Asian Lantern Festival opens July 14 at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

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Asian Lantern Festival opens July 14 at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Asian Lantern Festival opens July 14 at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Updated Jun 15, 2021; The popular Asian Lantern Festival returns to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo beginning July 14. Facebook Share By Cliff Pinckard, cleveland.com CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Asian Lantern Festival, the popular event that brings thousands of visitors to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to view elaborate lighted displays, will open for another run on July 14. In its fourth year, the festival will feature more than 70 illuminated displays and over 1,000 individual lanterns. There also will be the return of live acrobatic performances and culturally inspired food. Some of the new giant lanterns include a four-story Taj Mahal as well as a walk-through Python Tunnel, Chinese Dragon and Wisteria Corridor. Interactive lanterns such as the Butterfly Garden and Star Pad allow guests to light up displays themselves. “Asian Lantern Festival has become a summer staple in Cleveland, drawing over 150,000 guests each year to experience the wonder of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo after dark,” Metroparks Chief Marketing Officer Kelly Manderfield said in a news release. Acrobatic acts will be featured every hour and include foot juggling, contortion, martial arts and other performances. There also will be an Asian craft market featuring various foods. The zoo still plans to offer a limited number of drive-thru tours of the festival for visitors who want to say in their vehicles. The drive-thru tours will be on Wednesday nights. The festival, which is sponsored by Meijer stores, will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays beginning July 14 through Sept. 5. Discounts are offered on tickets purchased in advance. For Zoo members, an individual ticket is $18 and a four-pack is $54. Advance non-member tickets are $20 per person or four for $60. Same-day tickets can be purchased at the box office for $22 and a four-pack is $66. Drive-through tickets are $54 per vehicle for members and $60 per vehicle for non-members. Children under 2 are admitted free. Advance tickets are on sale now at futureforwildlife.org/lanterns . Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission. Disclaimer Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement , Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement , and Your California Privacy Rights (User Agreement updated 1/1/21. Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement updated 5/1/2021). Cookie Settings © 2021 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved ( About Us ). The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local. Community Rules apply to all content you upload or otherwise submit to this site.

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Former Miss Alabama A&M inspires service, intergenerational healing at Huntsville nonprofit

There’s a very good reason you see the back of Morgan Saintjones’ head in so many photos: She’s serving someone, more than likely, unconcerned with any camera pointing in her direction.
Serving is her calling, caring is her calling. They were so even before they were the right call.
As a young girl, the Tuskegee-born, now Huntsville resident aspired to be Matlock. That would be Ben Matlock, the TV defense attorney played by Andy Griffith. Matlock aired for nine seasons between the mid-1980s and 1990s and inspired at least one Alabama girl to believe she could be him.
Until she started crying. In a courtroom.
Saintjones was interning for Huntsville Municipal Judge Sybil Cleveland when a couple appeared before the judge, charged with inciting a fight at an Applebee’s. The intern glanced at the pair, empathized with them, bought their side of the tale.
“I believe they were innocent wholeheartedly,” Saintjones told me recently. “And it brought me to tears.”
Here’s the problem: They were guilty.
Judge Cleveland later chatted with her intern. “She had a conversation with me about being objective, about hearing the facts before making a decision and not letting my emotions lead me, which I thought was great advice,” Saintjones says now. “However, in that moment, being honest with myself, I liked the fact that my emotions drove me. It’s not that they were guilty or not guilty, I wanted to be somebody whose emotions drove me to action.”
Today, years after the Alabama A&M graduate was tutored in Judge Cleveland’s court, Saintjones’ emotions drive her every which way—most often away from the camera and toward actions that support, elevate and connect people throughout Huntsville. Toward those at disparate ends of the generational spectrum: Adults with decades behind them, so many they don’t recall the songs of their youth; children still budding, still discovering, still dancing to their own beats.
Saintjones, 30, is executive director of the Legacy Center, a nonprofit whose intergenerational mission fosters healing, learning, and caring among people whose journeys might not otherwise intersect, whose paths wouldn’t likely cross. People who need each other, for reasons even they may not fully comprehend.
The center offers daycare for adults at least 55 years old who are suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitive impairment. Children in daycare typically range from 4 to 12 years old. This summer, a group of African American middle- and high-school-aged males are also at the center, vulnerable young men from public housing communities who might otherwise be tempted by idleness.
“Daycare,” though, insufficiently describes what often happens at Legacy, which has been around since 2015. Deeply so. As generations converge, joining each other throughout the day for cooking classes, piano, drum, and vocal lessons, mobility sessions, and even dance (well, more athletic conditioning for the boys who didn’t quite fathom themselves pirouetting at a ballet bar), something more lifting than care happens.
The interaction unlocks something in both groups. Because of their cognitive deficiency, the adults may believe they’re volunteering at the center where they are dropped off each morning, or even working there. For them, engaging with a young person may rekindle memories, may re-ignite long-dormant synapses. For the youth, the interaction offers lessons in caring and patience and access to wisdom that might be otherwise lost to time.
“People say the older you get, the more childlike you become,” Saintjones shares. “I don’t see them as becoming more childlike. It’s more like they have the freedom to not be worried about all the things they spent their life worrying about. It’s exciting to see, to see redevelopment occur daily as they interact with the children.”
Many classes occur in the mornings when energy is high. Sometimes, after lunch, when fatigue begins to invade, an adult often becomes more forgetful, more agitated.
Saintjones calls it “sundowning”.
She tells me about a man at the center who can’t remember his daughter’s name, but knows Lily, the young girl almost always paired with him during classes. “He looks for her as soon as he walks in the door,” Saintjones says. “He wants to know where Lily is. If he’s upset and he’s sundowning, Lily knows not to go play with him until she knows he’s OK, that he’s calmed down. It’s fun seeing those bonds occur.”
The pandemic forced the center to shutter its doors for several months. Though the restrictions we all endured to slow COVID-19 did not dim the callings to caring and service embraced by those who volunteer and work at Legacy. The center, like so many entities that endured through tragedy and uncertainty, pivoted, offering much-needed staples and services throughout Huntsville’s often overlooked neighborhoods: distributing food, conducting neighborhood cleanups, meal prepping, and housecleaning for seniors.
“We’re trying to train up everybody around us,” she says, “to think of others before themselves.”
With the pandemic finally waning, the center is open again. This summer, several adults and as many as 50 young people are registered.
“We’re in full swing now,” she says. “Our house is full.”
Saintjones didn’t grow up around her grandparents. “I missed those nuggets of wisdom,” she says. Now, she is watching the many women who poured into her throughout her journey transition to new stages.
“They’re getting to an age where they’re ready to sit down, but there are so many stories of things they’ve done I don’t want people to miss,” she says. “Because we’re working with individuals who have forms of dementia, I’m afraid those stories are going to be lost—those little moments when they do remember those songs they were taught as a child.”
LEAVING TO LEARN
She was always going to leave. Leave Alabama. Leave and absorb all she could in places where people were different, where thinking was different, where affecting change was different.
Where history was different.
It’s why, after graduating from A&M in 2013, she vaulted to Washington, D.C, to American University, squashing any lingering “Matlock” dreams to study public administration. She was attracted by the institution’s diversity—not as it’s widely seen in Alabama, which is shaded mostly in black and white, but geographic diversity.
“I met some of the most wonderful people from everywhere,” she recalls.
Saintjones struggled with the administration’s apparent entrenchment against social change, radical change. “For a while, I was very jaded, not overly impressed [by leadership],” she says. “But I was very impressed by other cultures. I had never seen that before. Toward the end, you realize that there are issues and problems in all communities, and it made me retreat back into my own race, even more.”
Her second year coincided with the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement, though it was still six years before George Floyd would be murdered beneath Derek Chauvin’s knee. There was no heightened racial tension at American but change was brewing and Saintjones—no surprise—wanted to be a convener and catalyst.
She was surprised when university president Dr. Cornelius Kerwin allowed her to bring local community organizers to campus to “teach us how to express what we’re feeling, and a constructive way,” she recalls. “How to learn from those who had done it in the past.” To understand and articulate desired outcomes and follow up on demands.
She was stunned when Kerwin and the university provost joined the students at the sessions. “I’d never seen students and an administration working together to try to evoke changes,” she says.
HOMEBOUND
Saintjones was always going to come back, too. Come back to Alabama, to Huntsville, armed with what was gleaned and absorbed out there. Armed to address the myriad ills in her home state, as did William Hooper Councill, the once-enslaved founder of her alma mater .
The institution is built on grounds once inhabited by the Green Bottom Inn , where Councill, his mother, and brothers were sold on an auction block in 1857. Eighteen years later, after escaping his owners, after gaining an education, after teaching, after serving in the Alabama Legislature, Councill returned to Huntsville and founded the State Normal School for Negroes—now Alabama A&M University.
“What makes me so proud of him,” Saintjones says, “is he came back to build an institution of higher learning on land where he was sold into slavery.”
She was always going to come back to where she was queen .
Jerome and Marilyn Saintjones didn’t want their daughter to compete for Miss A&M because they both worked at the institution—Jerome in the office of marketing and public relations, Marilyn in graduate admissions.
Their daughter was frankly more interested in being student body president. Besides, the annual Miss A&M competition is typically held during the spring semester and in 2011, Saintjones didn’t quite have enough credits to qualify. After the devastating tornado outbreak that crushed north Alabama and parts of Huntsville on April 27, 2011 , A&M shut down early, pushing the campaign into the fall. During the summer, SaintJones earned the necessary credits.
Still, Saintjones didn’t think she’d win. “I was not popular,” she says. “I was known but not popular. I was involved in a lot of things, but I wasn’t who was slated to win, who was expected to win.”
What she lacked in popularity (or thought she lacked), Saintjones more than countered with her calling for service and a strategy for collaboration she still embodies.
“Students don’t really know everyone running, many vote because, ‘I know you’ or, ‘You look pretty’ or ‘You’re popular’,” she says. “I was trying to push substance into that thinking. That was the goal.”
Her motto, not surprisingly, was “service and sovereignty.” She wanted to build bridges to areas of Huntsville she believed were disconnected from the institution, and to alums, a relationship she believed was “strained.”
“I wanted to try to repair that,” she says.
She invited every organization with which she’d been involved to join her. With donations, she provided breakfast in every dorm on separate mornings. She invited the Boys and Girls Club to have a service day on campus. “We had an event every day,” she says. “The Omegas barbecued, the Kappas hosted a carwash and marched for me in the parade. We had a great time.
“We felt like we won before I even got the title .”
Because the victory was in the lesson: “I learned you don’t have to have a title to get things done. If your heart is in the right place and you really want to see things happen, and you’re doing it for people together, just do it. You don’t need a title.
“Titles can be distracting because you have to focus on maintaining perceptions, instead of focusing on the work. And that’s all I really want to do. “
CONVENING AND COLLABORATING
Chatter in some political corners of Huntsville is that Morgan Saintjones is a name to remember. She returned to the state with a passion for changing communities and conversations, armed with lessons learned at the feet of community organizers from the nation’s capital.
For a time, she was at Auburn, training economic development leaders and county managers statewide, including many now working in Madison County.
She originally returned to Huntsville to help her good friend Chanda Crutcher, who founded the Legacy Center in 2015 and, well, has seven children, and is a licensed pastor and CEO of her company, American Senior Assistance Program (ASAP). “She was just stretched beyond reason,” says Saintjones, who shuttled Crutcher’s children every which way.
Ultimately, Crutcher asked Saintjones to join Legacy as program director. She was named Executive Director this past March.
In her hometown, Saintjones has convened local political, community, and faith leaders for difficult, yet needed discussions.
“My goal is to facilitate the conversations that need to happen,” she says,
At some sessions, she invites leaders to attend, but not speak. Hard to imagine how difficult that is for an elected official.
“The gift of listening is sometimes lost,” she says. “Though some of them may have valued that they didn’t have to prepare; they only came to absorb.”
One intriguing encounter occurred last year, amid the furnace that was the national debate over monuments honoring the Confederacy. The one in downtown Huntsville was a source of contentious debate—publicly and privately. Saintjones convened stakeholders at a local church for free and open discussions, broken into groups, in separate rooms. Some leaders were told to come later so early participants felt safe to speak freely without concern for who was in the room.
Confederate monument in Huntsville removed overnight
A festive group of about 30 people cheered as the monument was removed after 1 a.m.
“Absolutely one of the funniest things that happened was this,” Saintjones recalls. “We had a legislative group and a city governance group. To get to the city governance room, you had to walk through the legislative room. [Huntsville mayor] Tommy Battle came in on his way to the city governance room while Representative [Anthony] Daniels was in the middle of saying a lot, like, ‘We just need to burn it down.’ Mayor Battle said, ‘Wow, that’s not a very productive thing.’ Daniels said: “Go to your own room, you’re not supposed to be speaking yet.”
She’s heard the political chatter, too.
“I don’t know,” she told me. “I go back and forth.”
She’s working to earn a doctorate in public administration, working part-time. “I feel the need to be fully immersed in it full-time,” she confesses. “I’m still in the learning posture.”
In the meantime, she will continue to care and convene. “If I can plan and create experiences for others to enjoy, experiences that create some kind of change,” she says. “Even it’s just helping someone have a better day—that’s all I want.”
WHEELCHAIR UNBOUND
The first time I spoke with Saintjones a few weeks ago, the woman, a Legacy regular, had just passed. When Saintjones first met her, the woman was confined to a wheelchair. She could barely speak, barely hold her head up. Legacy workers consistently worked with her during physical therapy. She was in the room when children were about, yet often she was not.
One day she was in the center’s new community kitchen as the seniors helped prepare lunch. Without warning, she rose from the chair and began to walk.
“I’d never seen her walk before, and it shocked me,” Saintjones says. “That’s one of my happiest days at Legacy. She used to wear a robe—every day. That day she said, ‘Oh I don’t want to wear this robe today.’ She was funny, she had jokes. For her husband to pick her up and see her that way, it really felt like God blessed us with the opportunity to see a glimpse of what she had been.”
Not long after, the woman took a sudden fateful turn.
“I’m just now starting to experience these heartaches that people have been working in the senior community have been dealing with for a long time,” Saintjones said. “Our goal is to try to make sure it doesn’t take someone my age to realize how important it is to pay attention to your grandmother and your grandfather. We try to teach our kids to do that now.”
No matter which direction the camera is pointing.
A voice for what’s right and wrong in Birmingham, Alabama (and beyond), and a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary, Roy’s column appears in The Birmingham News and AL.com , as well as in the Huntsville Times, the Mobile Register. Reach him at [email protected] and follow him at twitter.com/roysj
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