We have had the recent pleasure of working with the Fairfield’s Park and Rec Department and seeing just how much they have grown over the years. Yes they are the place to pick up your beach sticker, but have you checked their catalog or website to see how much they really offer for kids and adults of all ages?? We interviewed the Director; Anthony Calabrese, to learn more about this fabulous DAD!
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in the area?
Grew up a couple towns over in Norwalk, CT. I moved to Fairfield in 2004.
Children / Age(s)
TJ (11), Mallory (9), Catalina (7)
One thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I officiate NCAA Division 1 football on the weekends in the fall. If you watch college football, you’ve most likely seen me making a penalty announcement on TV and not even realized it was me.
One thing you wish someone would have told you about being a Dad?
Just how much you can truly love. It’s like a switch goes off the moment they are born. The amount of love you feel for your own children is really amazing and it blows my mind that it grows every moment with them as they grow up.
Favorite local things to do in Fairfield?
This is such a tough question as there are so many awesome things to do around town. I love taking the family hiking at Lake Mohegan, spending a day at the beach, grabbing a bite to eat at Avellino’s, catching a concert on the Green after getting some ice cream.
What’s your favorite thing about raising a family in Fairfield?
I love the sense of community that Fairfield has. We live in a “town” of 70,000 but it still has that small town feel. I love walking through the grocery store and seeing neighbors and friends. Fairfield boasts one of the best school districts in the state and has the backing of the community when it comes to funding.
Do you have a favorite family friendly restaurant? Date night?
Favorite family friendly restaurant is definitely Chips. My kids are picky eaters and you can pretty much find something everyone likes at Chips. For date night, our go to place is Liana’s.
What is your go-to activity for your family? For yourself?
Really anything that involves getting outside and moving. Whether it’s going to the beach/lake or taking a walk around the neighborhood.
Funniest part that you’ve learned about parenthood?
I’ve essentially become my parents…I say things without realizing what I said was exactly what my parents said to me. At that moment, all I can do is shake my head and laugh.
Best dad hack that makes your life easier?
Putting a rubber band on the door knob and latch to prevent the kids from locking themselves in rooms.
Name one thing you regret when learning the ropes of parenthood and what you learned from it?
Missing any of their functions. Whether it’s a recital, a game, a play, or some other activity that my kids are doing. I beat myself up when I can’t make it. I’ve learned to be present in the moments when I am there.
Tell us about your work with Parks and Recreation here in Fairfield. How long have you been the Director?
I’ve been with the department 15 years (3 as the Director). I started here as the Recreation Coordinator, I oversaw all the summer camps, sports leagues, and special events. As the Director, I oversee approximately 500 acres of land utilized for organized active recreation. This includes the operation of two municipal golf courses: H. Smith Richardson Golf Course, an 18-hole regulation course located in the northern area of the Town, and the Carl J. Dickman Golf Course, a 9-hole par 3 course located near Long Island Sound.
My department is responsible for the maintenance of the Town’s parks, ball fields and recreational facilities, as well as providing recreational programs. We also manage the five public beaches along Long Island Sound (Jennings, Penfield, Sasco, South Pine Creek and Southport Beach), and a freshwater beach located at the 150-acre park known as Lake Mohegan.
What do you love about your job? Challenges you face?
I love the unpredictability. I rarely have the same day two days in a row, every time the phone rings it typically is a new challenge for me and my staff. I’d say the biggest challenge we face is doing more with less. Budgets are tight and expectations are high. Luckily, I have a tremendous staff that is adaptable and not afraid to try new things.
So much has changed within the Parks and Rec and it is a huge asset to the local families of Fairfield. How have you been able to grow and expand the events and the programs so well for this town?
The key to success is staying relevant. Recreation trends are always changing and it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. I challenge my staff every day to come up with new programs and events and not to be scared to fail. Unfortunately, not every program or event we run is successful.
If you weren’t working in this industry, what do you think you would be doing today?
I most likely would be working in law enforcement or criminal justice in some capacity.
Best advice for dads who experience the inevitable guilt handling a career and helping support a family?
I have a quote in my office that says “the most important things in life aren’t things.” This helps me keep things in perspective when things start getting hectic. I try to be sure I’m as present and in the moment as I can be when I am home.
Who has most influenced you to be the father that you are today?
I would say my grandfather was the most influential. He was the greatest role model and the glue of the family. Whether it was at Sunday dinner with all of our cousins or just the two of us taking a walk around the block. He was always leading by example and truly showed me what a great father looked like.
What advice would you share with a new dad or other dads?
Raising a family is not easy, it is a lot of hard work and sacrifice. However, looking back on the past 11 years, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been the most rewarding times of my life. Enjoy every moment because the years fly by.