Olmsted Now and its partner organizations are gearing up for Emerald Necklace Parkfest, the culminating event in the celebration of creator Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th anniversary. The event will take place on Sept. 24.
“It is a collective effort and it’s an opportunity to see the parks in the park system that Olmsted designed for Greater Boston as a platform for us to come together and be seen,” said Jen Mergel, Director of Experience and Cultural Partnerships at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
Residents will have the opportunity to participate in events, programming, and performances in parks across the Emerald Necklace system, including Charlesgate Park, the Back Bay Fens, Riverway, Olmsted Park/Allerton Overlook, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park. Olmsted Now has been exploring themes of “shared use, shared health, and shared power in public parks and space” throughout the bicentennial celebration, and this event will continue to do the same.
Though there will be activities across several areas, Mergel told the Gazette about some of the activities and events happening in the Jamaica Plain area.
At the Jamaica Plain Boathouse, there will be Drag Queen Story Hour from 1 to 4pm, which Mergel said that the Emerald Necklace Conservancy is “very proud to be able to present.” The event will feature an emcee with music in between stories.
Photographer Edie Bressler will lead a photography expo from 1-4pm in the Pinebank Promontory area. She will photograph on her 4×5 camera, and will create cyanotopes of people walking by. This is “the type of photography that Olmsted himself would have been able to witness,” Mergel said, and is an “opportunity for community members to see that photography in action…”
Pop-up activities will be offered around Jamaica Pond sponsored by the National Park Service and presented by the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. There will be a “design your own Central Park” activity, as well as a button making activity and a “pop-up competition with rangers,” Mergel said.
Also at Jamaica Pond will be some of the Adirondack chairs created out of spruce poles from the wood fencing around the National Park Service historic site at 99 Warren St. in Brookline. Mergel said that “every 20 or 25 years,” these poles are replaced with new ones and chairs have been created out of the old fence poles. They will also be located at other sites throughout the day.
At the Arnold Arboretum, picnicking will be allowed on Sept. 24 as part of Parkfest. Usually, picnicking is forbidden at the Arboretum save for Lilac Sunday for Mother’s Day, so Mergel said this is “pretty huge.”
Also at the Arboretum will be docent-led tours, activities for kids at the Hunnewell Visitor Center about caterpillars, and information about birds in the Arboretum.
At the Franklin Park Shattuck Picnic Grove, a Trike Called Funk will offer music and a portable dance floor, and Mothers Out Front will be presenting its opera titled “Mister Twister” that uses live actors and puppets to “personify the impacts of climate change,” Mergel said. Puppet making will also be offered in the afternoon, as will community art projects led by Canvas Studios, Boston’s only Black-owned paint bar.
There will also be advocacy and informational tables for things like the Shattuck Hospital site and MassSave, as well as Mattapan Food & Fitness.
Mergel said that the park sites were chosen to ensure ADA access to restrooms as well as access to water.
“We want to make sure people feel comfortable coming to the parks,” she said. “We are bringing port-a-potties, food trucks, water trucks and things like that to the sites.”
At the Shattuck Park Picnic Grove, between 4 and 6pm, the culminating activity of the day will take place. Folks who decorated their bikes, faces, or dog collars/leashes throughout the day will be invited to a parade around the picnic area, Mergel said.
DJ CO’D will provide the music for the parade. There will also be lawn games and food trucks.
“Olmsted designed the parks so that they should be for everyone,” Mergel said, but “not everyone feels like they have the access they should.” She said that a goal of the Parkfest is to “bring more voices forward” and be inclusive.
Additionally, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy is looking for groups who want to “engage the built-in audiences with their missions” at Parkfest, and will offer free tables, chairs, and load in and load out support for groups. Sign-ups are happening right now and will end on Sept. 16.
For more information, visit emeraldnecklace.org.