The band was called Chicago, and the song was “Saturday in the Park.” But if you talk to anyone involved in planning this year’s celebration for the Fourth, you’d think the song was “Sunday in The Park – Forest Park.”
Another day in the park
You’d think it was the Fourth of July.
People talking, really smiling,
A man playing guitar
Singing for us all.
Larry Piekarz, director of the Park District of Forest Park, estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 people will fill The Park this Sunday for the village’s annual Fourth of July party. They’ll come, partly, to take in a really good show: The park district is spending $13,000 on the fireworks display. The band World Class Noise will be playing everything from ’70s pop to ’80s and ’90s punk to hits from today.
Instead of doing the cooking themselves, this year the park district has organized Forest Park’s version of Taste of Chicago. Vendors will include Deko’s, Molly Malone’s, Byron’s Hot Dogs, The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, Paciugo Gelato and a cooking team from St. Bernardine Parish. Kiwanis members will be selling beer. Forest Park Youth Soccer will have cold soda for sale. And the Eagles will be spinning cotton candy.
But it’s not the headline events, according to Piekarz, that define Independence Day at The Park. Sandy Byrnes, whom Piekarz calls the No. 1 volunteer, has put in hundreds of hours at The Park for more than 37 years. Her job for the Fourth this year will be selling the thousand dollars’ worth of glow products that Superintendent of Recreation Erin Parchert has bought.
Byrnes, who was a teacher’s aide here for 19 years, downplays how giving she is with her time. “I like watching the little kids grow up. Lots of them know me. Many are now married, and their kids are coming around. I’m helping, but I’m also seeing a lot of my friends.”
Byrnes said that some children, who grew up in Forest Park and then moved away when they became adults, still return home for the Fourth to meet friends and even volunteer. “It is like a family reunion,” she says.
Piekarz says that if you drive by the park on Saturday, July 3, you will see families already staking out their spots by spreading out blankets, setting up chairs and even putting up tarps. He said that people don’t seem to worry about these possessions being stolen because there will be 24-hour security. “This is Forest Park,” he added. “You can trust that your stuff will be here.”
He emphasized that all 60 of the park employees who will be on duty Sunday work hard to make the event family-friendly. In addition to the perennial Bingo, there will be what Piekarz calls old-fashioned picnic games, such as tug of war and an egg toss.
Piekarz noted that the park district’s celebration of the Fourth would not be possible without the cooperation of the whole town. He gave props first to the mayor for directing all the village’s departments to cooperate. He also singled out Park Commissioners Cathleen McDermott, John Doss, Sam Alonzo, Roy Sansone, Eric Entler, Gerald Sebesta and Chris Richards for “working shoulder to shoulder” with the park staff.
Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas said that the police department would have eight full-time and 25 auxiliary officers on duty. Fire Chief Steve Glinke said that one full engine company will be present for the fireworks show in addition to doing all the advance preparation work required by the state.
Piekarz reminds residents that, because of the crowd expected, no pets or charcoal grills will be permitted.