--- Issued May 29, 2013

The Housing Authority of the City of Erie went all out this year to celebrate its 75th anniversary, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, and the “Gardens of Public Housing,” with a very unique float in the Perry 200 Parade held on May 25.

The float, a rolling cottage/house with flowers painted on its sides, represented not only the “Gardens of Public Housing” theme, but also the credo of the Erie Housing Authority – “It’s About People.”  Every bit as much a part of the float as the painted flowers and the lumber that comprised it were the people on it – 20 youngsters, ages 7 to 13, dressed as flowers, with brown leggings as stems, green body suits as leaves, and huge flower-hats of every color and color combination as blooming flowers.

For more photos, click HERE.

The “Gardens of Public Housing” theme related to the Authority’s annual garden contests, held since 1977 (although the Authority has photos of gardens in its archives dating to 1955).

The Authority provides seeds and rakes, shovels, and other gardening equipment for the contests, but for the most part, residents and contest winners do it all on their own with little help and fanfare.  The contest encourages residents of public housing to take pride in their neighborhood through flower and vegetable gardening, and encourages them to grow food for their dinner tables. In 2012, over 200 public housing families participated. A $50 gift certificate is awarded for first prize in each of two categories -- flowers and vegetables.   Judging occurs in June, August, and October.

“It was the ‘living flower-children’ representing our public housing gardens who really made our float special and set it apart from all the other entries in the parade,” said John E. Horan, executive director of the Erie Housing Authority.  “This was without a doubt the biggest endeavor of it’s kind we at the Authority have every undertaken.  About 30 employees and friends of the Housing Authority volunteered to build the float and make the costumes for the children.”

Volunteers included managers, directors, maintenance employees and supervisors, clerks, administrators, and friends of the Authority.  Husbands and wives of all of the above participated.  “Everyone, across the board, up and down, was involved in designing the float, building it, and making costumes for the children,” Horan said. “I’ve never seen such participation.  Hundreds of volunteer man-hours were tallied.”

The Housing Authority is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2013, and the float was part of that celebration. The Erie Housing Authority is the oldest Authority in Erie, and one of the oldest housing authorities in the country.

The float drew the attention of Erie residents and former Erie residents alike, including one woman who wrote, “My name is Emily Pasi and I am the Marketing Coordinator for Professional Development at NAHRO (National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials) in D.C. I was born and raised in Erie and happened to pop home for a visit this weekend. I wanted to drop you a note and say that the housing authority’s float in the Bicentennial Parade was beautiful. A great display for affordable housing! I also liked the flower seeds that were given out (by children from the back of the float). I took two packets so I could show some of the staff in the office what positive outreach the agency is doing. Congratulations again on an awesome float!"

Pasi gave photos of the HACE float entry to Sylvia Gimenez, Managing Editor, the Journal of Housing and Community Development.  The Journal is published by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), in Washington, D.C.  Gimenez wrote from Washington, “I would love to publish one or both of the photos and some information about the event in the forthcoming Journal.”

The bimonthly Journal is available as a NAHRO member-benefit or as a subscription magazine.  It is the only periodical devoted exclusively to the affordable housing and community development field, featuring articles on all aspects of the industry, including legislation and advocacy, finance, international HCD initiatives, green building, maintenance and administration, as well as semi-regular columns from various industry leaders.

More than 10,000 people from about 200 entries participated in the Perry 200 parade, held under sunny skies, breezy conditions and temperatures in the 50s.

Thousands of spectators stacked 10 to 12 rows deep lined both sides of West 12th Street from Cherry Street, where the parade began, to Fourth and State streets, where it ended.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett served as the parade's grand marshal.