Because of the park's location in the center of the University neighborhood the Chili Bowl Festival attracts a large crowd from Syracuse University, the Westcott neighborhood and the city of Syracuse as a whole.
The TPA is a member based all volunteer 501 ( C ) ( 3 ) non profit organization that was founded over 20 years ago to preserve and protect Thornden Park. The Chili Bowl Festival is one of only two annual events the group uses to raise funds to improve the park and encourage its use by the community. The other event is the annual Spring garden tour of unique private gardens of University neighborhood residents. Other funds are raised through application for grants and modest membership dues.
TPA projects also include restoration and maintenance of the Lily Pond and perennial gardens and rehabilitation of the Carriage House, the only structure on the grounds that dates back to the park's original function as a private estate. The Carriage House hosts the "Discovery Day Camp" each summer for area children. Thornden Park and its Field House are regularly used by the Sherman Park Bull Dogs.
The Field House and the Carriage House are available for use by groups and individuals year round and each summer the park's Amphitheater is the setting for a production by Syracuse Opera, Shakespeare in the Park, and large private weddings.
The famous E. M. Mills Rose Garden is maintained by the Syracuse Rose Society. The Rose garden contains over 10,000 roses and is internationally known as one of the finest in America. It is one of only six test gardens used by the All American Rose Selections to test their offerings for the following season. The E. M. Mills Rose Garden is another favorite for wedding party photographs.
Inquiries about reserving park facilities should be made to the city of Syracuse's Parks Programs.