Meet Our Swans | Sunset Memorial Park | Danville, IL

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Meet Our Swans

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Sunset Swan Pond is home to two mute swans year round. Our pair is always named Joe and Nellie. The male is called a cob and the female is called a pen. In the spring, they make a nest out of straw and lay eggs. The swan eggs are light green and large, almost the size of a softball. The cygnets hatch in late May.

Our iconic swans and their home have become something of a community treasure. We're honored to be their caretakers and invite you to visit. We host several free family events near the Swan Pond in the warmer months. Many people enjoy eating their lunch at one of our picnic tables while watching the swans glide across the pond. People even come to the memorial park to take photos to capture a memory just before a special events like prom, homecoming or a wedding.

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Is it okay to feed the swans?

Yes! Joe and Nellie like to eat grain, lettuce, bread and cereal. Although we feed them daily, we invite you to feed them when you visit.

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The history of our swans

Construction of the Sunset Swan Pond in Danville, Illinois, began in 1933, and the first swans were placed on the water in the spring of 1934. The first clutch of eggs produced five cygnets. Most people had never seen one outside of a zoo or game farm. Photo contests were held and prizes were awarded for the best pictures in those early years. The pictures were displayed in the window of a local drug store on a busy downtown intersection.

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By 1938, the swans’ popularity had reached an all-time high, and newspaper articles reached across central Illinois and western Indiana. Radio stations as far north as Chicago carried the news of the cygnets’ birth, which were named Joe and Nellie. Newsreel cameramen, lured by large crowds at Memorial Day, filmed the swans. The footage was shown on local theatre screens. This publicity reached a trade area of over 200,000 people at the time. We still receive emails and letters from across the country from people who remember growing up in Danville, Illinois, and coming to Sunset to see and feed the swans. Sunset Memorial Park was featured in two national magazines in July of 1938: Modern Cemetery and American Cemetery Magazine.

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Swan improvements

After 73 years of serving the community, the Sunset Swan Pond was in dire need of restoration. The Swan Pond Memorialization Program and Restoring a Community Treasure projects began. It kicked off with the generous donation of a gazebo by Judy Henk, in memory of her son, Todd Potter. The gazebo was erected on August 21, 2004, which would have been Todd’s 40th birthday.

Since then, there have been improvements to the landscaping, fountain and Joe and Nellie's habitat. With the help of donations, we've also added a play area for children to climb and swing. In August 2014, we added a pergola to give the swans more shade and protection from the elements. Come and see for yourself!

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