Recreation Management - Ideas and Solutions for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

December 2019


People's Choice Awards Honors Whirligig Park in North Carolina

By Dave Ramont

The American Planning Association (APA) has announced the winners of the annual People's Choice Awards, which honors Great Places in America. Individuals are invited to offer suggestions via APA's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, with final voting taking place at the APA website. This year's top designee is Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Wilson, N.C. Other top vote-getters included Nicollet Commons Park in Burnsville, Minn., and Davis Square in Somerville, Mass. They join 300 other public spaces, neighborhoods and streets honored by APA since the program's launch in 2007.

Vollis Simpson was a World War II veteran and farm machinery repairman from North Carolina. When he was nearing retirement, he began making giant kinetic sculptures—or whirligigs—at his family farm, which he made until shortly before he died at age 94, in 2013. Some of the sculptures reached 50 feet in height, and were made from parts he salvaged from tractors, bicycles, industrial machinery, etc.

The whirligigs were displayed in a field 11 miles outside the city of Wilson, N.C., and through the years, many visitors ventured there to view the sculptures, eventually making the Simpson farm a top tourist attraction in Wilson County. His work was discovered by art collectors, and his 55-foot tall "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" is on permanent display at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Md. His works are part of several other collections as well, including the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan.

In 2010, as Simpson's health declined, a grassroots movement was born to create Whirligig Park in downtown Wilson. That idea grew into a public/private partnership of residents, artists, local leaders, youth groups and other stakeholders. Simpson assisted in relocating the whirligigs to a downtown warehouse where they were restored and repainted, and now 30 of the whirligigs are featured at the park.

The two- acre park has become a gathering place for residents and tourists to enjoy entertainment and education, all while preserving the legacy of Simpson and his art. The park features a large, open-air pavilion for community events, a central grass amphitheater and dazzling night lighting. Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park has also been named the winner of the APA North Carolina chapter's People's Choice for Great Public Art.

Other Great Places in America recognized by APA in 2019 include the downtowns of Lee's Summit, Mo., and Patchogue, N,Y., in the Great Neighborhoods category. Pioneer Park in Mesa, Ariz., and Neponset River Greenway in Boston and Milton, Mass., received honors in the Great Public Spaces category. And in the Great Streets category, Artery Hopkins in Hopkins, Minn., and Water Street in Henderson, Nev., were honorees.

More information on APA and the Great Places in America program can be found at planning.org.


Recent Rec Report Feature Stories

NSF International Adds New Standards for Interactive Water Play - December 2019

ACSM: Wearable Tech, HIIT Are Top Fitness Trends for 2020 - December 2019

TPL Looks to Schoolyards to Improve Park Access - December 2019

Meet Me at the Park Grant Program Reaches More than a Million Kids - November 2019

PHTA Recognizes Achievements in Aquatics - November 2019

Know the Dangers of Unauthorized Entry - November 2019

Survey Says: Americans Love Their Parks - November 2019

NRPA Awards Grants to 10 Communities to Expand Park Access - October 2019

CPSC Awards Pool Safely Grants - October 2019

NCAA Announces AASP Grant Recipients - October 2019

$170.6 Million in LWCF Grants to Support Parks & Outdoor Recreation - October 2019

High School Sports Participation Declines for the First Time in 30 Years - September 2019

TPL Suggests Schoolyards as Park-Access Solution - September 2019

New Study May Change Use of Chlorine Stabilizers in Swimming Pools - September 2019

High School Sports Participation Declines for the First Time in 30 Years - September 2019

City Parks Alliance on Park Funding & Equity - September 2019

Survey Reveals Top Outdoor Recreation Activities - August 2019

Pediatricians Urge Communities to Provide Swim Lessons for All - August 2019

Report: Tennis Participation Remains Consistent - August 2019

Survey: Only Half of Collegiate Sports Programs Follow NCAA Model for Student Medical Care - August 2019

Fieldhouse Renovated, Expanded at UW-Platteville - July 2019

NRPA, Disney Award Play Space Grants - July 2019

Swim Clinic Teaches Water Safety Basics - July 2019

Nation's Pediatrics: Put More Emphasis on Enjoyment of Sports - July 2019

Diabetes Declines, National DPP Program Helped - July 2019

Washington, D.C., Unseats Minneapolis as Best City Park System - June 2019

Survey: Half of Americans Use the Pool as a 'Communal Bathtub' - June 2019

NFL Foundation Helps to Advance Youth Wellness - June 2019

Youth Sports Participation Holds Steady in 2018 - June 2019

Dog Parks Still on the Rise - May 2019

USA Swimming Grants Will Boost Learn-to-Swim Programs - May 2019

IHRSA: One in Five Americans Belong to at Least One Health Club - May 2019

New Program Aims to Grow Pickleball & Tennis - May 2019

IHRSA Reports on Health Club Compensation - April 2019

Grant Funding Brings Parks Closer to People in 10 Cities - April 2019

Note & Float Program Reaches Lifesaving Milestone - April 2019

Fund Established to Assist Aspiring Women Coaches - April 2019

Applications Open for ESPN RePlay Program - April 2019

NRPA Offers Play Space Grants - March 2019

Smarter Lifeguard Management - March 2019

U.S. Soccer Foundation Aims to Boost Female Participation - March 2019

In Oregon, Outdoor Recreation Saves $1.4 Billion in Healthcare Costs - March 2019

Survey: Communities Should Support Pollinators - February 2019

NSPF, APSP Unite to Form Pool & Hot Tub Alliance - February 2019

Guide Aims to Help Gyms Implement Diabetes Prevention - February 2019

Senior Living Continues Shift Toward Wellness - February 2019

Partnership Aims to Expand Play Opportunities - January 2019

Grant Funds Help Educate Pool Operators - January 2019

NFL Foundation Grants Boost Local Football Fields - January 2019

Leaders Recognized for Advancing Outdoor Recreation - January 2019

Goldfish Swim School Sponsors USA Swimming Foundation - December 2018

Physical Activity for Kids Gets Low Grade - December 2018

New Law Helps Sports Medicine Professionals & Athletes - December 2018