April 28, 2003
Boston's Public Garden gears up for spring with the Swan Boats and the annual Ducklings Day Parade
by Christine Celli
Bostonians are fortunate to have a wealth of green space right within the city limits. But the crown jewel of all its parks has to be the Public Garden. And the month of May, when its vast array of flowers are finally in bloom, is the best time of year to grasp its relevance to our city.
It is both America's first public garden and its first botanical garden, but the Public Garden didn't start out as the well-groomed floral haven it is today. The 24-acre park, established in 1837, was once marsh land just like much of the Back Bay where it's located. The massive Back Bay landfill project created solid ground for the garden and a contest was held to determine who would design its landscaping. Architect George Meacham won the job (not to mention its $100 prize) and then created the park enjoyed by countless visitors today.
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Fans of New York's Central Park may find the Boston Public Garden to be tiny in comparison. And that might be closer to the truth than they realize. A suspension bridge in the garden's center is said to be the smallest in the world and designed to look like a miniature version of New York's Brooklyn Bridge. And it's not the only toy-like detail that adorns the space. Countless statues are located throughout including a proud George Washington on his horse, sculpted by Thomas Ball in 1869, and a far younger sculpture commemorating the web-footed characters of Robert McCloskey's children's book Make Way For Ducklings, designed by Nancy Schon.
THE SWAN BOATS
Perhaps the most toy-like and beloved fixture in the Public Garden are the world-famous Swan Boats. Owned and operated by the Paget family since 1877, the stately paddle wheel-propelled vehicles take passengers on short jaunts around the central Lagoon. The trip, one of the best bargains for visitors in town, is unquestionably the most relaxing way to take in the Garden and the surrounding skyline. It's also the best way to see some of the park's temporary residents. Sure, countless geese, ducks and pigeons make the space their home, but May 13 marks the Return of the Swans, an annual free event featuring music, dancers and other entertainment beginning at 10:30 a.m. The highlight of the event is when the guests of honor, two swans named Romeo and Juliet, return from their winter home to take their place alongside their man-made counterparts in the Lagoon.
MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS
Another beloved tradition waddles into the Public Garden on Mother's Day, May 11. The 23rd annual Ducklings Day Parade, celebrating Robert McCloskey's 1941 children's classic Make Way For Ducklings, enlivens the park beginning at 1 p.m. Parents and their children are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters from the book, which was inspired by a real-life mother mallard who, once upon a time, escorted her offspring to the Public Garden with a daily traffic-stopping procession.
The Ducklings Day Parade starts on the Boston Common (across from the
State House) and is led by vintage cars and the Harvard University
Marching Band. The procession winds its way through Beacon Hill before
proceeding to the bronze Make Way For Ducklings statues in the Public
Garden. Registration begins at noon near the start of the parade. Children
who participate receive prizes, refreshments and enjoy entertainment from
Elizabeth Accardi of Upon A Star. A Mother's Day Grand Prize Drawing
benefits Historic Neighborhood's school programs. This year's prizes
include a four tickets to see the Boston Red Sox and dinner for two at
Aujourd'hui. Tickets for the parade are $15 in advance, $20 day of the
parade; Grand Prize tickets are $35. Call 617-426-1885 to order.
back to homepage