Locals love Westcott parade
Sunny spirits chased away cloudy skies as participants in the 12th annual Westcott Street Cultural Fair parade marched valiantly up Westcott Street last Sunday morning. Local organizations and performance groups approached the hub of the festivities with nothing but optimism behind the Dunbar American Legion Post number 1642 Color Guard and a high-flying American flag. Clusters of brightly colored balloons surrounded the participants of the parade, which included Mayor Matthew J. Driscoll, Syracuse Morris Dancers and Peace Action of Central New York.
Harry Lewis, president of the South East University Neighborhood Organization and grand marshal of the parade, described the event as always being ‘an upbeat occasion.’
‘The chance of rain will never dampen anyone’s spirit,’ he said.
The parade was just the beginning of the Westcott Street Cultural Fair, presented by the Westcott Community Center. The fair brought together local merchants, residents and neighborhood organizations in a celebration of ethnicity, diversity and community.
The festivities stretched from South Beech to Dell streets, and the area was filled with excitement. Scents of barbecue smoke and incense mingled in the air as fair-goers sampled a variety of ethnic foods and checked out henna body painting and psychic readings. Artisan vendors displayed their handcrafted jewelry, pottery, photography and artwork under white tents dotting the sidewalk.
Face paint-camouflaged kids chased Clifford the Big Red Dog in front of Dorian’s Gourmet Pizza and Deli, where the family entertainment area hosted arts and crafts, storytellers and puppeteers.
African drummers David Nyadedzor and Biboti G. Ouikahilo mesmerized spectators with rhythmic tribal beats in front of the Petit Library on Victoria Street. Dancers clad in the traditional dress of Nyadedzor’s native country Ghana, waved their arms and stomped their bare feet excitedly. The crowd seemed eager for more and clapped its hands to the improvisational sound of another culture.
For many performers, the fair was a chance to get back to their roots.
Tom Townsley, a blues singer and professor in the writing program at Syracuse University, held his first performance 25 years ago at Bo Jangles – a nightclub that used to occupy the space that is currently home to the Seven Rays Bookstore. The fair was a chance for Townsley to relive the memories of his first performances.
‘SU gave me the blues and then I started playing the blues,’ he joked. ‘The Westcott area means a lot (to me).’
Colin Aberdeen, guitarist and singer for Los Blancos, a popular Syracuse-based blues band, also felt a personal connection to the area.
‘This neighborhood right here is where I learned to write my own tunes,’ he told listeners between songs.
Michael Moody, a local artist known for painting the colorful mural at the corner of Beech and Westcott streets, called the fair ‘a neighborhood reunion.’
‘I’m at the fair all the time,’ Moody said, and motioned to his life-sized illustration of a multi-cultural community on the wall behind him.
Many local organizations and community groups used the fair to spread social awareness of current issues.
John Jureller, the treasurer of Peace Action of Central New York, a grassroots organization for justice and peace, said the fair did more than just provide a day of entertainment.
Jureller helped carry a 55-foot balloon replica of a cruise missile boasting the words: ‘More Nukes, More Star Wars, More $ Wasted’ in the parade.
The city of Syracuse and the Cultural Resources Council provided grants and donations were made by more than 40 local organizations.
Barbara Humphrey, the co-chairwoman for the Fair Organizing Committee, was thrilled with the outcome of this year’s fair.
‘The merchants [in the neighborhood] survive on the students and residents,’ she said. ‘It’s great to see them come out for the fair.’
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