Scene Eight: Maitland Garden Village Day

Residents celebrating Village Day

Maitland Garden Village annually celebrates its history and culture through Village Day. This year, the village is celebrating its 90th year. This large gathering starts with a parade in the morning followed by various festivities throughout the rest of the day. These include performances, a talent show, an unconventional dog show where dogs trained by the South African Navy displayed their ability to attack predators, and selling food and crafts. Everyone is welcome to participate with MGV in the parade and the fun events that follow. It is a great way to bring the community together to remember history and encourage interaction among all who attend Village Day.

Cast of Characters
We spoke with Sheila and Ronell briefly at the beginning and end of the day, and then moved to talk with other people celebrating throughout the day. We met several people while marching in the parade, but we spent most of our time speaking with Cheryl after the parade. We also spoke with Dixie briefly about the children’s performance that she had been working with, once it concluded. Our main interaction was Cheryl; she was very funny and welcoming and we were excited to meet her. She was extremely outgoing which made her very easy to chat with and had many interesting things to say.

When we arrived in MGV, the parade had already started and we stood on the side of the road and watched everyone go by as we took in all of the excitement. When the parade came around for the second time, we joined in and started walking with the community. After the parade was over, the celebration moved on to the soccer field in the center of Garden Village. There was a large stage on one end and many small stands/booths selling food and crafts along one side of the fence. A few striking features included a multi-colored Ferris wheel, a swing ride set, a carousel and a few kiddie car rides. We walk along the stands looking at what each place is selling, and learn a little bit more about the people there. A few foods were commonly sold such as hot dogs, sausages, chips and juices. There were also goods being sold, such as children’s toys and jewelry with an engraving option, right on the field. A dog show was one of the main features of the event. The dogs were in a rectangle that was ribboned off in caution-like tape as they performed attacks on a person encased in a protective, cushioned suit. Dixie performed wearing a red skirt with white polka-dots and Cheryl gave a moving performance that had the whole crowd cheering her on as she shed her outer, bright yellow sweater during the performance. The MGV drum majorettes performed in two lines in the center of the field wearing blue and white uniforms. The soccer field was filled with people who were watching performances, going on the rides, and eating food.

Our conversation with residents we talked with during the parade made us feel a part of the celebration. Everyone was very welcoming and wanted to get to know us and why we were there, which was often answered by other community members before we even got the chance to answer ourselves Cheryl was the main connection we made for the day; we came to understand her light-hearted nature and sense of humor. High spirits like Cheryl’s is what help keeps positive energy in MGV despite the high levels of unemployment and the sometimes-apparent economic squeeze. It was refreshing to see how on this celebratory day, the whole community was so supportive of each other.

Parade to kick off Village Day

Action and Observation:
The two WPI groups working in Maitland Garden Village and a few other interested students arrived by train to see the Maitland Garden Village Day festivities. Once we walked into MGV, we could hear a marching band and cheering from a few streets over as the parade marched by through Delville Square. We then saw the parade coming towards us and the community members who lined the street corner we stood on in the heart of MGV. We were impressed with the large turnout of both those who participated in the parade and those who came to watch. We met up with the Green Light Project section of the parade to greet Sheila and Ronell. They insisted we joined the parade since they said we were part of the community now. All of the WPI students marched in the back of the parade as children and other members of the community watched from either side of the street. There were members from the Roaring Sixties over sixty years old club in front of us and an adorable child behind us, who we took some pictures with and talked to her watcher. After a circle around MGV’s perimeter, we ended the parade at the soccer field where a Ferris wheel, swing ride, carousel, stage and multiple tents had been set up.

We walked around the soccer field for a bit while different activities were still being set up. While we were waiting, the announcer was walking around the field introducing different members over the intercom. He came up to us and had us introduce ourselves by name and where we were from. The next activity was a dog show in which the South African Navy brought guard dogs and demonstrated the dogs’ ability to hunt and attack a culprit.

The community activities began with the drum majorettes performance in which young girls of varying ages danced in the center of the soccer field. This was followed by a performance from the Green Light Project’s choir led by Dixie. Though the children started the song a bit shy, they ended with a booming performance and delighted faces. Next, Dixie performed a couple of songs dressed in a red skirt with white polka dots. This was followed by Cheryl’s performance. Cheryl took established songs and tailored them to Maitland Garden Village, which caused the watching community to laugh and enjoy at her performance.  She even exited the stage and began singing to audience members, which caused the group of guys behind us to burst out laughing. We left around 14h00 to catch our train home while the festivities continued with a talent show displaying the many abilities of MGV’s youth.

Reflection and Learning:
Maitland Garden Village day was on a Saturday so we went to this activity as a way to show our support of the community and also experience something that is very personal to them. We were welcomed right from the start once Ronell told us to march in the parade. It was very exciting to see a large portion of the community participating in the parade because it was obviously special to all of the members of the community – there were youth from all ages, elderly, different activity and club representation and overall a sense of enthusiasm to celebrate their home.

We felt further welcomed once the stage host had us introduce each of ourselves. This was a big step relative to our original first objective to create a good relationship with the Maitland Garden Village community. Even without our introduction, there were pockets of people throughout the community who knew us and why we were there but after our introduction, no one else from on the field for MGV Day had to ask us. There is a sense that the community is both interested and excited about our projects as we meet more and more people. The children are the most fearless in greeting us as we walk by. We each connected with children from MGV and they were very happy to tell us about themselves and answer any questions we asked them.

It was also nice to see the Green Light Project, an organization that was established in 2011 with the help of a WPI team, as a growing facet to Maitland Garden Village. They had a banner, matching shirts and different parts of the program dedicated to their efforts. It is amazing to see a project grow and begin to flourish. Despite its struggle to get off the ground and keep the momentum, the fact the Green Light Project is still staying active after a whole year is quite remarkable. Ronell and Sheila are looking to use the other WPI MGV’s team to help allocate resources to make the Green Light Project more successful. This is something that our group hopes to do. We hope to ignite a project that will eventually better the Maitland Garden Village Community.