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Children's Fair at Cleveland Cultural Gardens; West Side Irish American Club (WSIA)

On Sunday, August 7th, we went to the Cleveland Cultural Gardens for a Children's Fair that was put together by Ms.IMG_3481 Teevi Champa who said that plan was for families to visit four different gardens for 25 minutes or so a piece. They would engage in activities there and learn something about each country represented. The children would then be awarded a special certificate.

We started off in the Lebanese Garden where Mr. Pierre Bejjani, Mr. Sam Tanious, and Mr. Faris Alameh gave the children outlines of the Lebanese Flag to be appropriately colored. Mr. Bejjani shared such facts as Lebanon being one of the few places where one could go from swimming pool IMG_3480weather to skiing weather in the space of one hour. Then Mr. Issam Boudiab, a member of the "Ajyal Lebanese Folk Dance Group" taught us a dance which was thankfully quite simple so we (who have two left feet) participate without embarrassment.

The second garden we visited was the Indian Garden where Dr. Ray Gehani of the University of Akron gave a presentation about Mahatma Gandhi stressing the point that he accomplished all that he did through nonviolence. We thought that Dr. Gehani did a very good job tailoring his message so that children could appreciate it. Assisting him were Ms. Sujata Lahke Barnard and Mr. Bill Barnard of the Federation of India Community. Dr. Gehani is also a very good friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and told us to say hello.

Next, we went to the Finnish Garden where we were treated to a program planned by Ms. Donna Lesiacsek, Ms. IMG_3489Bonnie Lackey, Ms. Linda Pentula, Ms. Shirley Northcott, and Ms. Ann Pohto. Ms. Lesiacsek wanted the children to be aware that we or our ancestors all immigrated here from someplace else thus we should cherish our heritage. According, there was a large map on display so that the children could see where ancestors came from.

Then we learned about life in Finland and the significance of the sauna in Finnish culture; we didn't realize it but there is one sauna per household because people see it as a source of relaxation for both the body and the mind. We learned several words like "sisu" which is Finnish for "never give up and keep fighting to the end."  If they wanted it and most of them did, the children got the Finnish flag painted on their wrist. Before we left the Finnish Garden, everyone was invited to visit the Finnish Museum in Fairport Harbor which is open on Saturdays between 10am and 3pm.

IMG_3485Lastly, we went to the Estonian Garden where the children sat on a blanket on the grass and listen to Ms. Erika Puussaar read a story in Estonian about a dog named Carl. At certain points in the story a sign was raised and the children exclaimed "Koer" all at once.

Even though only about a dozen children attended this event, we agreed with Ms. Champa that this worked to the program's advantage because it made the gathering more intimate and the children, who seemed to really be enjoying themselves, received more individualized attention than they would have if there had been a big crowd.

The afternoon was moving on and so we, in turn, moved to the West Side Irish American Club (WSIA) on Jennings Road in Olmsted Township which was having its annual steak roast.

IMG_3496 We hadn't been there for a while so we were glad to see old friends again like Mr. John O'Brien, the Club President, and Mr. John Sweeney used to help former U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich out a lot when he was in office.

And, of course, we love the Irish music of "The New Barleycorn" which provided the entertainment.

Fortunately for us, even though we called to make reservations at the last minute, Mr. Kevin McDonough (who was one of the main coordinators of the IMG_3499dinner) managed to find places for us. Even though we do not eat steak, there was a salmon alternative that was very good.

While we stood in the food line, we spoke with the O'Malley family that just returned from a trip to County Mayo and Achill Island where they attended the first communion of a young family member. Needless, to say they thought Ireland was beautiful and just loved their trip.

But for us, the highlight of our time at the WSIA on that afternoon was getting to meet Mr. Eugene Ryan who was there celebrating his 94th birthday. Mr. Ryan, a WWII veteran, moved to the Cleveland area from Rockport, Illinois back in 1978. He was there with his family and having a wonderful time, even working a little dancing into his afternoon schedule.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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