HOLYOKE Frank Chmura seemed a little nervous on Wednesday. The long-time Holyoke resident was supposed to meet Mayor Michael Sullivan at the Pope John Paul Social Center at 11:30 a.m. and Sullivan was a little late.
What Chmura didn't know was that he was recipient of the August Civic Pride Award and that a surprise was in store.
Sullivan led Chmura into the auditorium the site of the annual Senior Fest, and in front of 500 people extolled Chmura's dedication to taking care of three city parks and to promoting Polish heritage in the city.
After the award ceremony, Chmura told The Chicopee Herald that volunteering at the parks is his hobby.
"I enjoy what I'm doing," he said.
An immigrant from Poland who has been living in Holyoke since1962, Chmura is retired from a job in a factory and started cleaning up and planting flowers at Laurel Park, Pulaski Park and Rohan Park.
He said he was motivated to start his effort because he questioned why the parks were so nice, but so messy.
Each year he plants flowers at the park that he pays for himself. He starts many as seedling in his home.
"I'm not asking one penny from the city," he said.
Chmura's award was one of the many activities during the ninth annual Senior Fest. Five hundred-fifty seniors, volunteers and exhibitors filled the auditorium for the event that ran from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Teresa Shepard, the director for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the event was a sell-out. For $2 tickets, seniors were treated to lunch provided by volunteers from the Holy Name Society of Mater Delorosa Church, and to performances by Holyoke Public Schools Youth Strings Program and the Senior Concert Band of Western Massachusetts.
The finale of the day was a raffle with over 100 prizes.
"It's a great event for people," she said.