I sold beer- and ride-tickets for the chamber on both Friday and Saturday evenings at this year’s Summerfest; and whenever there was a break in the action at the ticket table, I’d look around to see what was going on.
As usual, what I saw made me happy that I live in Forest Park.
The reasons abound; here are some of them:
Lots of kids came to our ticket table saying, “I’d like one ticket for the giant slide, please.”Ê I just love seeing them, their eyes wide with excitement and anticipation; and so many of them were well-mannered.
The line at the giant “Fun Slide” stretched for half a block at times, andÊ I’m not sure who had more fun – the kids on the slide, or the parents and grandparents watching them.
The food;Êah, the food.Ê Meatball sandwiches from Jimmy’s, brats grilled by the Harlem Maenner Chor, ice cream dished up by Brown Cow, quesadillas from Cocina Lobos, cheese and caramel corn at Madly Pop’n’s booth, and countless items that were offered by Starship Subs.
A lot of dads took the time to care for their kids while at the fest. The times really have changed;Êmy father didn’t do much with me until I was old enough to play sports.
My buddy, Judy Trage, and I sold tickets together in the same place for the umpteenth time.Ê These little traditions help me maintain my equilibrium in a changing world.
Three of the four commissioners, and the mayor, all greeted me by my first name when I ran into them.
I got a hug from a woman whose grown daughter I baptized years ago.
A lot of really cool dogs were being paraded around by their owners.
Mark Hosty, Liz Axtel and Laurie Kokenes worked tons of hours to put this event on.Ê
Team work: the village, the police and the chamber see each other as players on the same team.
I think Dr. King would be pleased if he were able to see how easily individuals from many racial groups got along with each other at Summerfest.
Some business owners lost money during Summerfest because the street is blocked off for two days. Nonetheless, many still support the event because they understand that it is good for the whole town.
Mark Hosty was kind enough to schedule at least one band for the old fogies like me. The Neverly Brothers play songs I know all the words to.
Except for a few obnoxious people who drank too much beer, almost everyone else around the two beer counters knew how to manage their intake.
Everyone who knew Wayne Schauer was mourning the loss of a good man, but even that felt good, because we were able to do it together.
I saw bosses and their employees, PhDs and high school drop outs, Sox fans and Cub fans all mixing together because this was a community event.Ê Since we don’t have a high school to serve as a focal point for community-building, events like Summerfest are very important for our village’s sense of identity.Ê If you wanted to explain what Forest Park feels like, you might answer, “Just come to Summerfest or the Fourth of July celebration in the park and you will see pictures worth a thousand words.
Back to the giant slide; compared to the high tech and high priced rides at Great America, the slide is very lame.Ê So, why was there such a long line to get on it? Well, many of the riders were very young, so thrills come cheap, but I think there’s more to it than that. People who live in this village tend to be unpretentious; I love that about this town. A day at the pool, Groovin’ in the Grove, or just chatting with shop owners you’ve known for 10 years satisfy many of us. It’s theÊsimple pleasures we enjoy.Ê
Finally, if you drove down Madison Street at 10 a.m., the Sunday after the fest, you know that it was spotless; again, teamwork. The village crew did a great job cleaning up.
After 30 years, I’m still happy to be here.
Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.