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Thanks to last weekend’s blowout on Madison Street, it finally feels like summer in Forest Park. I only spent about eight hours at Summerfest 2008 but that was long enough to see three great bands and witness fest goers whooping it up in front of the main stage.

That spacious stage, by the way, was a vast improvement over the cramped Park District platform that used to be placed in Constitution Court. On Friday night, R-Gang, a Forest Park mainstay, had the crowd pulsating to the sounds of the ’70s.

The high-energy group inspired an eclectic group of locals to perform the Electric Slide. This was topped by the lead guitarist performing a solo with his teeth. R-Gang’s hit list is a tough act to follow and I wondered if the evening’s last band, Elevation, could rise to the occasion. This U2 tribute band had played in the afternoon at last year’s fest, where organizers instantly recognized their potential as headliners.

Though songs by the Irish rockers do not inspire dancing, Elevation’s lead singer, bearing an eerie resemblance to Bono, won the crowd with his soaring vocals. The excitement level grew during the set with the crowd pressing forward – gyrating to U2’s anthems.

As for the other Summerfest attractions, we didn’t make it to the Jazz Stage, or see the Jesse White Tumblers. And we were turned away from the Pony Rides due to some size restriction.

When we weren’t taking in the excitement of Madison Street, we were busy with another summer ritual – putting in air conditioners. We bought the World’s Largest Window Unit to cool the first floor and spent an afternoon securing it in place. After we had it ready to go, we noticed it had a funny looking cord that didn’t match any outlet I’d ever seen.

The folks at Ace Hardware fixed us up with the right outlet and our neighbor installed it free of charge. Is this a great town or what?

That Saturday, like many Forest Parkers, we avoided “Rainfest” but returned to Madison for “Moonfest.” The headliner, Dona Oxford, was a human tornado on keyboard and vocals. It’s one thing to wow a crowd with cover versions of favorite hits. It’s much more difficult to move them with original material, but Oxford and her incredibly tight band filled the dance floor. This singer-songwriter came all the way from Los Angeles to play Summerfest and her honky-tonk riffs are still ringing in my ears.

During the waning moments of Summerfest I felt a familiar twinge. I realized I had just made my first donation to the annual Mosquito Blood Drive. Yes, summer is finally here.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.