By Candy Pilar Godoy, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For a few hours on Saturday, June 11th, the Escola Americana (EARJ) in Gávea was magically transformed into a traditional American scene. A green lawn was dotted with waving American flags, hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on a charcoal grill, and children at bat for a game of pick-up softball. The classic setting was The American Society of Rio de Janeiro (AmSoc Rio) annual America’s Day celebration, a fun-filled and family-oriented event to commemorate the ‘US of A.’
“It’s the American Society’s biggest event of the year,” explained organizer Jenée Slocum, “We try to bring a small-town celebratory feel to the place and create a chance for Rio’s American community to come together.”
Organized almost every year since 1917, America’s Day was formed to jointly honor Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Since neither holiday is recognized in Brazil, and U.S. Independence day falls during the Brazilian winter school holiday, AmSoc Rio made the decision to combine them.
Thus the two-in-one extravaganza was created, bringing family and friends together with an outdoor picnic gathering, and serving up a slice of American life to the homesick in Rio.
This year, the celebration offered everything from a book fair to a crafts and activity table. International band ArizonA serenaded the crowd with a mix of rock, blues, pop, and country, and a country trio hailing from Texas and Argentina played bluegrass tunes. Kids ran three-legged races and jumped on a giant trampoline, while adults enjoyed watermelon slices at tables adorned in red, white, and blue.
“This event makes me feel at home,” remarked an American attendee, “It’s great to get everyone together to celebrate and enjoy themselves.”
David Huffard, the 2011 president of AmSoc Rio describes: “This year’s America’s Day went as smoothly as could be. We had delicious cakes and pies generosity provided by Fellini in Leblon. WER Plastic Ware provided our fancy plastic cups, plates and utensils, while Coca Cola came in with our soft drinks in so many flavors I could not count.”
After a lunch of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and coleslaw, revelers munched on a dessert of assorted cakes and ice cream. Raffle tickets were sold, and lucky winners won prizes that included VIP spa treatments, jewelry, airline tickets, and a weekend getaway.
Huffard explains: “For the first time in years we had two American Airlines round trip tickets to the U.S., and they were the final formal raffle prizes to be auctioned, won by Lindsay Duval and Mateen Thobani.”
The day was an opportunity to give back to the community, as organizers collected non-perishable food items from attendees for SOS Rocinha, a project started by EARJ students to help restore and assemble a library for children.
The fun-filled day of games, good eats, and prizes came to an end around 4PM, with celebrators leaving the American scene with full stomachs and smiles on their faces. “This is a one-of-a-kind event in Rio,” remarked Slocum, “It’s fun for the whole family.”
To learn about AmSoc Rio’s upcoming events visit their website at www.americansocietyrio.org.