It’s April and the promise of Spring is in the air. Spring is a time of renewal, a time of change, a time that holds very powerful memories for me. You see, it was Spring, twenty-three years ago in April when I said goodbye to Hiawatha Park. Over the past several days I posted on Facebook some clips from a tape that was given to me when I left Hiawatha Park – the tape included memories of shows we had done with pictures that had been taken, video clips and even some creative editing to some very special songs. These posts have raised questions from some of my newer friends as to what Hiawatha Park was and about the Theatre and Dance Program we had.
For my parks and recreation friends, the Chicago Park District does not use terms the way they are used in most of our profession. Most of you know the term park to connote a piece of land that is used for active or passive recreational purposes. And although that was part of Hiawatha Park, in the Chicago Park District, the term is also used to represent the recreation center that is on the grounds of the park. So the park and the recreation center both go by the same name, Hiawatha Park. Simple, easy and yet the words Hiawatha Park have a meaning far beyond a tract of land and a building for me and a whole bunch of people that I know.
It was at Hiawatha Park that I came of age. I changed from someone who was floundering to someone with a purpose. And although I was basically dragged into that job kicking and screaming, I left it so thankful that I had the opportunity to have the experience of a lifetime. There I had the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest young people I will ever know. We loved each other, we fed off of each other’s energy and together we created magic. It was magic so powerful that it still resonates in all of our lives. We grew up together, worked together, played together, loved together and parted ways together. A core group has stayed in touch with me over the years and there were many others that simply went on with the business of living their lives.
But whether we were in contact or not, it did not matter. I carried each and every one of those young people in my heart wherever I went. I always had pictures of them in my office prominently displayed and whether I was in Chicago, Ohio or Colorado, they came with me and provided me strength, purpose and some of the best memories anyone could ever have. And with the dawn of Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with some that I never thought I would see or hear from again. That just happened again today, and I cannot tell you the joy it brings to me every time it happens.
So if you are wondering what Hiawatha Park was, for me and a whole bunch of people it is a bond that will never be broken, memories that will forever be cherished and one of the more precious gifts anyone of us will ever receive. Click on the link below and you can experience for yourself some of the magic.