By John Murray

   Members of the Crosby High School LifeSmarts team won the Connecticut State Championship and will compete this weekend for the national championship in Florida. Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary acknowledged the accomplishment by treating the kids to a pizza party inside City Hall, and then asked them to participate in a flag raising ceremony to kick-off “The Gathering”, a city-wide celebration of cultural heritage which will be held in downtown Waterbury on May 17th. Waterbury residents have found their way to the city from every corner of the globe, and The Gathering is an opportunity for city residents to share the traditions of music, food and dance from their homelands. Last year 40 ethnic groups participated in the festival, and flags from each country was displayed in front of City Hall.

A dedicated group of volunteers from The Gathering committee spent hours on Monday afternoon arranging the flags, and problem solving logistical issues of having the flags weather wind and rain, and still present nicely. Terry Longo unfurls a flag in the foreground, while Bill DeMaida and Mike Ptak problem solve in the background.

George Dogramatziz, left, and Bobby Gaetano, right,  from the Department of Public Works supervize the installation of flags onto the front of Waterbury City Hall yesterday morning.

Bobby Gaetano, from Public Works, is a key figure in the success of The Gathering, and any other festival staged in Library Park.

As the flags went up yesterday there were hundreds of people who stopped to check out the action, and see how many flags they could identify.

While the flags were going up outside City Hall, several committee members met inside a caucus room inside City Hall to wrestle with unresolved details in planning the May 17th festival and parade. The committee members are from left to right, Mike Ptak, Saranda Belica and Geraldo Reyes.

Last year an estimated 7000 people attended the first festival. This year, weather permitting, organizers are expecting an even bigger crowd.

In addition to music, food and dance from around the world, several top-notch local musicians have agreed to perform at The Gathering. Pictured above is Timmy Maia who will perform on the Main Stage at 4 pm. He will be followed by Crosseyed Cat, and Eddie Seville and Steel Rodeo.

Explosions of cultural pride erupted throughout Library Park last May, and in this photograph Lithuania broke out in dance with Colombia.

Members of the Albanian community took over the park shortly after 5 pm and many individuals from other cultural backgrounds joined in to create one of the highlights of The Gathering.

Jerome Hunter performed African drums and students from the Connecticut Dance Theater celebrated their history.

Hispanics from the Caribbean, Central America and South America were well represented at The Gathering, and their music, food and dance added richness to the festival.