Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 10
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
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“An Inspired Vision”: Princeton Merchants, Community to Celebrate Einstein on Pi Day

Dilshanie Perera

Albert Einstein’s birthday party is this weekend, and the whole community is invited. Sunday, March 14 marks Princeton’s most well-known celebrity’s date of birth, as well as a day beloved by mathematicians, since 3.14 are the first digits of the irrational number pi.

Princeton Pi Day promises to be a community-wide celebration, with many merchants in the downtown and Shopping Center getting involved by offering discounts and events in their stores. The public library will be offering special programming. Public space in town will be the site of various activities.

For instance, a pie throwing event will take place at precisely 3:14 p.m. at the Palmer Square Green, with proceeds to be donated to the public library. Interactive science experiments hosted by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory will take place at 1:59 p.m. in the library’s Community Room.

The brainchild of Princeton Tour Company founder and local history enthusiast Mimi Omiecinski, Pi Day was characterized as a way to promote local business, sponsor an event for residents and visitors, support the public library, and tell Einstein’s story in all of its rich historical detail.

Having assembled various Einstein tidbits from books and oral histories for her tours, Ms. Omiecinski realized that a large-scale community event could be an excellent venue through which to share his story. She took her idea to local business owners and the library staff, all of whom were delighted by it. “The merchants have really taken this on, in a way that only they can,” she noted.

Local merchants have also been a key source for obtaining Einstein anecdotes. Landau’s on Nassau Street has an Einstein Museum in the back of the store, with Ms. Omiecinski finding out from the store owners that Einstein never really learned how to count change, and became anxious about money. Having developed a rapport with local merchants at the time, he was allowed to take goods home and have a bill mailed to him later.

Mr. Hulit once showed up at 112 Mercer Street to find Einstein barefoot at the door, with tracings of his feet indicating the places where they hurt. “That’s how he was outfitted with shoes,” Ms. Omiecinski reported, adding that Lahiere’s disclosed that Einstein would order the roast chicken and roast vegetables when he dined there, and the Nassau Inn revealed that he would take tea there at 4 p.m.

Einstein also aligned himself with Princeton’s African American community’s struggle for civil rights. A close friend of Paul Robeson, he used his celebrity to promote the cause.

President of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA) Mark Censits called Pi Day “an inspired vision,” and something that is aligned with the PMA’s goals of spurring area business, which “I’ve been looking at from two perspectives: How do we work with members? And how do we communicate what Princeton has to offer to citizens, shoppers, visitors, and diners?”

Ms. Omiecinski noted that “there are people in town who remember Einstein, what it was like to see him and talk to him.” Being able to preserve the insights from those oral histories is important, she emphasized.

History arrives in other forms, too. Ms. Omiecinski reported that someone recently left an envelope with a diary in it on her front stairs with a note saying “my aunt was the last girlfriend of Einstein.”

Pi Day festivities kick off on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library with a pie judging contest and pi recitation challenge. Many businesses, restaurants, and service providers in the downtown and Shopping Center are slated to participate in the celebration as well.

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