Melissa Krygowski, leader of what we affectionately call “the first family of Duckling Day,” has been involved in this iconic Mother’s Day tradition for years, designing costumes, props, and even the giant duck suit you see marching in the annual parade! Featured on the front page of the Globe, her childrens’ annual appearance as the police officers that guide Mrs. Mallard to safety in the beloved “Make Way for Ducklings” have delighted thousands of onlookers over the years. We sat down with Melissa after Duckling Day for a “quacking” good chat.
How did you get involved with the Friends?
I grew up in Marblehead MA, but my family was from Boston. My great grandfather came here from Ireland at 9 and became fire chief of Brookline. Growing up I was always in Boston and in its parks. The parks were not as nice then and so as an adult I started to look for organizations that supported the city, both with its parks but also community outreach. That’s when I first became aware of The Friends of the Public Garden. The Friends does both – they help protect one of the resources I value most, which are green spaces in urban areas. The importance for green spaces in urban areas can not be overstated. They provide an oasis in the chaos and provide, for some, the only opportunity to connect with nature. In a world where our future depends on society’s full understanding of the natural world, there is no better way to help with the love of nature than to bring it to those who live where it is not easily accessed. The Friends also helps ensure a commitment to inclusion in the parks.
What makes Duckling Day such a special tradition to you?
When I was little my mother took me to the first or one of the first Duckling Days. Though I don’t have a strong memory of that day, I do remember every year driving from my hometown of Marblehead to my Grandmother’s house in Brookline and every year stopping on Storrow Drive so that the mounted police could escort a parade of children, some dressed as ducklings, across the street to the Boston Public Garden. Every year I would quietly say to myself that this is where I will bring my children on Mother’s Day. When my first Mother’s Day came there was only one place I wanted to be with our son Jonathan and my husband Bob. Duckling Day! That year I made the first duckling costume. We have not missed a Duckling Day since. My sons Jonathan and Colin, also my husband, have caught the magic of Duckling Day just as I had as a little girl. My boys, the little Officer Michaels with the ducks, have sweetly become, on their own, little ambassadors of Duckling Day. They take great pride in meeting everyone, telling everyone what activities are at Duckling Day and what they think a child might like. They are always kindly complimenting children and adults on their costumes. The boys favorite thing to see are the babies and toddlers that get dressed up. I’m amazed at how their love for Duckling Day at 9 and 5 years old, has organically evolved to them sharing that love with others. This year they asked me if they could bring something to give out to children. So, as the many people asked for their picture to be taken with the “little Officer Michales” the boys gave out a police badge sticker and a mini rubber duck to every child who took a picture with them or stopped to see their stuffed ducks. They gave out over 100 stickers and rubber ducks this year and were so happy each time to see the type of smile they themselves have on Duckling Day. I am so grateful to the Friends of the Public Garden for the kindness and love they have shown to our family especially our boys. I will never be able to fully express what it means to our family… no matter how many giant duck costumes I make for them!
You’ve created so many fantastic costumes, props, and artisan pieces for the event. Which is your favorite?
Through the years I have made many things from fluffy duckling costumes, new Officer Michael jackets every year, the giant duck, and a 7 foot Swan Boat and duck pull toys with my husband. All have brought me joy to make, but the thing that I find to be the most wonderful part of that experience is watching the smiles and happiness on my boys faces and other children’s faces on Duckling Day.