At Visiting Neighbors Street Fair, Talent is Ageless
BY LAURA SCHARF Director of Community Development, Visiting Neighbors, Inc.
Competition was fierce on at Visiting Neighbors’ 19th Annual Senior Talent Show — the highlight of the Chelsea Day Festival (held on Eighth Avenue, from 14th to 23rd Streets on Saturday, April 27).
Enthusiastic onlookers of all ages cheered for their favorite performers — some of whom flirted shamelessly with the judges, who had the difficult task of picking the winners. The talented performers ranged in age from their late seventies to their nineties.
Dr. Cynthia Maurer, Visiting Neighbors’ Executive Director, said, “To us, all of the performers are winners. Their exuberance and positive attitudes inspire all of us.”
Visiting Neighbors, a non-profit community agency that provides support services that help seniors in lower Manhattan stay independent, began the Senior Talent Show 19 years ago as a way to help promote a positive image of aging.
“Too many people think of elderly people as needy, rather than marveling at how much we can learn from them,” says Dr. Maurer. “We’ve had performers well into their nineties get up on stage and amaze the audience. And believe me, New York audiences can be tough!”
First Prize this year went to The Ban Lon Chinese Dancers who performed a traditional “Blossom” dance. In their light blue costumes, the graceful dancers looked like blue flowers waving in a field.
Second Prize went to Jim Porter, who won top honors in last year’s competition for his amazing tap dancing skills. This year, he chose a Mardi Gras theme. He danced to recorded zydeco music, as he played a traditional New Orleans rubboard. Audience members from toddlers to seniors clamored to catch the Mardi Gras trinkets he threw to the audience.
Among the crowd’s favorites were belly dancer Julia Piters and salsa dancers Maria Corea and Gloria Ortiz (all in colorful costumes). The lively rhythms and talented dancers inspired several audience members to dance along from their places on the street.
For a grand finale, all of the performers came back onstage and led the audience in singing “You Are My Sunshine.”
The Senior Talent Show was sponsored by The NYC Dept. for the Aging – Aging in New York Fund, McDonald’s (682 Sixth Avenue), Chase Manhattan Bank, Con Edison and the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club. Refreshments for the performers were provided by Starbucks, Murray’s Bagels and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Visiting Neighbors’ services are open to anyone 60 and older, living from 30th Street south to the tip of Manhattan. Services include friendly visiting to relieve isolation and loneliness, help with shopping and errands, escorts to medical appointments, health advocacy and referrals to needed services. No fees are charged for services, but contributions are welcome. For more information about Visiting Neighbors’ services, or to become a volunteer, call 212-260-6200 or visit website at visitingneighbors.org.