Web Extra! Slideshow

Click here to see a slideshow with more photos from SummerFest.

So you think the Memorial Day cookout you put on took a lot of planning and effort? Imagine what it would take to throw a party for 20,000 people.

Consider this. You’d have to make sure that eight patrol officers and 22 auxiliary police officers were scheduled and deployed, that nine port-a-potties were set up, that 750 gallons of beer were ordered and on tap at two locations, that three sound stages were set up, that eight bands were contracted, that Public Works employees were scheduled to deal with the ongoing cleanup, that Dumpsters were put in place, that electrical hookups were dropped from the straight lights, that advertising in the thousands of dollars was arranged, that volunteers were recruited, and that one broom was put in place to keep rainwater away from the sound equipment.

Cec Hardacker, a co-chair of this year’s SummerFest, called the planning and implementation of this kickoff of seasonal fun put on by the chamber of commerce a “monster effort.”

“Laurie [Kokenes] and Kathleen [Hanrahan] at the Chamber office have been working on it nonstop for probably a month. It’s crunch time now,” she said Thursday, the day before SummerFest began. “Doing this festival right now is a full-time job. After it’s over, I’ll need a vacation.” As you read this story, Hardacker, a Madison Street business owner, is taking time away to rest.

Hardacker and co-chair Mark Hosty began planning for SummerFest in January by sitting down with Kokenes and Hanrahan to map out a strategy that included fundraising, logistics, and how to involve the business community.

Hosty has been running the event for 14 years now, is a businessman and a commissioner in town. He worked with the village to make sure that a functioning infrastructure was in place to handle the thousands of people who attend. “This fest could not happen without them,” he said.

Deputy Chief of Police Tom Aftanas said that although Sgt. Tim Adams put in many hours developing the coverage plan for the event by coordinating operations with the chamber, Public Works and fire departments, planning is getting easier each year, because law enforcement needs don’t change much from year to year.

Building on connections made has also helped in fundraising.

SummerFest was a free event because Hardacker raised almost $39,000 from local merchants and from corporations that do business in Forest Park. She described sponsoring the giant block party as a win-win proposition. The chamber gets the funding it needs, and businesses get a lot of exposure.

“You don’t just call someone up and expect them to help,” Hardacker says. “We’ve been doing business with Chicago Magazine and Red Bull since we moved here. We’ve been cultivating our relationship with them for years. It’s all about relationships.”

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