HANSON — In April, Lakeville resident Marybeth MacKay became Hanson’s new Recreation Director. Having worked a similar part-time position in Lakeville, the Abington native also brings an extensive background in the event-planning industry to her new job.
While she originally majored in interior decorating in college, and worked for a Stoughton flooring company for 13 years, after graduating from Abington High School, MacKay said she found the entertainment business when she met her husband Gordon in 1993. He worked as a video promoter for Polygram Records, and groups such as KISS and Bon Jovi during the music video heyday.
“He got me into moving more into the entertainment business,” she said during an interview with the Whitman Hanson Express Thursday, July 20. “As the music industry changed, we changed, ourselves, into doing family entertainment, fairs and festivals — which he was already kind of doing with some of those music acts already.”
They have a 14-year-old son who, growing up in the entertainment world, is a bit blasé about the bold-face names he’s encountered during travels with his parents.
“When he was 10, he told us he was sick of the traveling,” she said with a laugh. “When I was a kid, I would have been star-struck by a daredevil or a rock star. It’s very normal for him.”
She mentioned a photo she has of her son and singer Eddie Money surfing their iPhones backstage during an event, looking thoroughly bored.
As we spoke, two kayakers paddled along Maquan Pond as the laughter of kids swimming at Cranberry Cove could be heard from our vantage point on the back porch of Camp Kiwanee’s Needles Lodge.
: What kind of family entertainment did you arrange?
A: “We kind of broadened our horizons from just music to family entertainment such as circus acts and educational animal shows, like we have coming up here at Camp Kiwanee Aug. 1 and 8. We also did marketing and looking at the demographics of the fair and the local area, working within their budget, setting advertising, doing public relations. Most were nonprofit events, anything from Renaissance to county fairs. We also traveled quite a bit to Puerto Rico and Spain [with a U.S. government cultural arts exchange program].”
Q: What brought you back to the South Shore?
A: “About four years ago, when my son got sick of traveling, we looked for something local that was within my expertise. Doing events for a town is a lot like doing it for a fair and some towns, like Spencer [in central Massachusetts], own their own fairgrounds.” She’s also worked with the Topsfield Fair, bringing in acts like a rodeo and the Flying Walendas.
Q: It sounds like the recreation job is a good fit for you.
A: “It really is. It is a lot like what I was doing before, only instead of being concentrated over four days, it’s spread out over the course of a year.”
Q: How did you find out about this opportunity?
A: “I came here from the Lakeville Parks Department. I was working there part time and they were looking to stick with part time to stay within their budgets and I wanted to expand to full time. I saw this opportunity come up, it’s a very similar facility with a wedding hall to help pay for [Lakeville’s] Parks Department … instead of having cabins and camping like we have here, they had a beach with soccer and baseball fields, horseshoe pits and both a youth and adult volleyball program through USA Volleyball.”
Q: Were you familiar with the challenges in the Hanson Recreation Commission when you first came here?
A: “A little bit. I had heard something about it, but I really didn’t get too involved.”
Q: What was the hiring process like?
A: “I applied back in November and I know there had been some delays — I know they changed the job description — and I was interviewed in February. They hired me in March and I started on April 3 after I finished in Lakeville.”
Q: Did that give you time to hit the ground running with programs?
A: “It’s very difficult for the summer. Summer is when everybody wants everything to happen and you’re competing against all those fairs and festivals because those same animal educators — we have Marla Isaac coming up at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 1 with birds of prey — and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, she’s at fairs and festivals. We’re kind of limited as to what we can do this summer, but we’re hoping to hit the ground running, I’ve got a lot of great ideas, for the fall, after-school and half-day programming like Wicked Cool Science.”
Q: Did starting the job in April also put you behind with the beach programs?
A: “With lifeguards, it’s a national shortage. The National Parks and Rec Association for the last three years, has been putting out information in their newsletter on the crisis with lifeguards, which they attribute to a few different things. A lot of parents are having their kids concentrate on their education over the summer. You’re seeing more kids choosing to go to summer school to get more time in. The other factor they attribute it to is the cost of becoming a lifeguard. It can cost an average of about $300 to become a lifeguard and it’s an entry-level position. Towns and recreation departments have budgets to think about. … I think it’s a great opportunity for a kid because there’s nothing better than being outside. Lifeguarding also teaches kids social interaction, leadership and gives them more responsibility than just ringing up at the supermarket. It probably looks really good on a college application.”
Q: You mentioned some programs you are planning, what other potential is there for increased community use of Camp Kiwanee?
A: “I think the rentals are going really well, and that’s a good thing, because the rentals help pay for the programs and salaries of the staff. … It would be nice to maybe expand some things down at the beach, because we get such a great response from the swimming lessons. It would also be nice to have some kind of a summer program here with the camps … to give kids a few days so they don’t have to travel to some of the Y camps.”
She said the narrow access road and limited parking creates a problem with planning larger festival-type programs at Kiwanee.
Q: What do you like most about the job so far?
A: “I like working with people, I really do. I find that everybody has an interesting story. I enjoy meeting people — you never know who you’re going to meet and what they’ve done.”
Q: What are some of the bigger challenges?
A: “Just getting used to a new culture. It’s very different here from Lakevillle, where they were more sports-oriented [at the Parks Department]. Here they are more arts-oriented. But I also have that experience with fairs and festivals.
“Growing up, I knew about it and had a friend who worked for the Lakeville School Department who was actually the beach director here and had done all the jobs growing up.
“We’re surrounded here by beautiful nature and I think that’s the programming that’s probably really a best fit. … People can learn about why [animals] are here.”