Updated Oct. 30, 2012 – 5 p.m.
It was a race to the boneyard at Forest Park’s first Ghost Flapper Casket Races as ghouls, fairies and ghosts of the Titanic propelled down the 400 block of Beloit Saturday morning, speeding across the police-tape finish line and crashing into stacked hay bales. Fifteen teams competed – the Oak Park Local 95 Firefighters team had to bow out to respond to a call.
Onlookers lined Beloit, in sunny 47-degree weather. Many were dressed in Halloween costumes, ready for Trick or Treat on Madison Street at noon. The Casket Races were devised as both an annual Halloween event and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development.
The Green Machine park district casket won first place, hitting the finish line at 16.53 seconds. Charioteer Stacy Lafortune rode the casket, propelled to victory by Ryan Russ, Antoine Lafortune, John Ryan Doss, Kevin Dunn and Christopher Chin. The Green Machine was modeled after John Deere turf-care equipment, with an open bottom to make it lightweight.
Dr. Jerry’s hairy “Tooth Fairies” won second place at 16:97, a half-second slower than the winners. Mark Suda, Kris Carson, Dan Grajdura, Dr. Jerry Udelson and Danny Jisa raced wearing fluffy white costumes emblazoned with a tooth and accompanied by tutus and angel wings. After the race team members reverently kissed their second-place trophy and chewed congratulatory cigars. The Tooth Fairies also captured the “Funniest” award.
McGaffer’s Imbibers, a tie-dyed tribute to the Grateful Dead won third place at 17.81 seconds.
Shock Theater of Elmhurst, a “horror themed rock and roll band” won the “Creepiest” award, with Zach Hauger in top hat and skeleton makeup pushed by punk-rock pall bearers Adam Hauger, Steve Connolly, Scott Hall and Jason Marshall. Their creepy car featured a raven hood ornament and mice.
The “Slowest” award went to Teachers from the Titanic, proudly representing Cicero school District 99. Perhaps inspired by 2nd grade dioramas that fill their lives, their casket was decorated with a cardboard “ocean liner” motif. Kristina Pierce, Stacey Kouzios, Annie Wodecki and Rita Kulaga pushed the doomed vessel. Passenger Jennifer Cerceo shared the cabin with several Styrofoam “icebergs.” At over a minute and with several mid-course twirls, they came in “dead last.”
But the true once-in-a-lifetime entry was the Schauer Hardware/Nadeau Ice Sculpture “Ice Hammer” casket Ð which won the “Coolest” award (literally and figuratively), being carved completely of ice and conveyed on an up-ended dining room table with wheels attached. The rolling ice chest weighed more than 1,000 lbs.
Crooked Oak, LLC, a custom closet carpentry firm based in Broadview, attempted to bribe the crowd by flinging candy. Behind the casket, two stainless steel “acorns” dangled between the back wheels.
Accents by Fred, which also sponsored the races, ran the only purple coffin in the race. Twin mannequin leg hood ornaments decorated the deedee and edee “Drop Dead Gorgeous” entry. A flag bedecked team of political zombies called their exhibit “Running for President.” Representatives of the Bereavement Industry were represented by GeoKat Monuments (which also makes granite kitchen counters). Woodlawn Cemetery helped underwrite the event.
Centuries and Sleuths bookstore evoked a Napoleonic caisson with their coffin, with La Libert Ð flapper style Ð played by local author (and Forest Park Review columnist) Stephanie Kuehnert. Kevil’s and the U.S. Post office were represented, as well as the Freaky Forest Fiends of Forest Insurance.
Later Saturday afternoon, the Village of Forest Park presented Ghoulin’ in the Grove with food, drink, a bags tournament and costume contest. Live music was performed by Sundance in the Forest Park Picnic Grove.