More than 1,000 people enjoyed a Mother’s Day full of feathers, frolicking and fun at the Friends of the Public Garden’s annual Duckling Day event, presented in partnership with the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department. Duckling Day celebrates the classic children’s book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. Children, many dressed up in duckling garb, enjoyed a morning of family-friendly activities followed by a reading of the book before joining a spirited parade through the Boston Common and Public Garden, led by the Harvard University Marching Band.
“It is heartwarming to meet families enjoying Duckling Day and hear thoughts from first-time participants as well as people attending because it has been a family tradition for several generations,” said Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director of the Friends of the Public Garden. “We appreciate how much enthusiasm people express for this event as well as for our mission to care for the parks where it is held.”
Rhondella Richardson of WCVB Channel 5 News was the emcee of the event, kicking off festivities at Parkman bandstand on Boston Common. Little ducklings waddled from one activity to the next while enjoying a day in America’s first public park. Moms were treated to mini massages. Little ones decorated Mother’s Day cards using stamps crafted from carved fruits and vegetables at the Whole Foods sponsored booth; enjoyed performances by Jenny the Juggler and Peter the Magician; were entertained by puppet shows; got their faces painted; walked a tightrope set up by Esh Circus Arts; and had their photos taken with duck mascot Kilroy who was on loan from Boston Duck Tours. Boston Duck Tours also donated “quacking” sound makers for attendees. Not only did children dress the part; thanks to Boston Duck Tours they sounded it too!
Following the much-anticipated reading of Make Way for Ducklings by Wheelock Family Theater with the historic Parkman Bandstand as the backdrop, Elizabeth Vizza and Mayor Martin J. Walsh greeted the crowd before directing everyone to line up for the parade. Little feet, big feet, and quite a few feet that appeared to be duck feet paraded behind the Harvard Band through the Common and into the Garden, ending near the Ducklings statue to enjoy a few final songs before wandering off for a picnic or other family activity. .
The Motor Mart Garage was the lead sponsor of Duckling Day. Cambridge Trust and Boston Parents Paper were also sponsors. Proceeds from the event support the Friends of the Public Garden, a non-profit citizen’s advocacy group formed in 1970 to preserve and enhance the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall in collaboration with the Mayor and the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Boston. A model public-private partnership and the first in the region, the Friends membership is open to all and numbers over 2,500. For more information visit www.friendsofthepublicgarden.org.
More than a dozen people have recently taken a very special interest in the Public Garden and have been studying this iconic greenspace for hours on end. What they are learning about America’s first public botanical garden is not for a class or research for a book. This studious bunch is the inaugural group of volunteer docents of the Friends of the Public Garden that will be serving as guides for a new tour program.
Walking a route that encompasses the northern half of the Garden, tour participants will gain a deeper understanding of the Garden’s special place in the history of Boston and the country. Hour-long tours will include interesting facts and anecdotes about history, horticulture, and sculpture. Casual visitors of the area are likely to find a new appreciation of its significance and neighbors who use it frequently are likely to discover at least a thing or two that might surprise them.
Docents have spent many volunteer hours learning about the Garden and working to craft their tours. In February, their training began with a Friends-sponsored lecture, Searching for the Histories of the Boston Public Garden by Boston University Professor Keith Morgan, held at Suffolk University. Friends President Emeritus Henry Lee gave a talk at the Friends office that traced the Garden’s history as well as the founding of the organization and highlights from its 45 year work in caring for the Garden in partnership with the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. Additional information sessions included trees and plantings by Friends Project Manager Bob Mulcahy; the history of the Swan Boats by fourth generation owner Lyn Paget; and the Garden’s sculpture including the Friends sculpture care program by Friends Collections Care Manager Sarah Hutt.
The group also attended two special training sessions. The first (pictured above) took place at the City’s greenhouses, where the City’s Superintendent of Horticulture, Anthony Hennessy and his team hosted the group. On an unseasonably cold day in March, docents were delighted to shed their coats in the 80-degree warmth of the greenhouses to learn about the plantings that would be in the Garden, and throughout the city, in the weeks to follow.
Volunteers were visibly enthralled as Anthony announced, “Right now, there are 35,000 tulips waiting to burst into bloom once the snow melts; most beds have 500 tulips, but the “footbeds” surrounding George Washington have 3500-4000 tulips in them.”
The second session was a guided tour of the Public Garden by Bobby Moore, longtime member of the Friends board and chair of the Public Garden Committee, who also owned a tour company and is an experienced guide. She recalled the years when she would take her toddler-aged children for walks through the Garden, a short stroll from her Beacon Hill home. Moore’s deep love of the Garden was palpable as she shared stories of the poor condition of the Garden in the1970s. Moore told the docents about broken fences and large amounts of litter, and of the important work of the Friends through the years to improve the Garden to where it is today.
Sidney Kenyon of Beacon Hill and Sherley Smith of the Back Bay are champions of the new docent program. They are committed volunteers with a deep love of the Public Garden. In their leadership roles, they are coordinating this inaugural class of volunteer docents that will be guiding groups throughout the summer in teams of two. The guides are eager to share what they have learned with others interested in gaining a deeper knowledge and appreciation of Boston’s special and most iconic greenspace, the Public Garden.
On February 4, the Friends will present, “Searching for the Histories of Boston’s Public Garden,” a lecture by Boston University Professor Keith N. Morgan. It will be a fascinating exploration of the origin of America’s first public botanical garden, the changes it has gone through, and the importance of the garden and its contents today. Need more convincing? Here are five reasons you should attend Keith Morgan’s lecture:
There is much more to the history of Boston’s Public Garden than you might think. Did you know that the beautiful botanical garden almost didn’t exist? The space was nearly approved for residential buildings.
The pictures you have taken of the trees, ducklings, bridge, and plantings are, well, more than just pretty pictures. Learn stories behind of some of Boston’s most photographed scenes, like the famous books and art inspired by the Public Garden, including Robert McCloskey famous children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings” and Maurice Prendergast’s immense collection of sketches of the Public Garden.
Hear about this journey of this historic place through time from a passionate historian. The bridge we now love was criticized when it was first built, Henry James calling it “exaggerated.”
Was the Public Garden under water before it was the Public Garden? View historical maps to find out what Boston looked like as the Public Garden came to be. Hint: The stories of finding shells beneath the surface are no urban legend!
This lecture is great way to be entertained while learning about the historic city of Boston, and celebrating one of its prized gems – the one, the only, the original Public Garden. Keith N. Morgan has He has over 30 years of experience teaching History of Art and Architecture at Boston University. He has served as the Director of Preservation Studies, the Director of American and New England Studies, and the Chairman of the Art History Department. He is a former national president of the Society of Architectural Historians, as well as a noted author of various publications on art and architecture.
The Friends of Public Garden Young Friends group gathered at Abby Lane on December 9 to celebrate the finale of the “Frame the Garden” project. For two months, visitors to the Public Garden delighted in taking framed photos of breathtaking vistas, themselves, friends, and even a sizable canine or two that was hoisted up to take part in the unique photo opportunity. Hundreds shared pictures on social media with the tag #FOPG and many gushed about enjoying the frames and thanked the Friends for providing them, and for caring for the Garden.
The Young Friends supported this initiative to promote the beauty of the Public Garden, engage visitors, and raise awareness about the park stewardship role that the Friends play. The frame theme crossed over from the Garden to the finale event with a display of photos from Instagram, a frame of a smaller scale that was used by party goers to frame their photos with friends that evening, and a signature cocktail coined “Frame the Garden,” a lush green concoction served in a martini glass. Proceeds from the event supported the project and the Friends work to enhance and preserve the Public Garden, Boston Common, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
It is hard to believe that we will be bidding 2014 farewell in just a few days. As I reflect on the year, I am so grateful to my fellow Board members, our wonderful Members, volunteers, donors, and our terrific Executive Director and staff. Your efforts and support are noticed, needed, and much appreciated. Bravo to all.
This year of the Friends will be remembered for many things, perhaps most notably for the completion of the most ambitious project we have ever taken on, the multi-year rejuvenation of Brewer Fountain Plaza and the surrounding parkland on Boston Common. This $4 million investment by the Friends was made possible by contributions from more than 260 individuals, corporations and foundations. We capped this project off in November, somewhat literally, with the installation of cast iron fencing at the edge of the Common near Park Street. The historic fence had been missing since 1895! Now, our role will be one of ongoing stewardship of this area in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department. It is such a pleasure to see people enjoying this renewed area of the Common and to know that our work will continue to be appreciated by them and generations to follow.
As we celebrate this holiday season, we were thrilled to bring you sounds of the season by hosting several hand bell performances in our parks by the popular Back Bay Ringers. We hope you were able to take a moment to stop by and enjoy the music.
We are so very fortunate to have supporters that truly love our parks and our mission to preserve and enhance them. If you have not renewed your membership, please remember to do so by the end of the year; we need you and our parks need you. Please also introduce us to your friends that may be interested in learning more about our work and joining us in supporting it.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year.
The Friends will be hosting three performances by the popular handbell ensemble Back Bay Ringers this holiday season. Enjoy sounds of the season in historic Boston parks with Friends.
We hope to see you there!
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. (weather permitting)
Tuesday, December 2 – Boston Common’s Brewer Fountain Plaza
Tuesday, December 9 – Boston Common near the Charles and Beacon corner
Tuesday, December 16 – Commonwealth Avenue Mall near Arlington Street