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Out & About in Cleveland

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Tabling at 6th Annual Kurentovanje Cleveland festival; Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble; Lake County Development Council's 2018 Legislative Breakfast

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On Saturday, February 10th, we tabled on behalf of "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" at the 6th annual 'Kurentovanje Cleveland" festival at the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair Avenue.

Wikipedia defines Kurentovanje as "one of Slovenia's most popular and ethnologically significant carnival events. This 10-day rite of spring and fertility is celebrated on Shrove Sunday in Ptuj, the oldest documented city in the region and draws around 10,000 participants each year. Its main figure, known as the Kurent or Korent, was seen as an extravagant God of unrestrained pleasure and hedonism in early Slavic customs. In today's festival, groups of kurents or kurenti wear traditional sheepskin garments while holding wooden clubs with hedgehog skins attached called jezevke, the noise of which is believed to 'chase away winter'. In this way, the presence of kurenti announces the end of winter and the beginning of spring..." (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurentovanje)

We had stopped off at this festival before several times over the years but this was our first time tabling there. Fortunately Ms. Mary Ann Vogel, the main coordinator, was well-organized and things went quite smoothly. After arriving early and setting up our display, we had plenty of time to walk around and greet our fellow vendors who included:

****Local author Mr. Alan F. Dutka who has written such books as "Slovenians in Cleveland" and "AsiaTown Cleveland". We have both talked to him before and attended his presentations.

****Ms. Jessica Deveney, a professional face painter and clown.

****Ms. Karen Okleson, Ms. Marlene Zubal, and Ms. Joanie Debeney who were staffing a childen's craft table.

****Ms. Terry Racinskas and Ms. Sade Wolfkitten who enjoy making and selling "whimsical" crafts for different events.

****Mr. Dan Kovacevic, President & Owner, and Mr. Jovan Mirkovic, Production Manager for "Europa Charcuterie" which offers "artisan dry cured meats and fresh sausage." It is a small "mom and pop" two person business in Parma. Mr. Kovacevic recalled once meeting and conversing with Ms. Margaret W. Wong.

****Ms. Betty Bilicic, Sales Manager with "Kollander World Travel" who told us that our office does "great work" and always enjoys receiving our Christmas cards each year and learning Ms. Wong's family has been doing.

Around noon, we left the warm hall where we were tabling to stand outside and watch the parade. Last year in 2017 the temperature was in the low 40's and we were comfortable but this year it was in the low 30's so we did not stay outside too long. Indeed we were glad the Kurents were there to ward off winter and hopefully make spring arrive a bit faster.

Thus we went back to our table and conversed with those who stopped by including a person who came here to the United States in the 1990's as a refugee from Bosnia. He said that he was glad that we were tabling at this event in order to let people know that we were there to help them.

Another man told us that he and his family had been our office seeking advice about how to help a family member, an international student from Italy, remain in the United States. When he had visited our office he was given a copy of Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" and said, with a twinkle, that "I had better get around to reading it!" 

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The next day was Sunday, February 11th, and we decided to drive to Hudson to see "Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble" perform in the Rotunda at the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

Due to the cold, wet, ice-threatening weather we did not expect a big crowd so we were surprised when we saw that the Rotunda was packed. As good fortune would have it, there just happened to be one seat available directly in the middle of the front row so we asked the woman sitting right beside the empty seat if we could sit there. We were told that we could "if we were good" and we agreed to watch our manners. As it turned out, the woman (named Marilyn) looks forward to listening to the Ensemble when they perform at this venue each year.

In fact Mr. David Badagnani, the leader of the Ensemble, mentioned that they were consistently invited back to perform there. He also mentioned that the Ensemble (composed of himself, Mr. Jay Xiao, Ms. Yan Ping Ye, Mr. Rob Hassing, and Ms. Courtney Lambert) was short two members this year due to the fact that the two missing were KSU students who were now burdened down with their studies.

Ms. Margaret W. Wong has been a longtime supporter of the Ensemble so Mr. Badagnani publicly thanked her for her donation which enabled them to purchase an instrument called the "banhu" which is a type of fiddle with a base composed of wood. The addition of the "banhu" made if possible for them to authentically play music from the northern part of China which has a "shrill and sharp" quality to it.

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What we like about the concerts of the "Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble" is that Mr. Badagnani always explains the special features of each  musical selection which includes its historical significance and how the various instruments come together to render its unique beauty.

This year, for an added treat, Mr. Jerry Rockwell, the noted mountain dulcimer artist was invited to play with the Ensemble on this occasion. As his bio states, Mr. Rockwell "lives and works in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio, and regularly teaches mountain dulcimer at workshops and festivals across the country."

At first glance, Mr. Rockwell would have seemed an odd choice to play with a group playing ancient and modern music from China but, as it turned out, the his playing of the dulcimer was an inspired accompaniment to the music of the Ensemble. 

Afterwards, we could understand why Mr. Badagnani eagerly admitted to being a "dulcimer fan" and that an artist like Mr. Rockwell makes you feel like you can't get enough of it.  

Likewise, Mr. Rockwell said he was honored to play with the Ensemble and that Mr. Badagnani was "one of the most amazing musicologists that you will ever find."

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After spending the weekend in appreciation of the arts and culture, we took a different turn on Monday morning, February 12th, when we went to the La Malfa Center on Heisley Road in Mentor to attend the Lake County Development Council's 2018 Legislative Breakfast wherein elected officials from federal, state and county levels gave brief speeches about recently passed and/or pending legislation as well as other matters that would affect the Lake County area.

Along those lines it was pointed out by several of the speakers that it is unrealistic to see things as "only effecting Lake County" because what goes on there effects other counties and regions of Ohio and as happenings in other areas affect Lake County also.

The master of ceremonies was Dr. Brian Posler, the President of Lake Erie College, who said that as a political science professor he was very excited to preside over such an affair.

The elected officials who spoke were U.S. Congressperson David Joyce (Republican-14th District), Ohio State Senator John Eklund (Republican-18th District), Ohio State Senator Kenny Yuko (Democrat-25th District), Ohio State Representative John Rogers (Democrat-60th District), Ohio State Representative Ron Young (Republican-61st District), and Lake County Commissioner Daniel P. Troy. They were joined by Mr. Dustin Russell, Northeast Regional Liaison for Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Most prominent amongst the issues that they spoke about were the state of the economy and economic development in the region if not Ohio and the U.S. ; the need to upgrade our infrastructure; taxes and government spending; education; and, certainly, the opioid/opiate crisis which was deemed "a war".

It seemed that those who spoke were in general agreement except on the economy and issues relating to it; the Democrats thought that conditions had gotten worse as of late (i.e. under Kasich and Trump) and cited statistics to prove their points and the Republicans thought conditions had gotten better as of late (i.e. under Kasich and Trump) and cited statistics to prove their points too. There were no direct confrontations, though, and as professionals they treated each other with respect.

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One matter that wasn't mentioned at all was immigration which was rather disappointing considering that Painesville has quite a large Hispanic population and the nursuries and growers of Lake County really quite a bit on migrant labor.

We have spoken to Senator Eklund before regarding this matter and he pledged to us to hear all sides and give thoughtful consideration to legislation and instances brought before him.

On this day, we didn't get to ask a question in public about it (the Q and A was quite short) but we talked privately with Senator Yuko and Representative Rogers who expressed great concern as well as U.S. Congressperson Joyce who assured us that DACA would be talked about a lot in the next few weeks.

We should mention that another issue that all the speakers seemed to agree upon was the need for the formation of bipartisan alliances to get things done.

In fact Commissioner Troy steadfastly maintained that at least in his position, working at the county level, it was necessary to "park partisanship at the door" and when confronted with a situation there was no Democratic answer and no Republican answer, only the RIGHT answer! 

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

 

 

 

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