Editorial: GLT Guest Editorial

It all began when Dan Badger, a Greenwich Land Trust (GLT) Board Member and his wife, Mariette, went to Nantucket and saw how much open space their land trust had preserved. When they returned home from their trip, Mariette immediately gathered people from Greenwich Land Trust, local garden clubs, and other friends at her home. She declared it was critical that everyone come together to help Greenwich Land Trust raise money with a benefit in order to preserve the open space that contributes to the natural resources, historical character, and scenic beauty of Greenwich.

Since, clearly, a formal black-tie event was out of character for the Land Trust, the group started brainstorming. Greenwich childhood memories of the outdoor fun of A Day in the Country, an image from skiing in Colorado, of floating hot air balloons, horses and hay bales all became elements of the planning. Peter Brant had recently given the Land Trust a conservation easement on the polo fields at Conyers Farm which provided the perfect place for a family field day event. GLT Board President, George Host, talked Jane Dunn and Leslie Lee into taking on the event and so, Go Wild! for open space began.

The event was planned to be a relaxed time for families to have fun outdoors and to make a wide audience aware of the work of the Land Trust. All the activities, food, and drinks were included in the entry fee, so parents did not have to keep track of ride tickets or make any additional purchases.

It was an amazing success from the start. From an anticipated attendance of 400 people, the ticket sales grew to 1,800 people. All that summer, co-chairs, Jane Dunn and Leslie Lee and GLT Executive Director, Ann Sawyer, were frantically calling vendors to increase the potato sacks for jumping races, the animals in the petting zoo, the pumpkins and paint for craft projects and asking the local restaurants and caterers donating food for more apple pies. The 37-member committee pitched in to find sponsors, organize children’s activities, and arrange for a fire engine and medical van to be on hand.

The afternoon of the first Go Wild!, October 1, 2000, was clear and sunny. The polo fields glowed with orange balloons that outlined where the fly casting, the falconer, and the field games would be held. At Exactly 3 p.m., the hot air balloons started to rise: huge, colorful, and breathtaking!

Board members flipped hamburgers, volunteers in orange t-shirts helped smaller children with the rope wall and the maze made from hay bales while the Ragtime Evolution Jazz Band played toe-tapping country music.

It was at that first Go Wild! that David Ogilvy, who was leading the fundraising efforts for the acquisition of the Treetops estate, enlisted the support of Congressman Chris Shays, State Senator Bill Nickerson, and Greenwich First Selectman Lolly Prince for Treetops as a 94-acre state park with conservation easements held by the Land Trust.

From its first success, Go Wild! has continued to be a fixture of Greenwich life through 20 years. It has had incredible co-chairs, who each year have added new fun elements and ideas to the party, while also bringing friends into the committee and into the GLT family. In addition, many of the chairs have, through the years, joined the Board of GLT and added their talents and energy to its important work.

Go Wild! has helped the Land Trust raise funds to support efforts to conserve open space, connect our community with the natural world, and inspire the next generation of conservationists. GLT has gone from conserving 500 acres of open space in 2000, to 776 acres protected and cared for today. Along with amazing chairs and active committees, many local organizations and businesses have joined in on the fun. Community involvement has been a hallmark of Go Wild! from the start. The community is now invited to come join Greenwich Land Trust for the special 20th anniversary celebration on Sunday, September22 at the Greenwich Polo Club! Get your tickets now at gltrust.org.