Huntsville Alabama is a city located in North Alabama in Madison County. As of 2014, the total population of the city was 441,000 (Hamilton 5). Furthermore, the town is situated at the Tennessee River and has an area of 543.9 square kilometers (Jensen 4). Moreover, it is surrounded by hills and the Cumberland Plateau locally known as mountains. The integrated border parts of the city include Athens to the northwest, Triana to the south, Owens Cross Roads to the south-east, and Decatur to the south-west.
On reaching Huntsville, I was lucky to discover that there was an upcoming annual event where the study would be based. The Mardi Gras cultural festival is a cultural event attended by hundreds of people who participate while wearing masks and costumes. For instance, the masks take the shapes of animals and fairies while other people were wearing creations of feathers (Chen, Han & Imran Rahman 155). From the observations made, the costumes were unlike Halloween costumery which is associated with zombies, blood and bats. Furthermore, women were seen showing their breasts, a tradition that has been in existence since 1889 as one of the participants explained. Moreover, there were marching bands, parades, and other festivities and a lot of beads are displayed for the public to see and purchase (Sanders 24). The streets were full of color, but I was informed that less nudity was seen that day as compared to the past years.
My research primarily through observation and interviewing several people during the occasion. The most significant question was inquiring about the influence of the United States Space and Rocket center on the culture of that region. The cultural event takes place for two weeks; therefore, I would make my observations and field work for several days until I was satisfied. During the first days, I joined the people during the daily parades. However, the largest of these parades took place during the last five days of the cultural activity (de Jong 12). These parades were properly organized by social clubs locally referred to as krewes who must follow a similar schedule and route every year. As a stranger, that is one of the most exciting events I have ever attended. The day is to be remembered for fun and comic squandering. I observed that all people wound bond freely irrespective of the gender, age or race. Human bodies were seen with heads of beasts, birds, snakes, among other animals (Smith 28). Furthermore, there were specific colors that were commonly addressed which included green, purple, and gold. I also discovered that the people had inexpensive glass and plastic beads which they mostly threw at the parade-goers.
I took the opportunity to engage with several people especially the elderly who were well-familiar with the traditions and who knew about the U.S Space and Rocket Center. I asked different people about their views on how the culture of the people of Huntsville transformed since the camp was set up. Five of the participants were adults in 1970 when the Rocket center was opened and therefore were aware of what has changed over time. First, Huntsville became an art center, and an organization was formed to support community engagement in reinforcing their art and economic development. The information received during the study was that the German Rocket team that came to Huntsville in 1950 initiated the culture of art (Goff 5). The rocket scientists also founded the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra.
I was also informed that currently there is a boom in artistic opportunities and the state hosts one of the largest art centers in the United States. The Lowe Mill Arts is several miles from the Rocket Center and has over two hundred artists and 129 public studios. Moreover, a museum, Huntsville Museum of Art, was founded where artists in the state showcase their work nationally and regionally (Nunnally 23). The participants in my research explained to me that participation in the Huntsville museum day is open to everybody on a voluntary basis. Additionally, in the spirit of innovation, many citizens and tourists participate in the exhibit challenge after visiting the museums in the space camp.
From the research, I was informed that the presence of the Rocket center initiated the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation (Ross-Nazzal 3). For instance, the Cummings Research Park, which is one of the largest research parks in the United States, was built near the Rocket Center and focusses majorly on science and technology (Billings 249). For instance, I was informed that the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology is a non-profit organization built as a center of research regarding matters of human health and well-being. Many people are now focusing on economic development and finding ways of nurturing the next generations on issues regarding biotechnology and entrepreneurship. Therefore, the culture of invention is continuing to grow at a high rate. In fact, since 2006, the downtown area of the city has grown steadily, and the town is economically sustainable. I observed that there were new shopping areas, restaurant, and other entertainment venues in the residential space, therefore, the natives are engaged in business culture.
According to my research, the United States Space and Rocket center has initiated several cultural events. As narrated by the participants, the events include Alien Worlds and Android and Saturday scientist. The Saturday Scientists is a cultural event held every second Saturday of every month where the activities performed are recommended for children of ages between six and nine. On the other hand, I was informed that the Alien Worlds and Android is an exhibit attended mostly by scientists with the aim of searching for the presence of alien life on earth. Most people appreciate the culture of science, and they go to observe excellent showcases regarding the subject taking place in organizations such as NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After visiting the museum during one of the events, I was enlightened about the influence of science on reality. There were nine themed galleries, and one takes a stimulated journey on the Mars rover.
To sum up, my ethnography was completed by first visiting the Huntsville city in Alabama where I studied the geography and setting of the area. Later I joined the locals in their cultural event, the Mardi Gras, where marching bands entertained the rest. The people of Huntsville have value glass and plastic, and the ceremony was very colorful. I took the opportunity to observe how they conducted their activities. I also engaged several older adults in discussions regarding the history of Huntsville and the setting up of the U.S Space and Rocket center. I discovered that the center has led to more cultural developments in the area. For instance, the Germans built a museum in the area where most people go to showcase their exhibits. Moreover, I observed that more people had adopted the culture of economic development by building restaurants, and shops, among other entities.
Billings, Linda. "How shall we live in space? Culture, law and ethics in space faring society." Space Policy 22.4 (2006): 249-255. Web.
Chen, Han, and Imran Rahman. "Cultural tourism: An analysis of engagement, cultural contact, memorable tourism experience and destination loyalty." Tourism management perspectives 26 (2018): 153-163.
de Jong, Anna. "Rethinking festivals through return journeys to Mardi Gras: unbounding, performing & embodying." (2015).
Goff, Leslie. "What it's like to work at...U.S. space and rocket center." Computerworld. N.p., 2018. Web. 17 Oct. 2018.
Hamilton, John. Alabama. ABDO, 2016.
Jensen, John B. "Surveys for the Alabama Map Turtle (Graptemys pulchra) in the Coosa River, Georgia." Georgia Journal of Science 74.2 (2016): 4.
Nunnally, Thomas, ed. Speaking of Alabama: The History, Diversity, Function, and Change of Language. University of Alabama Press, 2018.
Ross-Nazzal, J. Lucid, S. Lane, H. Social, Cultural, and Educational Legacies, 2012.
Sanders, Mia. "Out of the bars and into the streets! The radical history of Mardi Gras." Green Left Weekly 1127 (2017): 24.
Smith, Mel. "MARDI GRAS celebrations." Education 98.1 (2017): 28.
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