By Anne Hampson Boatwright
Andrea McKeever, a Dunwoody resident from England, was so excited about the exhibition cricket match at Oglethorpe University that she arrived an hour before the gates opened. Having played cricket in her youth, she felt a renewed interest in the game and watched intently.
The match was part of Atlanta’s Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee festival held June 2 to mark the monarch’s 60-year reign. A crowd of British expatriates and appreciative Anglophile Atlantans celebrated in conjunction with the four-day series of parties and events across the United Kingdom.
Oglethorpe’s stone campus buildings and the uncharacteristically cool weather lent a British air to the event, which featured games, novelties, performances and food. Some attendees wore Scottish kilts or decorative millinery (hats). Some of the men even donned straw boater hats. The red, white and blue Union Jack colors were ubiquitous.
Conceived by British Consul General and Buckhead resident Annabelle Malins, the event was designed not only to honor Queen Elizabeth, but also to celebrate the wider culture of the 54 Commonwealth nations.
Canadian Consul General Stephen Brereton was on hand to revel in the family fun day. Malins opened the festival with a ribbon cutting and led a procession down to the “cricket” (the playing field) to open the game. The cricketers were comprised of game enthusiasts and formed two teams pitting Great Britain against the Commonwealth. To those inquiring about the rules, players were quick to humorously state that cricket can last five full days and still end in a draw.
Crowds enjoyed folksy contests and games such as the egg and spoon, three-legged and sack races, and even Welly Wanging, in which a Wellington boot is thrown as far as possible within boundary lines. Such events often bring out national loyalties and rivalries, and the politically incorrect, yet light-hearted comments abounded.
Especially spirited was Felicity Vaughan, a Welsh woman who vigorously waved her flag of Wales on the sidelines next to her Irish-American husband, Patrick. A fierce patriot who stands when the Queen appears on television, Felicity Vaughan was dismayed when the Welsh race contestants placed second, losing to the South African team. Her husband concluded “she’ll be insufferable for the rest of the day.”
The line stretched out across the lawn for Australian Baker Café’s meat pies. Also available were classic British food items such as Devon cream tea and scones, fish and chips, and beer, and Commonwealth fare including South African curry rice, Canadian baked goods and Indian samosas.
Herb Sprague and his daughter Jenny Sprague Day stood near the stage and had a prime view of the multicultural showcase. Having come to Oglethorpe for the Shakespeare Festival each summer, Sprague and his daughter were delighted to return for another cultural event.
Performers showcased their native cultures, which included Scottish country dancing, Ghanaian drum pieces, and Bollywood-style dancing. A “Commonwealth’s Got Talent” competition featured eight acts such as Scottish pipes and drums, Highland dancers, a Jamaican vocalist, and an Indian classical dance ensemble among others.
Winning by “applausometer” were the Killough School Highland Dancers of Sandy Springs: Carolann Stout of St. Pius X Catholic High School, SaraRoss Paolucci of Holy Innocents Episcopal School, and Gabi Rosenthal of Riverwood International Charter School.
In a game called “Goal Save the Queen”, a tall and very masculine Queen Elizabeth, complete with coronation crown and purse, vigilantly defended a soccer goal while boys lined up to try for that penalty kick.