A rainy evening and tough economic times failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the village’s business community as the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development gathered for its annual meeting on May 7.

Effectively the purpose of the dinner gala, which was attended by community leaders from all venues, is to report on how the chamber has impacted the economic climate over the last 12 months. Chamber President Heidi Vance said that a dozen new businesses have opened in Forest Park and that chamber is brainstorming ways for members to navigate the new economy. She urged local businesses to “stay informed, network and interact.”

But the highlight of the evening was the announcement of the Pride Awards given annually to residential and commercial property owners who have made significant investments. Cherryfield Construction, with offices in Forest Park, was recognized for five residential projects in town: 108 Rockford Ave., 157 Rockford Ave., 1108 and 1114 Ferdinand Ave. and 1418 Marengo Ave.

Over the years Cherryfield has built or renovated 15 properties in Forest Park.

Tom Flanagan, owner of Forest Park’s Flanagan Ventures, received an award for his renovation of the house at 1012 Beloit Ave. Flanagan added a second story and many modern amenities to the former bungalow.

Melanie and Eric Bland won an award for their home at 513 Thomas Ave. The couple said their renovation coincided with the re-birth of Forest Park, having moved to the community at the time of the Madison Street reconstruction.

The final residential award went to Matt Hegna for completely remodeling the home at 7657 Wilcox St.

The commercial Pride Awards kicked off with a nod to the Park District of Forest Park. The park facilities on Harrison Street, constructed in 1938, underwent its first major facelift in 70 years. The $2.1 million project included an expansion of the park’s offices, the installation of an elevator, a new roof and other capital improvements.

Pat’s Pet Emporium moved to Madison Street in Forest Park after 19 years in Oak Park and was recognized for such improvements as artistic murals, which were painted by Proviso East students.

Thyme and Honey Restaurant was another Oak Park transplant to receive a Pride Award.

Other winners include The Sylvan Learning Center, Michael Pace of 7410-7412 Madison St. LLC for his $3 million mixed-use development, the Forest Park National Bank and Gaetano’s restaurant, all of which are located on Madison Street.

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.