I’m not one of those people who gets excited about the holidays when Halloween ends. That time of year is stressful, and when it approaches I start longing for my beloved Halloween to come around again. That’s why I was happy to hear that Forest Park has big plans for October 2012.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and the newly re-energized Historical Society of Forest Park is hoping to help them celebrate in a unique way.

Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the chamber of commerce, saw something online about an event held in Manitou Springs, Colo. called the Emma Crawford Coffin Races.

The event sees residents decorate wooden caskets that are put on wheels, and then race them down the street.

After reading up on it, Laurie said she thought, “That would be perfect for Forest Park given our ‘unbalanced’ demographic of more dead people than living.”

“It’s unique, a bit eccentric, and just plain fun,” she added.

Laurie also believes the event, tentatively titled Forest Park Flapper Ghost Casket Races, will bring tons of foot traffic to Forest Park when its held next year. A date for the event hasn’t been nailed down just yet, though. 

My beloved town a Mecca on my beloved holiday? I’m sold!

When I talked to Augie Aleksy, president of the Forest Park Historical Society, he discussed the logistics of the casket races. The society wants to make sure the caskets are constructed properly, so they’re going to use quality supplies from Schuaer hardware to do the building, according to Augie. Participants also have the option of hiring someone to do the casket building, he said.

Augie hopes a unique event like the casket races will attract young people to the festivities and also to Forest Park’s historical society.

He mentioned the idea to a college-aged shopper in his store, Centuries & Sleuths, and she said she would definitely be interested in participating in something as quirky as casket racing.

Augie wants people of all ages involved with the historical society, calling the one of its younger board members, secretary Andrew Cooper, who is 35, “a godsend.” Andrew’s interest in Forest Park history stemmed from doing research on his home. He said he wanted “to learn more about the village and the people who lived here.”

“When did you start getting excited about history?” Augie asked me during our chat. I explained that when I develop an interest in a time period or a place (like my childhood obsession with Ancient Egypt, for example), I’m hungry to learn as much as I can. 

The more invested I’ve become in Forest Park’s community, the more intrigued I am in its past. If you feel that way, too, you might consider joining the historical society. As Andrew put it, “You don’t have to be a lifetime resident or multi-generational Forest Parker.  The historical society is open to all.  If you live in Forest Park or have a connection to the town, your history is part of Forest Park’s history.”

The historical society’s board is holding weekly meetings at this point to work on rewriting their bylaws, plan for that much-needed space to store their collection, build a website and organize events that celebrate the history of our village.

They are going to need more members, volunteers and committee members, so if you would like to be involved, contact them at forestparkhistory1975@gmail.com or 708-232-3747

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.