My earliest recollections of coming to Harrybrooke Park as a child revolve around three things.
I loved feeding the fish in the pond.
I loved burning my butt on the "giant" slide.
And above all else, it was the coolest thing to see the peacocks. They seemed to be from another planet and where else could a young boy in the 70's get to see such a magnificent animal? Maybe on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom if I was lucky enough to catch that episode, or in an encyclopedia. But we weren't going to the zoo too often and certain no one had them in their yard in my neighborhood.
In the coming days we will be announcing the "Welcome Home" party for the peacocks as they strut their way back into Harrybrooke Park. Yes, they ARE coming BACK in May.
I am having a hard time putting it into words what this means, personally, let alone what it means for the park or for the community of New Milford. I think the word is nostalgia.
"Can we go see the peacocks?" was question asked by so many children for years. The word peacock heard throughout my life was always synonymous with Harrybrooke and frankly still is. This memory is so deeply rooted in so many of our childhoods that it was one of the first things I lobbied the board for when I first started working here over three years ago. These birds are so very important to us and I began to question why, and why they ever left.
Ok, so to see something so rare to our area was pretty special right? It'd be like seeing an elephant or a kangaroo in the park today. That might actually freak me out a little. Peacocks are elegant. Peacocks are so unique and beautiful that they fee regal and majestic. They had had such impact throughout history all over the world. In Greco-Roman mythology the peacock tail has the "eyes" of the stars. In Hinduism, the peacock is associated with Lakshmi who represents patience, kindness and luck. In Persia the peacock is seen as a guardian to royalty, and is often seen in engravings upon their thrones. In Christianity the peacock represents the "all-seeing" church. So the Hardens who gave us Harrybrooke Park may not have been royalty, but in doing the research were connected to such royalty in Ireland and certain come from opulence which translates, in this case, to the peacock.
For me, it was a bit of a quest and responsibility. I felt as if I owed it to the next generation, and all of those within the last 30 years, to allow them the same opportunity that we had so long ago.
I researched the board of managers' notes and cannot see any discussion of them being sick, or dying off. It appears as though they had lived their life here and when they died, the board (at the time) expected the concept to die with them. That is certainly not the case.
As I mentioned I have been here for over three years now (which feels unreal, I still feel so new here) and people ask me at least 3-4 times per week when they are coming back.
The current Board of Managers for the park, I have to say has been quite understanding to what the public wants. So we are cleaning the peacock shed, built a new cage and are well on our way to preparing their new home. The size and security of the enclosure should be sufficient for them to have space. I will be picking them up from a family man who has raised them his whole life in PA. And yes it's a "them" as we are bringing a mated pair.
Then we had to decide what to call them. They do need names and while the farmer's son had his own name for the male, the female didn't have a name. Considering they represent all that I mentioned above, there really was no option but to name them Frank and Liz, the first names of the Hardens. It is my hope that their names might spark conversation so that more people may learn of the Hardens and understand what an incredible gift they left us here in New Milford.
So keep an eye on the website and social media in the coming days as we announce the PROUD return of the peacock (and peahen) to Harrybrooke Park. In all sincerity, it is one of the top things (if not the top) I am so incredibly proud of when it comes to the work in the park.
We all hope you enjoy seeing them back home, where peacocks should always belong.
Growing up in New Milford, I heard kids making fun of our "bodunk" town. It always stung to hear the Danbury kids call us a cow town for whatever reason. I could tell they were trying to insult us in some way, but I never really could figure out why that was a put down. Cows rock. I love milk and ice cream and cheese. I guess they don't. I dunno! I was proud at a young age of our town because it's simply pretty amazing. Or as we'd say in the 80's it was "totally awesome, dude." And y'know what? It still is totally awesome.
We have our Spring cleanup here this weekend. I was involved in my first Spring Cleanup at the park about 8 or 9 years ago which is long before I worked here. I am still amazed to see our friends and neighbors (odd that we separate those isn't it?) show up with rakes and leaf-blowers and help clean up the park. I get it, people are busy and it's Spring so every yard and house needs that cleaning to get that stench of Winter behind us. I'm not being flip when I tell you it brings a tear to my eye and I literally get goosebumps when I see families showing up to put a little sweat equity into "The People's Park." I have had to stop and collect myself as it's overwhelming to see what an amazing community we are all a part of. Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. It happens.
April is such an interesting month. The cold snaps and the sun comes back out to get it all going again. Flowers begin to pop up and the energy level simply rises, like a morning sun. It's a beautiful month. The Clean-up really kicks off what was always considered "park season" around here. The egg hunt has grown into something far bigger than we had ever dreamed of and last year welcomed over 600 kids. Every kid got a book and had the chance to meet with the Easter Bunny. No one "missed the fun" or was turned away. it was truly a joy to see. As a private park, we do not receive help from the town in cleanup or in funding so it's really difficult to maintain a 48-acre park on a smaller budget with growing expenses. Our community is responsible for our success. And what is success? Success is a safe, clean and natural place for activity. That's how I see it anyway for us. And I believe in that regard, we truly are successful, but we also need so much help.
At the end of the month, we are taking part once again in Give Local. This is a 36-hour online donation event. A bunch of Western CT takes part in this event and some don't know what it really is. To break it down to simple terms, the CT Community Foundation organizes this event where every donation made by someone in the public is met by a percentage of matching dollars from some large corporate sponsors. In the past we have received about 12% more in each donation. So if someone gives $50, we receive $56. It doesn't sound huge, but it IS because it all adds up. We hope that you consider a small (or large) donation to Harrybrooke Park this year to help us maintain that "success" I mentioned earlier. And yes, we hope you contribute to other groups that you hold close to your heart. I know that I do, and we can all give a little to make a BIG LOCAL difference.
So what is this community? It's not just the tangibles. It's all of the intangibles. It's the giving of sweat equity. It's including your kids to help clean up their park. It IS a small contribution financially when you can spare it. A community is people coming together for one another and giving us all those goosebumps that are a sign from the universe that we are simply getting it right. Thank you all for your continued support. It does NOT fall on deaf ears. It is greatly appreciated ... and yeah, peacocks should be here very very soon :)