Broacast: August 29, 2003
Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a VOA Special English program about music and American life that also answers your questions.
This week, we answer a listener’s question about two American holidays...
and listen to music by Mary Fahl.
But first...we tell about the most famous park in the United States.
In eighteen-fifty-three, New York City bought a huge amount of land for a public park to be built in its center. This year, New York is celebrating the one-hundred-fiftieth birthday of Central Park. It was the first major city park in the United States. It still is the most famous. Shep O’Neal tells us about it.
Central Park contains more than three-hundred-forty hectares of land. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (VOX) designed the huge park. Their goal was to make a beautiful natural environment with lakes, woods and open areas for all the people of New York to enjoy.
The area was mostly wetlands with no trees. The park builders reshaped the land with tons of soil and rock and millions of trees and plants. They created hills and lakes. They designed bridges, roads and paths. They added more than fifty statues, monuments and fountains of water. They completed their work in eighteen-seventy-eight. Later, playgrounds, baseball fields and an ice skating rink were built in the park. Today, Central Park also has a zoo, a carousel ride for children and a theater where plays and musical concerts are presented each summer.
About twenty-five-million people visit Central Park each year. These include people from other areas of the United States and from foreign countries. Millions of people who live in New York love Central Park as a place to escape from their small apartments in high-rise buildings.
Every day, people walk, run or ride bicycles along the paths in Central Park. Others walk their dogs, play baseball, row a boat on the lake or eat a meal on the grass. Bird-watchers can observe more than two-hundred kinds of birds in the park. Many people also use the park for special events. For example, some people choose one of the beautiful natural areas in the park as the perfect place to get married.
Central Park is a place of peace, quiet and natural beauty that is surrounded by tall buildings and the noisy, crowded streets of New York. Some people call it the heart of the biggest city in America.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that “for millions of New Yorkers, Central Park is not just a park. It is our front yard. It is our picnic spot, our playground, our nature preserve… and our field of dreams.”
Our VOA listener question this week comes from Nigeria. Nuraddeen Hamza asks about the American holidays celebrated on September first and November eleventh of this year.
This Monday, Americans will celebrate Labor Day. International Labor Day is May first. But the United States chose another day for its labor celebration. A New York labor leader is said to have suggested the first Monday in September be a holiday to honor labor. He said it was a nice time of the year for a celebration. He proposed public parades to show the strength of labor organizations. And he urged that people end the day with outdoor parties.
New York City held the first American labor day celebration on September fifth, eighteen-eighty-two. The idea quickly spread throughout the country. Congress declared Labor Day a national holiday in eighteen-ninety-four. For many years, American workers used Labor Day to demonstrate for better conditions and pay. Over the years, however, their condition improved. Such demonstrations are no longer common.
Now, Labor Day weekend for Americans is a time to celebrate the last warm days of summer. People enjoy outdoor activities and picnics. And for most American children, Labor Day means it is time for school to begin again.
November eleventh is Veterans Day. It was first declared Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson in nineteen-nineteen. It was a day to honor the men and women who had served in the American armed forces during World War One. Congress made it a national holiday in nineteen-twenty-six. The federal, state and local governments would close. All public schools would close too. Parades in almost every city honored the men and women who had helped bring peace to Europe.
Armistice Day in nineteen-forty-five honored veterns of both World War One and World War Two. In nineteen-fifty-four, Congress decided to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day. By then, almost six-million Americans had served in another military campaign—the Korean War. The number of veterans has continued to grow.
On November eleventh of each year, America’s military veterans are remembered with ceremonies and parades across the nation. The president and other public officials speak at Veterans Day ceremonies. Everyone honors the men and women of the armed forces who have served their country in war and in peace.
Mary Fahl was the lead singer of a group called The October Project. That group only performed for a short time together during the nineteen-nineties. Now, Mary Fahl has a new CD of her own. Faith Lapidus tells us about it.
Mary Fahl’s new CD is called “The Other Side of Time.” She helped write almost all the songs on the album. One of them was used in a recent movie about the American Civil War called “Gods and Generals.” The song is called “Going Home.”
Another song on Mary Fahl’s new CD was recorded for a movie called “The Guys”. The movie is about New York City firefighters who were killed saving others during the attack on September eleventh, two-thousand-one. This song is called “The Dawning of the Day.” Fahl wrote new words for a traditional Irish melody.
(THE DAWNING OF THE DAY)
Critics say Mary Fahl’s voice is deep and rich and powerful. They say the music on her new album is beautiful. We leave you now with another song from Mary Fahl’s new CD, “The Other Side of Time.” This one is called “Dream of You.”
(DREAM OF YOU)
This is Bob Doughty. This program was written by Shelley Gollust and Nancy Steinbach. Our producer was Paul Thompson.
I hope you enjoyed our program. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.