This summer’s free concert series in the parks is winding down, with the final Ossian Hall celebration of Peruvian music and culture scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Spotlight by Starlight concerts at Mason District Park continue until Friday, August 31, so there is plenty of time to enjoy live, professional, music performances before school starts again.
Attending the free concerts is always fun, as neighbors young and old gather for an hour or so of music and dance in comfortable surroundings near home. But there have been some dramatic stories in this year’s concerts, which you may have missed. Early in July, the Latin Ballet of Virginia put on a spectacular show at Mason District Park. Based in Richmond, the troupe rarely performs outside of their home area, so their trip to Northern Virginia was a treat. The incredible athleticism of the dancers, coupled with exquisitely colorful costumes and pulsating music, made for an outstanding show. I hope we can get them back next year!
Folksinger Tom Paxton always draws a large crowd, so attendees got there early for at his performance at Mason District Park in early August. According to his publicist, “Tom Paxton is the voice of his generation, addressing issues of injustice and inhumanity, laying bare the absurdities of modern culture and celebrating the tender bonds of family, friends, and community.” His young grandson joined Tom on stage to sing his signature piece, “The Marvelous Toy.” Perhaps the loveliest, however, was his paean to his daughters, a father’s tribute to watching his daughters, Jennifer and Kate, grow to adulthood. That they were in the audience made it even more poignant.
The Vietnamese Cultural Night at Ossian Hall Park introduced some bona fide heroes from the frigate USS KIRK, which led the rescue of thousands of refugees after the fall of Saigon in the spring of 1975. At the concert, retired Vice Admiral Adam Robinson was reunited with some of the people who were saved, and related the remarkable story of “The Lucky Few,” a film about extraordinary heroism and bravery. Throughout the operation, the KIRK flight deck took on 15 Hueys full of refugees. Some were pregnant women about to give birth, so the ship’s lounge was converted to a makeshift maternity ward. By the time the evacuation was done, 32 ships of all sizes were steaming toward the Philippines, carrying more than 32,000 refugees. But the Philippine government did not want to offend North Vietnam, so all the South Vietnamese ships needed to be reflagged. The USS KIRK crew quickly found 32 American flags, commandeered 32 junior officers and chiefs, and conducted Change of Flag and Change of Command ceremonies on each ship, so that they could be received legitimately at Subic Bay without creating a larger international incident. It’s an amazing story, and the opportunity for rescuer and rescued to reunite in Northern Virginia nearly 40 years later was an unimaginable, and heartwarming, tribute to the human spirit.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]