the climate of hatred and fear which is so prevalent in the United States at this time. Mr. Cimperman closed his presentation by offering the following prayer:
My sisters and brothers
Our sons and daughters
Our family from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and elsewhere
Tonight we can feel the night coming outside our windows
But take one moment and look around at this family, not all by blood or neighborhood or nation, but by faith in God, faith in each other and faith that our nation, your nation, my nation, the United States will become the place described on the Statue of Liberty, that we will fight and cry and struggle and have hearts broken, but we will bring the sun in the morning
Not for ourselves
But for our children and grandchildren
We are blessed because we have each other
And we will never give up until we make this country the place that we believe it to be in our prayers
The next day was Sunday, August 13th, and we felt like a drive and spending some time in a less urban setting so we drove to DTJ Taborville, the Czech community center founded in 1927 in the township of Auburn to attend the 83rd Annual Obzinky Harvest Day Festival.
We looked up the origins of "Obzinky" online and found some information on "The Free Dictionary by Farlex" which described it as a secular festival in the Czech Republic wherein the field workers celebrate the end of harvest sometime in August or September. Among its activities are the making of wreaths out of corn, rye or wildflowers which are sometimes then worn by young women and/or delivered in a cart filled with decorated farm equipment to the landowner as a tribute.
This was very consistent with what we observed here in Taborville for there was a parade featuring tractors, wagons, and horses as a tribute to the area's agricultural roots. We enjoyed watching the parade, dancing to music played by the Sokol Cleveland Concert Band as well as the Frank Moravcik Band and the Kordupel Culkar Band, eating sauerkraut and dumplings, and visiting with people such as Ms. Elsie who has been attending this annual event for at least 60 years now and knew all about the parade origins, DTJ Taborville, and Bohemian National Hall.
All we can say is that it was a very pleasant afternoon particularly distinguished by the passing out of pickle slices while the parade during the parade. As vegetarians, we preferred the pickles to candy although there was an abundance of that too, never doubt it.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC