... Democrats' big wigs, local candidates, convene on Boston Rock Road
Editor's note: Mike Festa's lawn party for the Melrose Democratic City Committee and guests was held in late summer. The story was held over to the December issue least the Mirror be accused of partisan politics during a particularly important time.
Among the guests were Melrosians Irv and Edith Smolens of Ravine Road.
If you were in charge of the weather for Mike Festa’s fall party for local Democrats which he held in his own back yard someone would have to give you an A plus. On an absolutely gorgeous early evening the faithful gathered to press the flesh and exchange pleasantries with a collection of Democrat political hopefuls and with one another. The occasion had the atmosphere of an easy-going get together as opposed to the pumped-up energy of a political rally. This was more of a social event, an acknowledgement that campaigning would soon begin in earnest and, this time, the Democrats had better be ready.
Left: Guests chat with party host State Rep Mike Festa.
Right: Catherine Clark, member of the Melrose School Committee (in red), shares a laugh with party guests.
At twenty bucks a head the attendees shared in a proletariat menu of hamburgers, veggie burgers, turkey burgers and hotdogs served with salad and pasta or baked beans along with the appropriately expected beverages for such a robust meal. Home-baked pastries for the calorie indifferent and coffee finished the tasty meal. A menu like this carries an all-you-can-eat expectation and some of the party planners were sent frantically for more burgers and dogs when it looked like supplies were running low. Not to worry, they returned just in time with more provisions.
Left: Alderman at Large Ron Seyboyer talks to Ann McCarthy, wife of now School Committee member Don Lehman.
Right: Toni Whitmore, (2nd right) a local Democrat activist, was a vital part of Deval Patrick's Melrose campaign.
The significance of the shortage was that it was evidence that this had turned out to be a banner crowd, of over 100, a number which exceeded expectations. Melissa Callan an aide to Mike Festa, confided in a quiet anxiety, “For all the times we’ve done this, this is the first time EVER that we’ve run out.” But a scurrying staff meant no one went hungry. The host was serving to a shoulder-to shoulder crowd who seemed to enjoy the close quarters. There was conversation with friends, speculations about the upcoming primaries, and queries as to which of the candidates you were supporting. They were enjoying a nice party that carried a warm political buzz.
Left: Matt Kennedy, a nephew of the Kennedy clan, exhorts the visitors.
Right: Part of the crowd that packed Mike Festa's back yard.
Many of the candidates were there, they circulated through the crowd bobbing into conversational groups to say hello, say who they were, and to ask for support in the upcoming primary. Michael Sullivan, candidate for Middlesex County Clerk of Courts was there with his dad, (who has held elected office longer than any other living person) and was one of the smilers and shakers, as well as Jerry Leone who was running for DA of Middlesex County. There were others shmoozing who were not facing a primary fight such as the host himself, Mike Festa and the evening’s keynote speaker Ed Markey; both would be making reelection bids in November.
Left: Gene Baldi, former member of the Council on Aging, and Silverhaired legislators Anne MacGillivray and Sally Hoyt. Both Anne and Sally are officers of the Silverhaired legislature.
Right: Two guests fulfill a requirement of all political campaigns, writing a check.
Our local politicians with ties to the Democrats mixed in, too. Mayor Rob Dolan, and Aldermen Gail Infurna, Peter Mortimer, Paul Brodeur, Bob Boisell and Ron Seyboyer attended along with Don Lehman, Chairman of the Democratic City Committee.
Democrat Congressman Ed Markey, keynote speaker, chats with Mike Festa.
One featured speaker brought political glamour to the event when host Mike Festa introduced Matt Kennedy a nephew and member of the fabled political family. He gave a welcoming speech exhorting the Melrose faithful to devote themselves with vigor to the tough campaigns that lay ahead. His presence was evidence of what’s at the heart of American politics; people who support the seekers of high office come campaigning in your back yard. Proof that all politics is local.
Ed Markey was the keynote speaker. He projected a relaxed almost conversational presence. In shirtsleeves, with his coat draped over his hands folded in front of him he reminisced about his campaigning in Melrose when he was very first running for office. As a State Rep he was not exactly unknown, but he did not have the money necessary for a media campaign.
Left: Ed Markey schmoozes with party attendees.
Right: A wave to the camera from Ward Six Alderman Peter Mortimer.
He recalled coming to Melrose neighborhoods, where he went house to house and rang doorbells so he could introduce himself as a candidate who was running for Representative in the U.S. Congress. Citing different people who were standing in the group he recalled humorous anecdotes of his meetings with them.
His tone was still relaxed but more serious when he discussed the current political atmosphere in Washington. He was not, however, provoking a message of partisanship but spoke of the hard work that lies ahead for Democrats who looked to affect change in November. Markey’s message was a reminder that, to win, party workers will have to “get out the vote” on election day.
Left: Just happy to be here! Melrosian Phil Kukura enjoys the good time.
Right: Mike Festa with one of his very favorite supporters.
The party didn’t disperse after the end of the speeches. People stayed on to enjoy conversation, swap predictions and discuss their choices for the upcoming primary battle. The crowd slowly dissolved until it was just Mike Festa and his clean-up crew who were left to bring his back yard back to normal.
Photos by Don Norris
December 1, 2006