New Milford welcomes peacocks back to Harrybrooke Park
NEW MILFORD, Conn. (AP) — Residents expressed feelings of nostalgia and joy at a welcome home party Sunday for Frank and Liz, two new residents of Harrybrooke Park.
The peacock and peahen — named for the late Frank and Elizabeth Harden, former owners of the estate now known as Harrybrooke Park — were unveiled to more than 100 guests at the park.
“It was a long time coming,” said Bill Deak, president of the park’s board of managers. “The time was right.”
“This is quite an accomplishment,” he added, gazing out over the multi-generational crowd.
It was estimated it had been about 30 years since the last peafowl resided at the park, which the Hardens left to the people of New Milford upon Frank’s death in 1965.
“This is a collaboration with a lot of people,” said Billy Buckbee, the park’s executive director.
He recognized the board of managers, staff, volunteers and residents of the community who have supported the project. “These birds are so very important to us,” he said, noting the peacock is part of the park’s iconic logo.
Peacocks are a sign of rebirth and “it’s kind of where we are as a park,” Buckbee said.
Mayor Pete Bass presented the park with a proclamation, naming May 19 as Peacock Day, and Buckbee, who is also state representative for the 67th District, made up of New Milford, presented a proclamation from the state.
The New Milford Lions Club made a $1,000 donation to the park during the ceremony Sunday.
For many guests, the return of the peafowl stirred up memories of their childhood, as the birds were one of the main attractions for park-goers decades ago.
“It’s just super,” said longtime New Milford resident Annette Golembeski, adding that she took her two boys, Keith and Kevin, to the park when they were children.
“I was at the park every day with the boys, and the peacocks were the highlight of being here,” she said. “It was always the first stop.”
Local residents have asked park staff off and on for years if the peacocks would ever return.
“The peacocks are part of childhood memories for so many people,” Deak said. “Now they can share them with their children.”
Buckbee said the idea of bringing peacocks back to the park has long been at the forefront of his mind.
“This memory (of seeing the peacocks at the park) is so deeply rooted in so many of our childhoods that it was one of the first things I lobbied the board for when I first started working here over three years ago,” he said.
The director conducted research and could not find a reason for the disappearance of the birds.
“It appears as though they had lived their life here and when they died, the board at the time expected the concept to die with them,” Buckbee said. “That is certainly not the case.”
Helen Hyde Cherney, who painted a peacock on the side of the park’s shed in 2014, described the return of the birds as “long overdue.”
She recalled bringing her children to the park and how the peacocks were “a major draw.”
Frank and Liz, the mated pair of India Blue peafowl, were raised by a man from Pennsylvania. The birds were delivered to the park earlier this month.
They will reside in the renovated peacock shed and new pen located just south of the gated garden, projects completed by volunteers and staff.
Caretaker Jim Bannan set up natural perches and nesting boxes for the peafowl in the shed.
Several local businesses have donated supplies for the peafowls’ return. Among them, Ring’s End donated lumber and Agway provided food, treats and feeding containers.
The new residents will be cared for by park staff, as well as several volunteers from the community, including Nonnewaug High School and the New Milford Senior Center, both of which have expressed interest in helping to care for the birds.
Parkgoers are asked not to feed the birds, as they are on a special diet. Their safety and that of parkgoers is paramount, Buckbee said.
The estate was home to the Hardens from 1941 to 1965.
Information from: The News-Times, http://www.newstimes.com