Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wake Up the Earth! (and the people of JP!)

By Megan Roy

Upon doing a little "presearch" before my visit to Jamaica Plain, I happened upon one of the suburbs' most well-known practices: the Wake Up the Earth Festival. Held on the first Saturday of every May since 1979, this festival originated in response to the city of Boston's plan to run the I-95 freeway through the center of Jamaica Plain, splitting the neighborhoods in half. After rallying people together from local areas, this festival managed to raise enough protesting signatures that the city revoked it's former freeway plans.
Since this initial festival, Wake Up the Earth has grown to represent not just this achievement, but Jamaica Plain's unity as a whole. Sponsored by Spontaneous Celebrations, this festival is a collective gathering for people of all ages to come together and celebrate the wonderful talents of the locals. From music, plays and  dancing to food from local vendors; from crafts, pageants and kid's activities to 21+ bar areas, this 6-hour festival is an annually anticipated event attended by approximately 10,000 people and counting!

After finding all of this information online, naturally, I was expecting to hear a huge response when I visited JP and interviewed some locals. I was looking forward to creating a blog post about their opinions on the festival, their favorite aspects, and how they've enjoyed the festivals of the past. However, after interviewing 30 locals around Centre St. in Jamaica Plain in stores, around the pond, and on the streets, I was shocked to discover that virtually no one knew much about the festival at all! Of the 30 I interviewed, only 6 people could tell me anything about the festival, and only 2 had ever even been. When talking to a man named Keith Carpentier, a local living in the JP area for upwards of 5 years, he stated that the only thing he knew about the festival was that it made it harder to drive around town. Another man named Elliot who I'd interview in a local coffee shop, stated that he'd lived in town for over 10 years and had never been to the festival or heard much about it. I was absolutely shocked.
I found myself left at the end of my journey wondering how to really approach what I'd learned. Although the festival is amazing and sounds like fun, virtually no one I'd interviewed knew much about it. Whether the festival isn't as fantastic as I'd thought or the 30 people I interviewed were the most sheltered citizens of Jamaica Plain, I will not know. However, Wake Up the Earth sounds like a great experience with a good cause that is fun for the whole family! But, you might want to take Keith's advice and take the T to get there.

This year's Wake Up the Earth festival will be taking place on Saturday, May 4th. For more information, visit Spontaneous Celebrations' website at


  1. That is really a shame that these people do not know about this amazing festival. Perhaps the festival attracts many tourists who populate it every year. These people might attend and enjoy the festival while locals stay away because it's a "tourist trap." This is something that happens in New York around christmas every year. Very few New Yorkers actually go and visit the Rockefeller Center christmas tree. This is because it is always populated by hundreds of tourists who take up all the space. New Yorkers know not to go to this "tourist trap" because it is cold and crowded. This might not be the case for the Wake Up the Earth festival, but is definitely possible.
    -Daniel Kendi (also May 4th is Star Wars day :D ("May the 4th be with you")

  2. This makes me immediately want to run out and attend! The pictures especially (thanks for the reminder we don't have sunshine, Megan)made everything look so bright, fun, and fantastic, it highlighted all of your research well -- but also made it seem more poignant when talking about the locals who have never experienced that festival or find it a hassle. The way you wrote this made it extremely relatable -- as someone from coastal Maine who lives through the Lobster Festival every year (Maine, right?), I can totally see where they're coming from (not to mention the Boat Show, the Garden Show, the Union Blueberry Fair, the Commonground Fair), and also appreciate that you actually talked to people to see how the local interpret it. Loved the final snark about the T, too! -- Devin