June 18, 2005 Father's Day weekend in Frenchtown started off in the Joseph Aubain ballpark with a different note Friday night. The opening ceremony, which crowned the new Miss Carenage, was touched with a bit of sadness, with remembrances of those lost in the last year, and with a plea for unity in the Frenchtown community.
A very composed Shanelle Brin received a sparkling tiara identifying her as Miss Carenage 2005. "Bon soir," she greeted the audience, as she delivered her message in French and in English, her message sparked smiles as she thanked the community.
Brin, a junior and honor student at All Saints Cathedral School, comes with many credentials. They include photo editor of the school yearbook, co-captain of the varsity softball team, National Honor Society member, and she is a nominee for the U. S. National Academy for excelling in the French language. She is also Senate President Lorraine Berry's niece, a fact which Berry was happy to point out to spectators.
The weekend marks the 10th annual event sponsored by the Committee for the Betterment of Carenage. Former senator Clement "Cain" Magras, a member of the Frenchtown Civic Organization, was the celebration's honoree.
Jean Greaux Jr., CBC president, got things rolling before handing over the master of ceremonies duties to Magras, who was doing double duty.
Greaux said the evening was "bittersweet," lamenting the loss of two Frenchtown stalwarts in the past year. Theodore "Magic" Danet, CBC vice president and well-known Frenchtown personality, died last year, and Deacon Alberto Olive of St. Anne's Chapel died last Sunday.
Nishel Lawrence, Miss Carenage of 2004, gave a touching tribute to Danet. "Magic and Lillian (Danet's wife) were always supporting me, always helping me," she said. "I know he is looking down on me, and wishing me success."
Greaux took the occasion to address a current issue troubling to the Frenchtown community. He said, "The ridiculous decision to place two traffic signs at the Altona intersection, changing the traffic pattern into Frenchtown was wrong, and it disenfranchised the residents and businesses."
He continued, "Political pressure has resulted in a reprieve to relax the policy until a meeting next week. It should have been done before the signs were put up," he said. He thanked acting Gov. Vargrave Richards, who was representing Gov. Charles W. Turnbull Friday night, Sen. Lorraine Berry, and Police Commissioner Elton Lewis for their intervention in the issue.
And, he thanked Henry Richardson, FTCO president. "Henry was there. He used his passion to bring together the membership of the FTCO. In the last two weeks, we have found there is strength in numbers. Henry drew on his passion to pursue this issue.
"It is time to forgive, and time to demand unity. If it is the wish of the Frenchtown community, please tell us. We need healing. We need unity."
The two organizations have been at loggerheads for many years over community issues. A sign of the possible healing process may have been the Christmas bells outside the ballpark, which the FTCO uses for Christmas celebrations, lighted up.
Magras was modest and humorous in accepting his award. "What is this Jean, are you testing the waters for a third French senator?" He became serious, too. "We need a bond of kinship," he said. Magras proudly mentioned his three grown children Geoffrey, Jason and Jessica all of whom have received advanced degrees in their fields. He talked of his own childhood, where parents were strict, and where they kept tabs on you. "If I got into something I shouldn't, the news was there before I got home. We need to work together now as a community, to save our children. We were a family-oriented society," he said. "We all looked out for each other.
Magras, whose costumes for the Eagle carnival group have won many prizes over the years, concluded, "We are a family-oriented community."
Berry talked about the problems raising children today, and she talked about the Frenchtown celebration. "You know, I read on the Internet, the U.S. has been celebrating Father's Day for 33 year, and here in Frenchtown, we have been celebrating for at least 40 years."
Speaking of his own childhood, Magras said later that he was always close to his father, the late Almando Magras. "I try to follow him," he said. "We need to be friends to our children; we need to be there for them."
Also on hand for the ceremony, was Kmisha Victoria M. Counts, 2005 Carnival Queen who gave warm wishes to Brin, and to whom Brin presented flowers.
Rev. Niel Scantlebury of Sts. Peter and Paul parish delivered the invocation and the benediction.
It all begins at home, several people said. Martel Questel and his wife Louise, were there with their four grandchildren. "It's good to be here together," Questel said. Eileen Schneider was sitting in the ballfield stands. She said,"You have got to care for your children. When I see some child acting up in public, I walk over to their parents and I say, ' don't you care, you don't have the time?' "
The ballpark was populated early on by many children running around, eating ice cream, playing in the colorful jump-up booth, and generally having fun.
Later came the Imaginations Brass to provide music for dancing into the wee hours. The celebration goes on until Sunday with Pyour Passion; Milo's Kings; Sea Breeze Band; and the Sammy Watts Combo providing the music.
The free events start at 6 p.m. Saturday, and at 3 p.m. Sunday awards will be presented for the Mother's Day fishing tournament at 8 p.m.
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