If the holiday spirit is beckoning, there are two not-to-miss events coming up in Forest Park: the annual Holiday Walk & Festival of Windows, on Friday, Dec. 2; and Deck-A-Tree at the Park District of Forest Park, on Monday, Dec. 5.
The former is a yearly tradition on Madison Street, that’s been presented by the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, for at least 15 years, Forest Park Chamber of Commerce Director Laurie Kokenes said. For the event, participating shop owners deck out their store windows with festive ornamentation, for the passersby to take in. There is also an abundance of other festive activities that will be taking place as part of the event.
The latter program is sort of a DIY tree-decoration event at the park district. It will see folks purchase trees and decorate them; however, those who don’t want to dress up the trees don’t have to – the park district is willing to do the work. The finished products will then be on the front lawn of the park district’s campus, 7501 Harrison St., until after the new year.
Kokenes was full of glee while describing the Holiday Walk.
“You’ll revel in all things Christmas … Horse-drawn sleigh rides, photo opportunities with Santa and his reindeers, a marshmallow roast, face painting and merchant open houses featuring special sales, refreshments and more are among the treats awaiting you,” she said. “But the highlight is the shopkeeper’s windows featuring creative and sometimes humorous live holiday displays. You’ve never seen anything like it … not even on State Street!”
Erin Parchert, park district superintendant, explained how the Deck-A-Tree program works: “We provide the tree and electric outlets for $25 [nonresidents pay $38], you provide lights and ornaments, and you decorate. Anyone who signs up is welcome to come on [Dec. 5], between 3:30 and 7 p.m. for hot cocoa, cookies, and camaraderie. The trees will be left up until right after the new year.”
“We want to promote family and community togetherness during the decoration celebration … [and] add to the festive holiday charm by lighting up the park district during the month of December,” Parchert said.
Augie Aleksy, a chamber board member and the owner of Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 Madison St., said the objective of the walk was, in part, to drum up business, but also to create and instill community and holiday spirit.
“Our main objective as merchants is to get people to come here and spend money,” said Aleksy, adding “There are different ways to reach the goal of increasing business … what makes Forest Park so special is we have fun doing it.”
And it’s not just Forest Parkers who have come out to see the window displays in the past, Kokenes affirmed. “Live window displays make the chamber’s Holiday Walk a unique event that brings folks to Forest Park from all over Chicagoland,” she said.
That being said, shop owners take great pride in the presentation of their store-window displays, this time of year. Aleksy joked that the competition to be voted best window display – ballots are cast by the public – can be fierce.
And many of the shop owners will not be keeping their window displays a secret up until the last minute – when the event kicks off at 6 p.m., on Friday. For example, if you drive past Schauer’s Hardware store, 7443 Madison St., you’ll notice that the front windows of the shop are covered with wrapping paper.
Just down the street, at Centuries & Sleuths, Aleksy plans to host the Harlem Maener und Damen Chor, which will tap into Forest Park’s early ethnic roots by singing German music in the store. He didn’t say what he had
Over at the park district, those who just want to purchase a tree but don’t want to decorate it can still participate in the Deck-A-Tree event. For $75 ($90 for nonresidents), the park district staff will handle all work, as part of its Wonderland Tree Package.
So, if you’re interested in participating, Parchert said, you need to come to the park district and sign up by Dec. 2. Contact park officials Stacy Nystrom or Rachell Entler at 708-366-7500 if you need more information.
Both of these events will create a festive, holiday atmosphere that will draw both locals and nonresidents, according to those involved with the events.
Aleksy affirmed this when he said that the locals he has talked to have claimed that their friends “wish their towns had something creative like this.”
Such is life in Forest Park.
Nick Moroni contributed to this article