Seven-year-old Josh Crescenzi, his blue Old Navy shirt stained with the ketchup which was formerly smothering the remaining half of his giant hamburger, described Communiversity Day with a simple thumbs up.
This young New Havener’s response might have been a pithy show of enthusiasm. Or it could have just been the only communication he could muster, since there was no room for words to travel around the thick patty of beef that filled his mouth so that the dusty-blonde boy’s cheeks resembled those of Dizzy Gillespie.
From the looks — and condiments — on the faces of Josh and many other attendees, the food seemed to be the most popular attraction at Saturday’s Communiversity Day. Held on Old Campus and featuring a capella groups, folk singers, a children’s theater performance and a health fair, Communiversity Day was a celebration of Yale’s relationship with New Haven, organized by the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.
At 9:45 a.m., Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” blasted over the loudspeaker system and signaled the start of what APO president Julie Ehrlich ’03 called “a day for kids to come to Yale and have a good time.”
The day started off slowly, with at most 20 Yalies and community residents facing the center stage situated in front of Lawrance Hall to watch Mixed Company’s gospel set. More community residents were perusing the “Spring into Health” fair, which consisted of booths with information ranging from domestic violence prevention to childhood nutrition.
Many Yale organizations presented activities catering to local elementary school students. For example, WYBC radio had children record their name, city and part of their favorite song for later broadcast over the airwaves.
“It’s been so much fun seeing the kids’ faces light up as they sing into the recorder,” said Ellen Moskowitz ’02, who was working the booth. “We’ve had a lot of people singing the Barney theme.”
The Latin American Student Association organized a flag-coloring booth where anyone could come and create a new flag or color in a blank template for an existing flag. Two years ago the group gave dance lessons at Communiversity Day.
“The dance lessons are just harder to organize,” LASA member Juan Nunez ’02 said. “This way, we don’t have to round up all of the hyper kids and get them to sit still.”
More residents started flocking in around 11:30 a.m. to sample the hamburgers and hot dogs grilling near the Lanman-Wright courtyard. By the time the event was over, APO officers estimated that well over 1,000 Yalies and community residents attended.
Shortly after 1 p.m., APO members took the stage to introduce such notable public figures as Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and state Public Health Commissioner Joxel Garcia. The catch: neither DeStefano nor Garcia showed up. DeStefano had APO members read a prewritten statement, and Garcia sent along a representative to read his statement. This was the first time in several years that DeStefano has not attended the event.
Others who failed to attend were Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, whose discretionary fund is partially responsible for sponsoring Communiversity day, and Yale President Richard Levin. Ehrlich said Brodhead and Levin had scheduling conflicts.
But it was clear that the local elementary school students did not care who spoke at Communiversity Day, just as long as there was plenty of food to go around.
“Hamburger, hamburger, hamburger,” chanted 3-year-old New Haven resident Kaleb Edwards. “Good food.”