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 www.spontaneouscelebrations.org.