By Greg Ellison
(Oct. 14, 2021) Adrian Bowen Sr.’s long sought-after refresh for the basketball courts at Henry Park on Flower Street in Berlin has come to fruition with a “Love Day” community celebration planned at the site on Sunday starting at noon.
Berlin native Bowen initially pictured revamping the aging court facilities nearly two years ago and more recently joined forces with Tony Weeg and the nonprofit We Heart Berlin.
Earlier this year the duo connected with Shelton Hawkins, who has completed comparable projects in Easton and Cambridge.
Easton native Hawkins, who teaches art in Charles County, created the “Play in Color,” project that is aligned with Project Backboard a national campaign promoted by Go Daddy.
Bowen, who works with Worcester County Parks and Recreation and teaches at Worcester Technical High School, joined Weeg to present plans for the court project to the mayor and Town Council, which approved the request in late July.
Weeg had invited Bowen to join We Heart Berlin in February when the nonprofit was being formed.
“Adrian Bowen was the original person that wanted to make this project happen,” he said.
In mid-September, Hawkins agreed to assist with beautifying court surfaces by adding an array of bright hues to make the site more appealing to players of all ages.
Hawkins and an assistant got the paint plans underway by drawing a chalk-line grid over court surfaces, which were filled with a range of colors by a multitude of volunteers.
“He gave us instructions on how to accomplish it,” he said. “Help came from every part of the community.”
Weeg applauded the contributions of Kimberly Sutton, Glendola Bowen and Andy Blizzard.
“Without their help it wouldn’t be finished,” he said.
To finance the project, We Heart Berlin received $9,000 in two equal grant allotments from the Worcester County Arts Council and the Artistree, formerly the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee.
We Heart Berlin also raised roughly $2,000 for the project through donations from residents.
Weeg noted Burley Oak Brewery owner Bryan Brushmiller also stepped up with paint funding.
In addition to adding colors to court playing surfaces, the rehab project involved installing new rims, backboards and pole pads.
Significant backing for equipment purchases was contributed by Bryan LeCompte with Yard Designs and Burn Wood Fired Pizza owner Vincent Sebastian.
Other supporters included James Tingle, Pastor Peggy Briggs, the Berlin Police Department, the Town of Berlin, Serpone’s Pizza, Jasmine Bonita Land, Adam Davis, Troy Purnell, Dee Marques, Leah Fuller, Mike and Jennifer Poole, Joan Maloof, Mary Quigley Hedlesky, Kelsey Hall, Shaneka Nichols, Duran Kendall, Dorian Purnell, Jack Orris, Zach Tyndall, Geogianna McElroy, Thomas Johnson, Denee Bowen, Mary Fiore, Jeffrey Smith, Andrea Weeg, Brian Robertson, Tom Simon, Sarah Hambury, Nedra Johnstone, Obn King Dennis and Ethel Sturgis.
“Without that list, this project wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
The now completed court upgrades will be put to use on Sunday during a community event featuring food, music and hoops competitions.
“We’re hoping this turns into an annual event,” he said.
We Heart Berlin member Carol Rose helped enliven the event after soliciting food donations from all of the area houses of worship.
“Churches are getting together and supplying food,” he said.
To add to the festivities, musician Chino Rankin will perform reggae-flavored tunes, while a DJ is slated to pump up the volume during the all-day affair.
Celebrations on Sunday will conclude around sunset with an “OG” game featuring area all-stars pitted against each other, which will be preceded by other hoops competitions.
Numerous dignitaries are anticipated to be in attendance on Sunday, including Mayor Zach Tyndall, Town Council members and several Worcester County Commissioners.
Weeg said the painting took about two weeks to complete, with multiple layers required to properly saturate the surface.
Project organizers previously expressed hope the court improvements at Henry Park would draw attention and help further revitalize the east end of Berlin.
Weeg credited Bowen for envisioning the plan, while also highlighting the importance of wider support.
“Without Adrian, it never would have started and without We Heart Berlin it would have never been finished,” he said.