By Bob Uphues
Six months into her tenure as Brookfield's recreation director, Stevie Ferrari's impact is already being felt.
With the start of the New Year, Ferrari began to roll out a host of program offerings – a children's theater company, a monthly movie series for senior citizens and new special events for both kids and adults.
"We're going to be creative," Ferrari said. "We're going to provide a lot more for the community and, in turn, hopefully strengthen this community and that partnership between the village and our residents," Ferrari told members of the village board during an almost hour-long presentation on Jan. 28.
Ferrari, who was hired last July as the village's first recreation director in more than a decade, outlined an ambitious expansion of both contract and in-house programs, including more early childhood education offerings, additional youth and adult sports opportunities.
In addition, Ferrari is looking to partner with organizations such as The Max and Max Aquatics to provide space and opportunities for programming beyond the ability of the department, with Cantata for additional senior programming and with Interfaith Community to provide seniors with transportation to recreation programs.
One of the first programs implemented in 2019 was a children's theater group, which will put on its first show, "Hairspray Jr.," in May. Under the direction of Margo Proeh of the Lake Forest-based Children's Theatre Company, the program is divided into "young performers, which gets kids in grades K-1 acclimated to the stage and a "performance program" for kids in grades 2-8.
The latter group rehearses weekly – the group started Feb. 9 – and wraps up with a full stage performance at the end of the program.
Also last week, the Children's Theatre Company started a second weekly performing arts program, "Hamilton is My Jam," based on the smash Broadway musical. Kids in grade 5-8 will also wrap up their rehearsals in May with a staging of age-appropriate excerpts from the show.
The Brookfield Recreation department will also roll out a number of new events during the first half of 2019, including Dr. Seuss' Birthday Party on March 2, Family Bingo Nights on Feb. 14 and March 13, a St. Patrick's Day luncheon in partnership with Cantata on March 15, a Bunny Brunch Bonanza and family walk through the oak savanna on April 13 and a Star Wars-themed event on May 4 called "May the 4th Be With You."
A monthly movie day held at 10 a.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month in the council chambers of the Brookfield Village Hall started in January.
Ferrari said she plans to continue the village's traditional outdoor concert and movie series during the summer, but she wants to augment those with other events, such as an outdoor murder mystery event, a Summer Fairytale Wedding event, Spooky Walks through the oak savanna in October, a Holiday Brunch with Buddy the Elf and others.
"Special events have the greatest impact to the most amount of people, and it's really important to not only have [quality events] but to have them as frequently as possible," Ferrari said. "That is what is bringing everybody together. That is what is exposing people to different walks of life, different demographics, to see that we are all families here and we all have a goal of being happy. It is really our goal to make sure the village has a special place in making that happen."
Apart from events, Ferrari said she wanted to increase early childhood programming, saying that age group was "our lowest served demographic, even though it is one of our larger programs."
The department already runs an early childhood program for kids ages 3 and 4, but it's only offered during the morning, even though there's open space at the village hall Monday through Friday to accommodate more.
Ferarri is proposing adding a Little Learners program for 2 year olds at the village hall, morning recreation programming for parents and small children and early afternoon Lunch Bunch and creative programs, as well as T-ball classes.
She also pitched hiring independent contractors to teach karate, gymnastics/tumbling, chess and soccer. In-house programming for youths could include outdoor basketball, self-defense and a junior trustees program as well as specialty STEAM, sports and travel camps.
She's also proposing additional adult sports programming such as softball, kickball, volleyball and bags.
"The larger impact these programs will have is taking effect in 2019, and which would be our largest barrier, would be our lack of athletic facilities," Ferrari said.
The success in implementing so many programs, Ferrari said would be in partnering with other agencies, institutions to find indoor recreation space.