Biggest…Most Exciting…Most Colorful…Most Vibrant
Friday, September 19 Historic Plaza, Ajo, Arizona
The music starts about 4:30 and the parade arrives soon thereafter. BE THERE! It’s not just an ordinary parade! It has the biggest dove puppet kites you have ever seen, with 15’ wing spans! Seriously! And, performing desert critter puppets twirl and sway with the costumed dance troupes. A colorful peace train carrying lots of youngsters drives alongside the parade. Hundreds of the townspeople join in! All this fun and joy kicks off the…
11th Annual International Day of Peace Festival
You won’t believe the fun that rapidly follows! Cultural dance, music, song, food, all create a sense of community joy and pride that is shared with neighbors far and wide! You see, Ajo is located at the intersection of three Nations: Tohono O’odham Nation, Mexico and the United States. And, what better occasion to share the best of who we are with our neighbors than this global day of peace!
Maybe you aren’t real familiar with International Day of Peace, though. I wasn’t until July of 2004. Long before the United States invaded Iraq, a huge peace festival had been organized to be held in Barcelona, Spain of that year. A friend of mine, Bob Thompson, was the Director of it and I planned to attend. Almost simultaneously, I had moved from several years of volunteering in Guanajuato, Mexico to Ajo to continue transitioning into “passionate community development work” from a business career in Chicago. So with only six months of Ajo life and work under my belt, I departed for Barcelona, Spain to join almost 9,000 people from all over the world for a peace and justice conference.
Each of us, outfitted with headsets broadcasting in our native tongues, listened to the most engaging, learned, poignant speakers from all corners of the earth talk on all aspects of peace. One speaker was Jane Goodall. She gave every participant a pattern of a dove puppet kite and asked that we take it to our home countries and gather friends together to make one (out of five bed sheets and other recycled materials) to fly on International Day of Peace in September. And, on the final day of the peace conference, with TV cameras rolling and a lot of tears falling, a Japanese delegation gave me a hand painted paper globe with 1,000 origami cranes hanging from it and said: “Take to the U.S. for peace”. (Learn the significance of this by looking up the young woman Sadako and her 1,000 cranes on the internet.) It was life-changing for me.
So I carried the dove puppet pattern and the 1,000 origami cranes home with me on the plane wondering what in the world I would do with them in Ajo, AZ. Because of the war in Iraq, “peace” was a political hot potato in the U.S. It seemed a potential upset to the small rural town of Ajo. But, peace is peace. It is not just the absence of war. It is about all sorts of relationships: friends, family, community, environmental, cultural, national, and international.
In 1981, The United Nations General Assembly, by unanimous vote, had actually adopted Resolution 36/67, “to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the U.N. and its member states, as well as the whole of mankind to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.” For millions of people all around the world to focus on peace for a day has such immense potential impact that in 2001 the U.N. actually designated a very specific day each year, September 21, for all of mankind to join together in creating peaceful deliberation, celebration and exploration.
So I gathered friends together to make a sample dove puppet kite. Our school superintendent released some students to my care to learn how to make kites. Our local grocer said he would donate food for a little dove kite flying celebration on International Day of Peace. A young student led this dove parade with the 1,000 origami cranes and about 50 local folks joined in on the fun! That was it for year 1! But, the kids were hooked! We all were!
The International Sonoran Desert Alliance, a tri-cultural organization where I worked as Program Director, picked up the ball and ran with it! Through a grant from the AZ Community Foundation, we obtained some funding to bring the dove puppet kite “creator,” Chris Lutter of Puppet Farm Arts, to teach our community how to make large paper mache parade performing “critter” puppets. We organized an After School Peace Festival at our local school to precede the parade (and simplify parade line-up which happens there!) and Plaza celebration. Each year we have added more and more culturally inspiring entertainment that thrills our community and our guests from Mexico and the Tohono O’odham.
The Ajo International Day of Peace Celebration is in its 11th year, bigger and better than ever! You will notice that this year it is Friday, September 19 (instead of the 21st) because it is so much easier for us to gather our school youth together on a school day for assembling such a large parade. Remember, the parade begins on the school campus following the After School Peace Festival…and arrives at the historic Ajo Plaza by about 4:45 p.m. Then the entertainment and fun begins! Join us!
Watch for details by checking out http://www.isdanet.org/ or http://www.ajochamber.com/.