At the celebration for the grand reopening of Circle Avenue, the Park District stage was in position on the 800 block, complete with podium. Somehow, though, it was more appropriate that Mayor Anthony Calderone and village commissioners made their speeches while standing on the street’s smooth jet-black surface.

“We’re fortunate that sales tax revenue paid for this project,” Calderone said, referring to the Village Improvement Project, which consisted in part of the reconstruction of Circle Avenue as well as the repaving of alleys and other infrastructural work throughout the village.

He thanked the citizens of Forest Park for passing the referendum that enabled the sales tax to be levied. He also thanked Waldo the Magician for coming “over the bridge” to entertain children at the gathering.

Commissioner Patrick Doolin said that the referendum had made the village’s job easier. “We asked: Do you want new streets, sewers and alleys and you said yes.”

Commissioners Mark Hosty and Theresa Steinbach echoed these sentiments, with Hosty also giving thanks for the free lunch. Calderone concluded by thanking Circle Avenue residents for their “patience in having the street and parkway torn up.”

As with many public gatherings in Forest Park, a party broke out. Corky’s Catering grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and there were ice-filled tubs containing complimentary soft drinks. Rock music played on the sound system and children bounced around inside a “Moonwalk.”

Of course, the Circle Avenue project hadn’t been all fun and games for its residents. Sabrina Beaudry recalled the project started in early autumn and was a “nice welcome to town.”

“It wasn’t a huge inconvenience,” the Chicago transplant said, “But it was loud and dusty and they broke my gas line twice.” During the demolition of the street, Beuadry’s “whole house shook from jackhammers.” As the project progressed, mud and dust were a constant menace and construction vehicles clogged the street. All in all, though, Beaudry sees the project as a “big improvement.”

The most common complaint from Circle Avenue residents was the condition of the new sod on the parkway. Some described it as a “patchwork quilt.” The village initially watered the sod but now residents are soaking it to keep the new grass from dying.

One of Beaudry’s neighbors, who asked not to be named, likened the Circle Avenue project to giving birth. “You tend to forget the labor pains, when the child is born.” She also suggested: “They should re-pave all the streets to match Circle Avenue.” Now, that might take another referendum.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.