Although March 20 officially marked the first day of spring, Bostonians may recognize the season's beginning more with an annual ritual – the return of the swan boats to the Public Garden Lagoon. And that's a few weeks away.
Mayor Thomas Menino and First Lady Angela Menino will host the first ride of the season on April 13 at 10 a.m. “It’s time to put winter behind us and celebrate the arrival of spring in the Public Garden,” Menino said. “Come on down and celebrate the nice weather with a ride on the historic swan boats.”
The real swans, however, won't return from their winter home at Franklin Park Zoo until much warmer days. Last year, they came back in May.
Boston elementary school students will join Menino on April 13 in celebrating the boats' return. These students, from the Ellis Mendell Elementary School in Roxbury and the Chittick Elementary School in Mattapan, will draw pictures of the boats. Their artwork will be on display at Boston City Hall for four weeks beginning April 22.
This annual rite is made possible thanks to the Paget family, owners and operators of the swan boats first launched in 1877 by English immigrant and shipbuilder Robert Paget, who designed them after attending the opera Lohengrin in New York City. At the end of the opera, the hero crosses a river in a boat drawn by a swan.
This year marks the boats' 137th season. The oldest and smallest boat in the fleet just celebrated its 102nd season, while the newest was launched in 1993. The swan on today’s boats is made from either copper or fiberglass, depending on the age of the boat, and encloses a paddle mechanism that is used to propel the boat through the water.
Each swan boat weighs three tons and carries up to 20 passengers. The swan boats are built on copper-clad pontoons that contain air tanks to keep them afloat.
For more information, please visit the Swan Boats of Boston online or call (617) 522-1966.