Dot Day is our day to shine

“The town is populous, tho’ not large, the streets broad, but the buildings old, and low; however, there is good company and a good deal of it; and a man that coveted a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend his time, and as well in Dorchester, as in any town I know in England”. - Daniel Defoe, in his “A tour thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-1726)”.

All roads lead to Dorchester this weekend — Dorchester, Massachusetts, that is.

This Sunday is Dorchester Day 2011, a day which commemorates the settlement of this community in 1630 by a boatload of English men and women who were emigrating from villages in southwest England.

These pilgrims were seeking religious freedom, traveling from Dorchester, England, a market town settled on the banks of the River Frome in Dorset county. These first Puritan settlers, gathered by a local religious leader John White, were among the first to arrive and colonize in America. Indeed the town of Dorchester was actually settled several weeks before the town of Boston.

As those first émigrés found a safe and welcome home here, so has Dorchester become home to generations of immigrants from nearly every quarter. Throughout the last century and a half, our Dorchester offered safe haven for immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Poland, and more recently from Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Carribean islands. Dorchester has truly been a prototypical American melting pot, with a large and diverse population, a place that has welcomed people from many and varied roots.

And so it is this Sunday that thousands will join their neighbors new and old to gather along Dorchester Avenue- our main street, best know to us locals as Dot Ave.- for a celebratory parade that starts off at 1 p.m. in Lower Mills and heads north straight across our town to Columbia Road. A core group of volunteers— many of whom work year-round to organize and raise funds for the effort— make it possible, along with critical assistance from the City of Boston. Dot Day Sunday has become one big reunion: friends and family know to gather at the same spot along the avenue year in and year out, and after the parade passes, there will be multiple open houses and cookouts in every neighborhood.

Folks who moved to the suburbs come home to spend time and reminisce with old friends, telling stories of happy bygone times and reconnecting for themselves, their children and grandchildren with our Dorchester. And the real beauty of this parade route is that it passes through so many of our neighborhoods- Lower Mills, Ashmont, Fields Corner, Glover’s Corner, Savin Hill- it’s easy for everyone to get out and with just a short walk find an optimal viewing place.

Many old friends have found a new way to stay in touch on the social media Facebook, where an active group page has formed in the past year called “OFD (Originally from Dorchester.)” It is an “open group,” and anyone can join. At last visit this week, the group counts 3,943 members and averages dozens of posts every day.

If you’re a FB member, a visit to the OFD page can be a delight. The Reporter also maintains our own busy FB page, in which we post links to many of our weekly features and photos that are also available at our online home, DotNews.com

Happy Dot Day, one and all! See you on the ave!