Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Celebration on Saturday at Pope Park

Looking for something to do on Saturday, September 8? Stop by historic Pope Park, where the nonprofit Friends of Pope Park and its partners will celebrate the completion of the second phase of improvements to the park.

Here's the Friends' press release for the event:

On Saturday, September 8 from noon to 2:00 p.m., community leaders, neighborhood residents, the Friends of Pope Park and members of the Pope family will gather to celebrate the completion of Phase Two of the Pope Park Master Plan. “Pope Park Comes Together” is a free event that will take place in the new courtyard area at the Pope Park Recreation Center on 30 Pope Park Drive. The celebration is open to the public and will take place rain or shine. The event is sponsored by the Friends of Pope Park, the Pope Hartford Designated Fund, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the City of Hartford.

This project is the signature component of the Pope Park Master Plan, an overall multi-million dollar initiative to improve the century-old park and update it for modern uses.

“ Pope Park literally and physically has come together with the removal of Pope Park Drive, the interior road that had long divided the Park for over 90-years. We are delighted to celebrate the public private partnership that made this possible,” says Nancy Macy, Chair of the Pope Park Designated Fund. This road was not part of the original plan park design conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted and later built in 1903 by his sons, the Olmsted Brothers. The road removal, a new courtyard to the park’s recreation center, and major pedestrian and parking improvements were funded by the city of Hartford and by a $270,000 capital grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The Pope Hartford Designated Fund is the nonprofit entity responsible for the overall campaign to restore the Park.

The celebratory event will begin at noon with free refreshments by Sweet and Savory Creations LLC featuring hot dogs and ice cream. Turn of the century music will be provided by the Matt Dechamplain Ragtime Trio and entertainment by Unicyclist/Juggler Robert Carroll, stiltwalker Terri Moore, Clarity the Clown and caricaturist Elaine Mills. The Pope Park Recreation Center staff will participate in the fun by conducting board game demonstrations on the new board game tables in the courtyard area and face painting.

The Hartford Food Systems’ Farmers Market will be selling locally grown produce in the new parking lot and the Hartford Public Library’s Bookmobile will be open to the public.

A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at approximately 12:15 p.m. with remarks from neighborhood and business leaders including Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, Pope Hartford Designated Fund Chair Nancy Macy, and Pharibe Hannon, the great-great granddaughter of Colonel Albert Pope.

Also featured at the event will be a the display of a vintage 1906 Pope Hartford automobile assembled in the early 1900s in Hartford and a demonstration of old-fashioned high-wheeled bicycles by the Connecticut Wheelmen, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the restoration and riding of early cycles.

The event will also feature the unveiling of the Friends of Pope Park and Pope Hartford Designated Fund’s “Memories of Pope Park” campaign. A selection of “Memories” featuring stories from individuals, historic photographs and historic articles will be on display in the Pope Park Recreation Center.

The land for Pope Park, originally 90 acres, was donated to the city of Hartford in 1894 by Colonel Albert A. Pope for his employees and city residents to enjoy games, walking and out-of-door activities. Colonel Pope was the head of the Pope Manufacturing Company, which manufactured bicycles and automobiles, including the well-known Columbia bicycle. It is particularly fitting that during this celebration thousands of bicyclists will sweep through the Park as part of the Discover Hartford bicycle tour that day.

Today Pope Park is an example of the best that a park can contribute to the neighborhood and the livability of the city. Preserving and improving the park is an essential component of Hartford’s revitalization. Fortunately, this project represents a comprehensive effort to reverse the last half century’s gradual decline of this valuable resource.

The Pope Park Master Plan makes specific recommendations for Pope Park to help achieve the city’s vision to improve all thirty-two of its parks as outlined in the Hartford Parks Master Plan of 1992. For more information about the Pope Park Master Plan, visit