Warm summer evenings the park fills up, people coming with their picnics, pizzas, their blankets and folding chairs. On free concert nights there are families, little kids dancing, empty-nester couples with elaborate picnics, teens with tattoos, mini-posses of white-haired widows.
The older folks’ favorites may be of another era, but they enjoy the music, the companionship, being out and among the crowd.
“The goal of CHIRP was to build community, and community consists of every age,” said Barbara Manners, who founded CHIRP — “Concert Happenings in Ridgefield Parks” — to bring Ridgefielders together in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
“This is something that is affordable to everybody,” she said. “In tough times, this is a place where people can come together regardless of how much money they have or don’t have.”
It’s now a thriving scene with concerts all summer long on most Tuesday and many Thursday nights.
But Ms. Manners has a couple of wishes she’s hoping Ridgefield’s generosity will fill for CHIRP.
She worries some senior citizens have stopped coming because they can’t get from the special parking area set up for them in Ballard Green to the north end Ballard Park, where they like to sit.
One spirited group of older women used to come to every concert. They no longer do.
“It just broke my heart last summer,” Ms. Manners said.
Ms. Manners wants to buy a six-passenger golf cart that could shuttle seniors and handicapped residents from the handicapped parking area to a good spot on the lawn — away from the back area informally designated for little kids to run around and play.
“There are people who are just getting so much older that it’s too far for them to walk from the parking to a reasonable place for them to sit and hear music. And they can’t carry their chairs,” she said. “I would estimate that there are probably a good three dozen or so. …
“More and more I get calls saying, ‘Is there a way we can get into the park with a car and let off somebody with a wheelchair?’”
The other need is for a trailer to serve as a “green room” for the musicians before and after they perform.
“What we need is a place for the artists to be able to eat, be cool, and also huddle when the weather all of a sudden gets bad. And they have to change and things like that, they don’t want to have to walk to the back of the park to go to the bathroom,” Ms. Manners said.
CHIRP has a trailer donated years ago by the Dunn family, but for the last few years the Parks and Recreation Department has been warning it may not last the summer.
“The carpenter ants got to it,” Mr. Manners said. “If it weren’t falling apart it would be wonderful.”
Ms. Manners estimates the two items would cost about $6,000 each,” she said.
“I’d hate to take the money out of programming,” Ms. Manners said, “because I want to have as many concerts as I can.”
Ms. Manners may be reached at 203-431-6501. CHIRP’s website (www.chirpct.org) has a link to donation cards. Checks should be made payable to CHIRP and sent toTown Hall, 400 Main Street, Ridgefield CT 06877.
Donations for both purposes are tax-deductible, through the Friends of Parks and Recreation.