A big day for family celebrations in city
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. In many places, that means relaxed barbecues in backyards with acres of manicured grass. In the residential neighborhoods of downtown Nashua, it’s something different. There are barbecues and picnics, but they’re packed together, with multiple families celebrating on the same block. Parents set up grills at Bronstein Apartments, yards from men fishing at Mine Falls. Lifelong Nashua residents mingled with immigrants from Vietnam and the Dominican Republic, as well as transplants from Massachusetts.
At Faith Baptist Church in the Millyard, families celebrated the holiday with a breakfast and activities for kids – running races with water-filled buckets and taking turns with an inflatable ball big enough for a child to fit inside and roll around.
Church member Jason Maio said the church took its bus down to Lowell early in the morning and picked up about 20 kids to join in the fun. Faith Baptist works with lots of inner city kids from Nashua and Lowell, Maio said. The church’s building is set to be partially demolished to make way for the Broad Street Parkway, but Mario said members aren’t worried today.
“We feel great,” he said. “We feel fine.”
Meanwhile, across the street, in the Bronstein Apartments public housing complex, Cynthia Perez, her boyfriend and three kids were visiting Perez’s grandmother, Emma Laureano, for a Memorial Day cookout.
“I come here on the weekends to chill with my grandma,” she said. “Most of my family does.”
Perez said she hates the thought of Laureano losing her home. The 74-year-old is raising a great-granddaughter in her apartment, and she cooks for the whole family on special occasions. Perez said she even helped out three years ago when the community came together to build a new playground at Bronstein.
“My grandma was getting people water and stuff,” she said.
While Perez watched her kids play on that playground, Phil Gentile was a few blocks away in the Millyard, fishing with friends in a quiet spot. A family of geese swam nearby.
Gentile said he lives in Massachusetts but plans to move to Nashua because he’s going to be attending Hesser College full time. He said he’s been spending time in Mine Falls Park while visiting friends. He’s spotted a number of hawks and is hoping to see an eagle.
“I love it,” he said.
While others fished and barbecued, Kim Nguyen was working hard at Saigon Asian Market on the corner of Ledge and Pine streets. She said the store has to be open on holidays because Nashua’s many immigrant communities depend on it.
The store stocks African, Latino, Jamaican, Vietnamese and Chinese specialties, among many others, Nguyen said, and they had plenty of business Monday from people buying Korean ribs or pork chops for cookouts.
“We get the meat for every country,” she said.
A few blocks down from the market, Amanda Wells-Blais, her wife, Kathy, and their three young children joined her sister and her mother at Ash Street Playground after watching the parade Monday morning. The family was wearing brightly colored handkerchiefs on their heads to ward off the sun.
“We’re trying to make new traditions, being a new family,” she said.
Despite all the plans for the neighborhood – the parkway and the potential end of Bronstein – Wells-Blais doesn’t anticipate a lot of change. Right now, she’s not thrilled with her family’s apartment building, on Ash Court in the Tree Streets neighborhood.
“We have some nasty people around where we live,” she said.
Wells-Blais’ mother, Mary Benoit, said she’s lived in the area since 1994 and she agrees with her daughter that major change is not in the cards.
“Please,” she said. “This place has been the same forever.”