In all of Mary Vyskocil’s 36 years as a Brookfield resident, what the longtime resident treasures most about the village is its old-fashioned neighborly atmosphere of camaraderie and benevolence.
“I always call this town ‘Mayberry R.F.D’ — wherever you go, you meet someone,” she said. “Locals are always very hospitable, helpful — everybody always reaches out and is kind.”
Unfortunately, as the pandemic forced businesses to close their doors, neighbors to keep to themselves, schools to instruct remotely and the village to cancel events and programs, Vyskocil worried the sense of togetherness she cherished most about Brookfield would be slow to bounce back.
But ever since one of her regular trips into Loca Mocha Cafe last year, the wheels in Vyskocil’s mind have been turning to develop a unique way to celebrate Brookfield by encouraging people to step out to visit with neighbors and patronize businesses.
“I saw a guy at Loca Mocha bring a decorated bicycle inside,” she said. “There were ‘Cows on Parade’ in Chicago, and art installations in downtown La Grange, so why not something in Brookfield?”
That’s where Park Your Ride was born, a village-wide art project where decorated, one-of-a-kind bicycles — whether functional or not, old or new — will be displayed across Brookfield throughout August and September.
From spray painting bikes and adding floral baskets to throwing string lights and other funky props on them, Vyskocil, who previously served on the former Brookfield Special Events Committee and now serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, hopes the program will be a new way of fostering fun and art in town.
“This is a good way to bring the whole village together,” she said. “Everyone can get involved — businesses, kids. I think it’s a way to promote a lot of creativity, very inexpensively.”
To get the program up and running, Vyskocil first checked with Brookfield’s Beautification Commission and its nonprofit foundation, Beautify Brookfield, whether the initiative would be something they wished to spearhead.
“They have done so much with this village with planters and making the village so beautiful, but they had so much on their plate,” she explained. “They were excited about it but were more than happy to say, ‘Hey, if you are more than happy to undertake this, that would be wonderful.’”
Assisting Vyskocil with the event are Izzi Markus, who created the program’s flier and Facebook event page; Ann Sokol, co-owner of The Compassion Factory Art Gallery and Studio; and members of Cycle Brookfield, the local group of bike enthusiasts.
Vyskocil says along with promoting the event at the Brookfield Farmers Market and The Compassion Factory, Cycle Brookfield may be able to organize a town-wide bike scavenger hunt similar to the one the group organized last year.
Residents are being asked via social media to decorate bikes in their own creative styles and designs. Participants are being asked to register. You can find a link on Facebook, by clicking here or emailing Vyskocil at email@example.com. Vyskocil said anyone who wants to participate but needs a bike and/or art resources may also reach out via Facebook or email.
Vyskocil says she hopes participants will consider creating bikes that reflect the character of town, including the zoo, local restaurants, doctors’ offices, schools and more.
“Overall, we want everybody to have fun,” she said. “As the businesses are opening, and we want more people to come out and patronize them and get together, it will be fun [to celebrate] with residents making themed bikes.”
While there is not yet a final list of locations where completed art bikes will be displayed, the group is talking to Brookfield business owners and the Chamber of Commerce. Location information will be shared on the Park Your Ride Facebook event page by the beginning of August.