Farmington Hills, Mich., Recognized for Innovative Programming

Rock Around the Hawk, an immersive recreation program in Farmington Hills, Mich., for toddler and preschool-aged children and their caregivers, was selected as a 2023-2024 Innovative Recreation Programming Award winner by the Michigan Recreation & Parks Association (mParks). 

Each year, mParks honors exemplary park and recreation professionals and citizen advocates through the association’s annual awards. Award-winners inspire mParks membership and embody the profession's core values, demonstrating the highest level of performance in their job duties and a tremendous commitment to mParks and its membership.

“Year after year, the City of Farmington Hills receives awards for its inventive programming, top-notch work and exceptional facilities,” said Director of Special Services Ellen Schnackel. “These awards exemplify the city’s commitment to diverse, year-round programming that contributes to the quality-of-life Farmington Hills community members expect. I couldn’t be prouder to lead this extraordinary team!”

Honored as one of the four most innovative programs in the state, Rock Around the Hawk is a free, monthly drop-in program for children from 18 months to 5 years old and their caregivers, that exposes tiny concertgoers to music, art and other activities while celebrating famous music festivals from all over the world. One Friday morning per month, The Hawk Black Box Theatre transforms into a magical, musical experience that lightheartedly pays homage to unique, immersive music festivals with age-appropriate activities, crafts and, of course, music and dancing. Rock Around the Hawk is a program through the Cultural Arts Division of the City’s Special Services Department, made possible in part by a grant from the Farmington/Farmington Hills Foundation for Youth and Families.

“The City of Farmington Hills considers the arts to be an essential service, and in alignment with that mission, the Cultural Arts Division coordinates innovative programming for community members of all ages and abilities,” said Cultural Arts Supervisor Rachel Timlin. “Rock Around the Hawk introduces some of the city’s littlest community members and their caregivers to the benefits of art, music, dance and culture, highlighting the importance of the arts in early childhood development.”

“When I was a mom of young kids, I was seeking activities that would not only be fun for my kids, but enjoyable for me, too,” said Cultural Arts Programmer Lindsay Janoch, who conceptualized Rock Around the Hawk in 2022, and leads creation of the event's theme and coordinating activities. “We frequently hear from parents and caregivers who say they had just as much fun as their little one, if not more. It’s become a program that staff and community members look forward to each month.”

Past themes have included “Lollipopalooza,” featuring ’90s music, a dance floor and manicures in the “Nine Inch Nail Salon,” and "Quiet?! Fest," a family-friendly version of Chicago's renowned Riot Fest, featuring punk-accessorized pumpkins, an electric guitar “petting zoo,” a temporary tattoo parlor and a “Smashing Pumpkins” Play-Doh station.

The City of Farmington Hills has the largest dedicated municipal Cultural Arts Division in the State of Michigan. The division coordinates arts programming for the community, including classes, events and activities in visual and performing arts, and year-round performances at The Hawk Theatre, to expose diverse populations to the arts. The City’s Cultural Arts Division also works to empower makers of all ages and abilities in The Hawk Makerspace, an immersive facility that allows makers to access a variety of state-of-the art tools and equipment, as well as a creative community with a wealth of resources and knowledge, to grow a new hobby or skill, from sewing to woodworking.

The City shares its expansive recreational programming and classes in its comprehensive Activities Guide, a triannual publication delivered to more than 40,000 homes in the Farmington Hills area. MParks recognized the Fall 2023 Activities Guide as the most outstanding marketing brochure in Michigan. 

In the past, the City of Farmington Hills has received numerous awards and recognitions from mParks, including Innovative Programming Awards for The Great Farmington Hills Campout, Wild at Sea Art Camp and the Youth Theatre Performing Arts Festival. The city has also received awards from mParks recognizing outstanding facility design for the Riley Skate Park, the Riley Archery Range, the Hills 257 Trailhead and The Hawk Makerspace. Special Services staff members have also received the mParks New Professional of the Year Award and Professional Leadership Award.