The centerpiece to the start of the village’s Centennial Celebration held on Saturday was a time capsule scheduled to be buried in October and unearthed after the passing of another century.
Residents gathered in the park at the corner of Circle and Randolph streets, the site of the first village hall in Forest Park, to review some of the contents of the time capsule. Attendees were also treated to an outdoor jazz concert, refreshments and a photo retrospective chronicling the first 100 years of the village’s history.
Mayor Anthony Calderone addressed the revelers, reminding them that the community they live in was originally called Harlem until its renaming in 1907. The actual anniversary of that event was Monday, June 18. Calderone spoke of the most compelling stories from Forest Park’s history, including the Bloomer Girls softball team of the early 20th Century, which inspired the Academy Award-winning movie “A League of Their Own.”
As an ice sculpture in the shape of an elephant melted in the afternoon sun, the mayor explained the elephant is a nod to a tragic accident that took place in Forest Park almost 100 years ago. More than 50 circus showmen were killed when a sleeping engineer’s train collided into theirs.
Caitlyn Fontagneres-Robinson, who just finished the fifth grade, was one of nine student winners of a town-wide drawing and essay contest celebrating the centennial. She wrote about that tragic accident that killed the circus performers. On Saturday, though, she was thinking of the future.
“I want people to remember Madison Street,” Fontagneres-Robinson said.
The young girl said that if she were in charge of the time capsule she would include pictures of Madison Street, most especially of the ice cream parlor that is a favorite stop of hers.
The time capsule will be sealed in a vault to protect its contents from aging, and will be opened in 100 years. Sally Cody, an organizing member of the ad hoc Centennial Committee, said one resident submitted photos of their neighborhood complete with a letter addressed to residents who might be living on the block in 2107.
“A picture of your house, a picture of your street; just anything that somebody will think is pretty cool in 100 years,” Cody said of the items they’re looking for.
Other keepsakes to be included are baseball cards for the Cubs and White Sox, T-shirts from area businesses, coffee from Blue Max, police and fire department clothing, a recipe for Ferrara Pan’s lemonheads, and a CTA card and map.
Forest Park will celebrate the centennial in grand style on Labor Day weekend. Cody said the village has already signed seven bands and may snag an eighth. She added that admission will be free for the three-day event that will take place in the green space and adjacent pavement behind the Altenheim senior home. In addition to the rock music, there will be a German band, food, beer served by state and local officials, and a carnival for kids.
In the meantime, there are 25 elephant statues commemorating the centennial on the streets of Forest Park, Cody said, and more will be popping up next week. The statues will remain until Nov. 1.