Each Sunday night at 5 PM, on a Wilmington street named for a southern flower, a few neighbors gather outside their houses for the big show. Children, parents, grandparents, and even some college students sit or stand at social distances for a new way to stay connected.
"Alright, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third weekly talent show of Camellia Drive… "
Most people perch at the edge of their property. Some stand in the street. A few are enjoying adult beverages. Since this event takes place near the bend in the road, cars coming through – easily less than half a dozen on this particular evening – are forced to carefully creep by.
"Our first performer is Eve ... and she has written a song this week… give it up for Eve!"
Eve, a tiny blonde preschooler, is wearing black high tops, a black tutu with a bright pink belt, and a black and white polka-dotted tank top.
Patty Baker is serving as Mistress of Ceremonies.
"Nancy, that lives right there – Eve – right here – she, at her preschool, they do a sock hop every year and she was so sad because she wasn’t going to be able to perform because schools closed. So she said, well, why don’t we do it for the neighborhood? So we just decided to do it every Sunday at 5 o’clock."
This talent show is not a competition. Each performer gets thunderous encouragement from the audience.
[EARLY AND JUNIPER PLAYING UKULELES]
The talents displayed this night on Camellia Drive are not just musical.
PB: Mr. Wiley…
That’s Wiley Cash, a bestselling fiction writer, whose kids we just heard playing their ukuleles.
WC: Once upon a time three robbers decided they were going to break into a store…
His joke is family-friendly and actually, quite funny.
WC: I’ll be here all week!!! Literally!!!
Up next, another tiny person in a large orange baseball cap playing harmonica. He stands with his parents, shyly facing them, away from the street – where someone has scrawled in large chalk letters,
“THANKFUL FOR AWESOME NEIGHBORS”.
Another adult steps up with this:
The emcee herself sings The Girl From Camellia Street – with musical assists from Early and Juniper Cash on the ukuleles and Eve on the tambourine:
PB: Tall and tan young and lovely the girl from Camellia Street…
There are gymnastics and cheers, and then Mallory Cash drops this:
"Wiley and I have a special talent of making people and four years ago yesterday we made this person, so I didn't know if we could maybe sing Happy Birthday?"
[crowd sings happy birthday]
People talk about what they might perform next week on Camellia Drive – but no matter the act -- the real talent on display is one local community finding a new way to stay close -- and making the time and space to do it.
And that joke that Wiley Cash tells, well, listen for yourself here: