Meera Shoaib

In the sunlit atrium of City Hall on Tuesday evening, over 100 people gathered to eat creamy cupcakes and celebrate New Haven’s 381st birthday.

The event, which was hosted by Mayor Toni Harp, centered around the city’s ideals of “tradition, innovation, and idealism.” The night featured the administering of the 2019 “City Spirit Recognition Awards,” as well as remarks from community leaders, including U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, the city’s Youth Division Service Manager Gwendolyn Busch Williams and Pastor LaVerne Walters of New Lighthouse Ministries.

“This city exemplifies the knowledge, skills, and perspectives essential for active participation in our rapidly changing global society,” said Carol Birks, the superintendent of New Haven Public Schools.

The City Spirit Recognition awards honored six individuals and organizations for their public service and cultivation of community spirit and art. Marianne Carolla, a librarian at the New Haven public library who has worked for the city for 52 years, was the first recipient of the award. She held back tears as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

The Yale University Concert Jazz Ensemble and Marching Band were also recognized for their lasting impact on the city and their performances across the globe. According to Aleta Staton of the New Haven Cultural Affairs Commission, the band has travelled on twenty-eight international tours.

“Yale University Bands had provided the rousing pulse to which Yale and the city of New Haven has marched, worked, processed, danced, celebrated, and thrived,” Staton said. “We salute this cornerstone of civic pride in our community.”

Other recipients of the award included the New Haven-based Franklin Construction Company for their significant work improving the city’s infrastructure over the past century. The company has built single-family houses and established schools, fire-stations, libraries and apartment complexes in the region. The New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Southern Connecticut State University and the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce were also commended at the event.

In an interview with the News, attendee Grace Zhao — who moved to New Haven twelve years ago from China and now teaches at Yale’s Asian Outreach programme — expressed her gratitude to the city.

“I really, really love New Haven,” Zhao told the News. “I come to all these events because I think the city gives us immigrants so much love. We learn a lot! When I first came here, I learned English from Yale’s OISS classes. The people here are so kind and warmhearted.”

DeLauro’s comments about the the magic of the city resonated with Althea Norcott, a New Haven resident and Arts Council member. She explained how she never forgot leaving the “projects”, where she lived to visit the shops and walk within the walls of Yale on Saturday afternoons with her mother.

Attendees also had the opportunity to hear music throughout the night. The evening opened with the “Survivor’s Swing Band” — a group of seven senior citizens — performing “Fanfare Welcome,” and closed with their rendition of “How Sweet It Is.” The New Haven Gilbert and Sullivan Society also performed a piece entitled “Our City! Our Spirit,” which celebrated the civic sentiments of New Haven citizens.

New Haven is the second largest city in Connecticut.

Meera Shoaib | meera.shoaib@yale.edu