By Merle Exit
Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery is celebrating the end of summer with music, art and literature.
There are many events scheduled through the end of September, beginning with a free live concert featuring singer Mariel Pacific, with Naoko Aita accompanying her on the piano Saturday at 6 p.m. at 127-15 Kew Gardens Road in Kew Gardens.
Friends of Maple Grove historian Carl Ballenas said that the concert is dedicated to all the great singers who are found at Maple Grove, including one who will receive a direct tribute, Kyle Jean Baptist. “[He] came to Maple Grove at the age of 21. He was an incredible singer and achieved great heights in his short life,” Ballenas said. “He was the first African-American actor and singer and the youngest performer take on the role of Jean Valjean in ‘Les Miserables’ on Broadway. In his honor Mariel will sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from that Broadway show.”
The cemetery will also mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Ballenas said there are many World War I veterans at Maple Grove, with some who also served in the War of 1812.
“Mariel will be singing ‘Requiem for a Soldier’ to honor all those in the military who are now at Maple Grove. Capt. Chris Kraft is an honored guest and has been asked to come and stand by Mariel as she sings this song. Capt. Kraft was one of the first Red Cross volunteers to aid first responders at ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks.”
A reception and light refreshments will follow the concert. To RSVP for the event, contact info@
The World War I Centennial Exhibit is presently on view at the center. The exhibit includes photographs, books, letters and other artifacts related to the soldiers who fought in the Great War, as well as some who died.
Along with the exhibit comes Spirts Alive, a self-guided walking tour with more than 20 actors in period costumes portraying the roles of the cemetery’s most illustrious and historical figures. The actors will be recounting tales of their lives through speeches and memories that include some new discoveries. Also included is a ceremony for the unveiling of a new monument dedicated to then 4-year-old Alfio Manninici, who died at Ellis Island. His niece, Judge Gloria Coco, wrote a one woman show, “Finding Uncle Alfio,” which was performed at the cemetery in June.
“This is the one day a year that many of the notables at Maple Grove will be able to tell their story through these remarkable actors,” Ballenas said. “Every year we make wonderful discoveries of people at Maple Grove and write scripts for the actors to tell their story. Since this is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we have a number of the actors portraying veterans from the war who will talk about their experiences overseas.”
The free event will be hosted Saturday, Sept. 29, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The entrance to this event is located at Kew Gardens Road and Lefferts Boulevard. Visitors are encouraged to wear period costumes just for the fun of it.
Also on the ledger is the Kew Gardens Art Fair, which is planned for Sept. 30 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lefferts Boulevard and Austin Street. Guests can expect various crafts, art and jewelry to be on sale as music performed by local musicians fills the air from 12:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in the Cinema Courtyard next to the Post Office on Austin Street.
Then head on over to the Kew and Willow Book Shop — located at 81-63 Lefferts Blvd. — for Literary Sunday, as poet Sherese Francis and fiction writer Joe Okonkwo will read excerpts from their latest work. The event is free to attend, and those interested in attending are asked to RSVP at maple