Volunteering at the Gay Games and the Croatian Cultural Garden Dedication

On Sunday morning, August 10th, at 8am our volunteer work for Gay Games 9 continued as we joined about 9 other volunteers at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland to install a wooden dance floor for a dance competition called “Dancesport” which promises to be a wonderful display of ballroom dancing.
Our supervisor for this morning from Gay Games 9 was Ms. Diane Harris but the person who actually oversaw the floor installation itself was a nice man named Brian from Dance Jam Productions, which helps to stage live entertainment events each week. Under Brian’s guidance we unloaded 200 4′ by 4′ wooden squares and arranged them into a dance floor that was 20 squares long by 10 squares wide. As most of us unloaded and arranged the wooden squares, three other volunteers used screws and battery-powered screw guns to fasten the squares together.

This work assignment was scheduled to last from 8am to noon but we worked so well together that almost everyone was out of there by about 10 or 10:30am and Brian, Ms. Harris, and Ms. Barbara Zoloth, who is in charge of the “Dancesport” competition, were very happy with our work.

At 2pm on Sunday we joined the crowd at the Croatian Cultural Garden for the dedication of the new Baptismal Font of Prince Viseslav which stands in the upper level of the garden on East Blvd.

Right next to the Font is a sign in Latin, Croatian and English which reads, “the Baptismal Font of Prince Viseslav, the first Croatian ruler who reigned circa 800 AD is one of the most important monuments of church furnishings. The hexagonal stone vessel replica is witness to the time when Croatians were Christianized and worshippers were baptized in it. The cross is carved with a three strand pliat which suggests the symbolism of the Resurrection. The original is kept in the Museum of Croatian Archeological Monuments in Split, Croatia.”

The person in charge of today’s event was Ms. Branka Malinar of the Croatian Museum at the American-Croatian Lodge in Eastlake. Ms. Malinar greeted us warmly and insisted that we sit in the very first row because Margaret W. Wong is such a good friend of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.

The dedication was done entirely in Croatian by Father Mirko Hladni of St. Paul’s Croatian Church on East 40th in Cleveland and later translated into English by Ms. Malinar.

Everyone there was pleased that Mayor Frank Jackson (who we saw the previous evening at the opening ceremonies for Gay Games 9) attended the ceremony. Mayor Jackson thanked those involved with the Croatian Garden and the Cultural Gardens in general for all that they do for Cleveland and said that diversity is what is is all about and what goes on here at the Gardens is representative of it.

Mr. George Brown from the staff of U.S. Senator Rob Portman also got to speak and he read a letter from U.S. Senator Portman extending his best wishes. Mr. Brown spoke for everyone was he said how beautiful the Croatian Garden was and, on a lighter note, he got some laughs and some applause when he announced that the Indians were beating the Yankees in today’s game. We often encounter Mr. Brown at various ethnic events and he is always professional and is a worthy representative for the U.S. Senator.

And everyone got an unexpected treat when former U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, who is off Croatian descent himself, came to this event and said that he and his wife Elizabeth, who was also there, visited Croatia just last year and couldn’t get over how much it reminded him of St. Paul’s in Cleveland and the audience loved hearing this as did Father Hladni. Congressman Kucinich went on to say how important it was that today’s event was happening since the Baptismal Font was a vital part of the heritage of the Croatian people because it represented their “power of faith”.

Today’s last speaker was Ms. Mary Hamlin of the Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation who said that she was “glad to have Branka and the Croatian Garden here.”

Ms. Malinar concluded by graciously thanking everyone by name who contributed to this project, including the landscapers, because, as she said, just as it takes a village to raise a child “you need a village to build a garden” either by planning it, contributing to it, or physically working on it.

After we left the Croatian Garden we made two other stops, both of them brief but containing potential.

The first stop was at the Assumption Parish in Broadview Heights which was having its annual festival and we helped out there for several hours on both Saturday and Sunday because a significant number of the parishioners are foreign born and we wanted to get the word out that Margaret W. Wong and Associates is available to help them should any immigration matter arise.

We worked at the beer tent with Mr. Leo Bender who is the former Mayor of Broadview Heights. His wife, Mrs. Judy Bender admires Ms. Wong for her work on behalf of immigrants and her contributions to the Cleveland community so she put together another Margaret Wong gift basket, she also did one for Broadview Heights Home Days, containing international items which will be part of the silent auction to raise money for the Church and the charitable organizations it works with.

As things turned out, the beer tent kept us all busy but not so busy that we couldn’t relax and visit with each other in between sales. Due to the amount of traveling we were doing on both Saturday and Sunday, we appreciated the opportunity for a pleasant pause.

Our last stop for Sunday was a short walk through Gay Games 9 Festival Village on Sunday night before darkness fell. As tired as we were by now, we were buoyed by the size of the crowd and the cheerful atmosphere that prevailed. What the “village”, which is located across the street from the Cleveland Convention Center, consists of are over 40 vendors, good food, good music, and good fun including several people walking around on stilts.

During the tenure of Gay Games 9, Festival Village will be open every day from 4pm or so until late at night and we look forward to spending more time there.