The Bob Haeger All School Picnic marks the beginning of summer vacation with inflatables, pony rides, a climbing wall and plenty of hotdogs, according to Steve Thomas, assistant director of the park district and co-chair of this year’s 42nd annual event. Although usually held the Thursday before Memorial Day, this year’s festivities are planned for this Thursday, June 4, from 11 to 2 p.m. at The Park. There will be a canine show at noon, followed by a magic show at 1 p.m.
The gathering involves coordination between the Chamber of Commerce, the park district and school District 91 as well as several village departments. Laurie Kokenes, executive director, told the Review “the Chamber is the main sponsor money-wise.” However, various D91 PTOs also contribute funds.
Kokenes is the daughter of the late Bob Haeger, longtime Forest Park Review publisher and the event’s namesake since his passing in 1992. Aside from his duties as Review publisher, Haeger also held several positions at the Chamber, including president. “He loved Forest Park more than anything.” his daughter told the Review.
Referring to staging the event, D91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo said, “This is truly a collaborative effort. It is fantastic to work together with the good people from all of these organizations for our kids.”
Citing the closure of Harrison Street to accommodate the pony rides, Thomas noted “a lot of cooperation with the fire and police departments.”
The event’s execution necessitates a strong volunteer presence, involving many parents and D91 staff and “all of the District 91 teachers and administrators work at the picnic,” Cavallo said.
In years past, both local private and public schools participated. However, with the closing of St. Bernardine’s in 2013, the event now only involves public schools.
Still, the celebration offers an opportunity for students to socialize with children from across the district, as well as parents and educational staff. According to Cavallo, the picnic “helps build a sense of community with our youth.”
“This event is rare in this day and age,” he continued, “and I hope that the community of Forest Park continues to provide the picnic. It is refreshing to see people from all the different organizations work together for the benefit of kids. Not many communities have the sense of community that Forest Park has. It is a great place to live and raise kids.”