The Saturday following Mother’s Day every year the Franklin Park Coalition, Boston Parks & Recreation and Boston Bikes host a Kite and Bike Festival and this year they were joined by Discovery Roxbury as hosts for this year’s fest on the Playstead in Franklin Park. It was the second year on the Playstead after moving to the Shattuck Picnic Grounds on the Resting Place while the Playstead field got refurbished.
Full Disclosure: I filled my phone’s storage room taking these pictures. As I was trying to remove pictures I knew I wasn’t going to use I accidentally deleted all the images by mistake. I was able to retrieve copies of my pictures, but they were smaller than the original images and lost the notes I had included in the filenames. For some of the images I also lost some of the very bottom of a few pictures and had to crop it off. All of the images are the usual size I post here, but this time the source images I started with weren’t the full size images I prefer to work with. I decided I’d rather post the pictures with an explanation than not post the pictures at all.
The festival had been held for years on the Country Park until the creation of the golf course forced it to move. Julie Arrison’s Images of America: Franklin Park has a picture of a 1975 kite festival on what looks like the Country Park that was sponsored by the Committee for Better Air, although the first official golf course was created in Franklin Park in 1896. Special note: Julie Arrison will be leading a history walking tour through Franklin Park this Saturday, 6 June. You can get the details on the Franklin Park Coalition website.
If you ask many people in Boston where the Playstead is they won’t have an idea what it is, let alone where it is. They know the area either as the area in front of White Stadium (also known as Schoolboy Stadium) or as the back or the zoo. True, the Playstead is between the stadium and the Giraffe entrance to the Franklin Park Zoo, but the Playstead has its own place in Franklin Park history. The 30-acre playing field was the first section of Franklin Park to be completed. Dedicated in June 1889, it was the only really flat space in the park. Frederick Law Olmsted knew that active sports were becoming increasingly popular in American culture and he created a place for them in Franklin Park, although it soon became apparent that the thirty acres wasn’t enough space. In 1894, the Boston Park Department bought an additional 100 acres about a half mile from Franklin Park and called it Franklin Field. The biggest difference between the two areas is that the Playstead was designed for “schoolboy sports” and Franklin Field was designed for college age and adult sports. Franklin Field, located at the intersection of Blue Hill Avenue and Talbot Avenue, is now known as Harambee Park. The name was changed in the early 1980’s when a consortium of residents asked the city to rename the park to a Swahili word meaning “pull together.” I think it’s a great choice for the name, especially in a neighborhood with people from so many races and cultures coming together into a great part of Boston.
The Playstead was physically separated from the rest of the park by the Valley Gates, splitting the active part of the park from the passive parts of the park. The Gates were originally actual iron gates that were locked shut every night, but the gates were removed in 1901, as were two of the original four structures like the two covered seating areas that still stand.
There was a larger crowd this year than last year, my first year volunteering with the Coalition, but last year the FPC had to use the rain date which kept both some of the crowds and food trucks away. There were concerns about the weather this year but Mother Nature gave us good weather just in time to commit to the Saturday date, and then we got some very welcome sunshine despite the weather forecast saying we’d see clouds all day. The good weather also meant we weren’t competing with the cricket matches that take place on the Playstead every Sunday in the spring and summer.
Not everyone who came to the Playstead necessarily came to fly kites. There were several families on the ridge behind the third base side of the baseball diamond with blankets and lawn chairs and I even saw a barbecue grill or two, although it looks like out of several photo collections I’ve seen of the fest none of us got any pictures.
People usually enter the Playstead via the Valley Gates but last month a new sidewalk was installed on Seaver Street so this year the Coalition set up a registration table on that side of the Playstead as well. Also on that side of the Playstead was Boston Bikes, who “rented” free bicycles to anyone who wanted to enjoy part of the day on two wheels.
As I did last year, I worked the registration table on the Valley Gates side of the Playstead. This year the table was shared with Discover Roxbury, a group that promotes and sponsors cultural activities in one of the neighborhoods that border the park. (Franklin Park borders Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and Dorchester.)
Not everyone who wanted to fly a kite brought their own, but once again some folks sold kites to those who wanted to buy them at the Playstead. There were a few times when there wasn’t much of a line but the kite table were busy all day until they sold out of kites, and then they had material to make kites with until they had sold out of that as well.
In addition, the good folks at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design brought sparc! the ArtMobile to the fest for people to exercise their creativity. That was another spot on the Playstead that was busy with kids of all ages all afternoon.
All that fun and creativity can work up an appetite and we had a great variety of food trucks to feed the hungry people. The selection ranged from Korean to Jamaican jerk to vegetarian fare, and there was even an ice cream truck for those who wanted something cold and sweet. The Boston Water Department had a truck at the fest as well with water for people to fill their cups and water bottles with at no charge. I wish I had refilled my water bottle with them and next year I’ll have to make a point to pay them a visit (or two). The food trucks that joined us were, listed from the front of the line to the back,
- The ice cream truck
- Makin’ Jamaican
- Fresh Food Generation
- The Boston Water & Sewer Commission’s H2O Water Trailer
- Pomaire Chilean Grill (They don’t have a website, the link is to a status from Discover Roxbury about their joining us for the Fest)
- Kim Kim BBQ (There’s no website for Kim Kim either, so this is to their Twitter feed)
There was also someone selling Italian ice, and the Boston Public Library Bibliocycle was there to loan books, issue library cards, renew library cards and show off some of the digital content available through the BPL.
I had a hard time making up my mind when it came time for lunch but I went with Kim Kim BBQ and got a delicious rice bowl with white rice, carrots, veggies, sesame oil, and gochujang sauce, taking the K-Town chicken for the meat. It was delicious, as was the Thai iced tea. I didn’t know what to expect from the tea, but I love iced green tea, as well as good old-fashioned NOLA iced tea with sugar (and sometimes lemon juice). In the end the only real problem with the Thai iced tea is that it tasted like more, which is a good problem to have, whether you’re buying it or selling it.
If you want to see more pictures you can visit the following:
- Jamaica Plain News: Franklin Park Soared at Saturday’s Kite and Bike Festival (Richard Heath’s article and pictures)
- Franklin Park Coalition on Facebook: Monica Briggs’ photos posted as a #FlashbackFriday post
The Coalition has shared other people’s pictures from the day, and you can find them by scrolling through their Facebook feed. Their feed is always worth checking out if for no other reason than to see what’s happening in our favorite urban park. You may be surprised at some of the things you’ll find there.
- Julie Arrison. Franklin Park (Images of America). San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing, 2009
- Wikipedia: Harambee Park
- Union Park Press: A Brief History of Harambee Park
- Franklin Park Coalition: Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Schoolmaster of Franklin Park
- Franklin Park Coalition: Historic walking tour pamphlet
- Franklin Park Coalition: Playstead
- The Franklin Park Coalition Twitter feed
- Jamaica Plain News: City Agencies Not Talking to One Another on New Seaver Street Sidewalk
- Richard Heath: A History of the Playstead in Franklin Park (Google Docs PDF file)
- Remember Jamaica Plain?: Schoolmaster Hill – Franklin Park
- The Internet Archive: Two walking tours of Franklin park
- The Internet Archive: Notes on the plan of Franklin Park and related matters