With a mix of music, face painting and more than a few wide smiles, North Brentwood held its annual celebration of the historic town and its people on Saturday.
North Brentwood Day which began at noon and stretched until late afternoon occurred in North Brentwood Park, an oasis of grass, jungle gyms and basketball blacktop in the town.
The yearly celebration in the historically black community in Prince George’s County traces its history back to 1972, and since its beginnings, it has become something neighbors and children have grown up with, said Petrella Robinson, North Brentwood mayor and one of the event’s organizers.
This year’s outing of the celebration was without the preceding parade, a fixture in the event’s past 27 years, said Janie Cuffie president of the North Brentwood Civic Association. The parade which typically includes police officers, motorcycles, classic cars and other vehicles who parade throughout the town before coming to the park where the party gets into full swing, wasn’t held this year as organizers lacked the volunteer support and manpower to have it ready in time, Robinson said.
The event, which costs the civic association around $2,500 to host, was put together by four people, Cuffie said. That support is a fraction of the manpower needed to properly do it, said Robinson, 62.
“Our problem is really we don’t get enough help,” said Robinson, who is in her third term as mayor of the town.
Having the party, which except for food was free to attendees, is important for the community, Cuffie said.
“With all the crap going on in the world, you need some structure some family event where we can have fun,” said Cuffie who has lived in the town for nearly 30 years.
Next year, organizers hope that more people will volunteer to assist with putting the show on, Cuffie said. Even with a dearth of support, the event and the remembrance of the town’s past will continue, Robinson said.
”We’re proud and we’re always going to keep being proud of our town,” Robinson said.
Even without the preceding parade, Marcellas Day, 4, seemed to be enjoying himself.
The boy had staked out a seat on a brightly colored children’s train that offered free rides.
“It was fun,” the rising kindergartner at Glassmanor Elementary School said.
After his sixth ride his father, Markel Day, a newly installed North Brentwood councilman, gently pulled him off but in a flash the boy now backed by his younger brother Montez were both on the train.
“Nah, nah, you can’t get me,” Marcellus said with a wide smile.
The boys’ fun brought smiles to his father’s face. As a boy he had gone to North Brentwood Day with his parents.
“Whenever he’s happy, I’m happy,” said Day, who works as a truck driver for the State Highway Administration.
The celebration, which included such sights as multiple food vendors, a moon bounce and live music, brought children of all ages to the park.
Leonard Parran grew up in North Brentwood, but the maintenance technician has called Suitland home for more than 10 years, he said. Still, the 65 year old makes a yearly pilgrimage to North Brentwood where he meets up with other childhood friends.
“See the boys are back in town,” he said with a smile to his friends most of whom had salt and pepper hair and were in their 50s, 60s or 70s.
While some friends still remain in the town others have moved away, the town and memories of playing in the park bring them back, said Colehia Hayes, who has called Southeast D.C. home for the past 25 years.
“I keep coming back for my friends. They’re like family,” said the retired chef. “The town’s not what it used to be but its still [North] Brentwood.”