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Tabling at the Grape Jamboree

What Dr. Momaday had to say about Native Americans being here for so many years before people immigrated here from Europe was echoed by a person who stopped off at our table over the weekend of September 29-30th, when we tabled on behalf of Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC at the 55th Annual Geneva Grape Jamboree in Ashtabula County.  

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"This festival was started 55 years ago by a handful of local citizens as a celebration/farmer's market to celebrate the grape harvest...because of the dedication of our current and past volunteers, this festival has grown to become one of the largest in the State of Ohio..." wrote Mr. Dave Johnson, the festival's president, in the festival's program booklet.

Because we know that a lot of foreign-born people live in the Lake/Ashtabula Counties area, we decided to see what it would be like to take part in this annual event. We were welcomed by Ms. Rebecca Pierce who, along with her assistant, Miss Kelly McMullen, made sure that our needs, and those of the many other vendors, were met throughout the weekend. 

Tabling in near proximity to us was Ms. Ruth Naomi of Hadassah Henna whom we see quite frequently at Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce meetings. Right across from our table were of Ms. Renee Nagoni and Ms. Jean M. Milhous from United HealthCare, with whom we engaged in pleasant conversation throughout the course of the weekend.

Stopping off at our table to say hello was Mr. David Thomas who used to be an official at Grand River Academy (which we toured with the Chamber) and is now the Fiscal Officer of Austinburg Township; in addition he is a candidate for Ashtabula County Auditor in November, 2018. 

We also made friends with Pastor Mike Hurban of the Park Street Christian Church that was located right next to the vendors' area. Pastor Hurban and his friend and parishioner, Mr. Richard Butler, were staffing the church's own booth which offered all types of home-made pies to the festival-goers. When it was time for lunch on Saturday, Pastor Hurban urged us to try the very sweet cabbage and noodles for sale in the church basement so we took him up on his offer and wound up having two delicious helpings.

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However, the dietary emphasis of the festival was grapes and how they can be incorporated into various foods. For the first time, we tried grape ice cream (served by the Christ Episcopal Church) and grade pie (served by the United Church) and had to refrain from having only one helping of each because they were so good. Of course, we have had grape juice before but the brew squeezed right before our eyes by the Harpersfield Ruritans was particularly delectable

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On both Saturday and Sunday there was a parade featuring all sorts of local dignitaries, community groups, and all sorts of nearby entities. Our own favorites were the St. Helen Unicycle Drill Team; a converted stroller containing well-behaved Shetland Sheepdogs dubbed Paws on Wheels; and a horse-drawn wagon adorned with beautiful flowers and a big sign reading "Make America GRAPE Again!"

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As we tabled, we mostly had engaging conversations with such passers-by as:

  • A woman who immigrated to the United States from Russia in the early 1950's, who was concerned about the commitment to learn English among those newly arrived in this country. We then told her that this subject was one of the things that Ms. Wong talks about in her book and presented her with a copy of The Immigrant's Way.

  • Likewise, we gave copies of Ms. Wong's book to several healthcare workers who wanted to acquire knowledge about the history of immigration and the experiences of of immigrants because they often treat foreign-born people.

  • A man who was surprised to see an immigration law office being represented at this locale but thought it was a good idea because he knew several people who have come here from other countries. 

  • A woman who told us of how she got to accompany her employer, who immigrated to the United States from China, to the Naturalization ceremony when she became a United States citizen and how poignant it was.

  • And, finally, a man who took our contact information because he said that he knew of several people who just might need the help of Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC. Although he did not specify their status, he said, in a serious tone, that "we're all working hard, man!"

Justin Faulhaber