Forest Park should “own Halloween.”
That was consultant Bridget Lane’s conclusion after becoming acquainted with Forest Park’s assets: 450,000 dead people residing in town — some of them famous; an upscale bar and restaurant scene; events like the Casket Races already in place; the Altenheim property; good cooperation between the village, library, park district and Chamber of Commerce; and an active Historical Society which already has programing related to the cemeteries.
“We all heartily agreed with Bridget Lane,” said Chamber Executive Director Laurie Kokenes. “The casket races in their fourth year are already part of that, but we thought about how we can offer other events surrounding Halloween during the whole month of October.”
With that objective in mind, the Chamber is adding two new events to its Halloween programming this fall. “Ghoulin’ in the Grove” will be held on Friday evening, Oct. 23, at The Grove on the Altenheim property. Scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and end at 9, it’s designed to be a family and kid-friendly event. Hot dogs, potato chips, popcorn and a dessert will be served. There will be a DJ and karaoke for the kids. Beer will be on hand for the adults, and the park district will be showing a kid-friendly scary movie.
The other new event is a Zombie Pub Crawl scheduled for the next day, Oct. 24, between 8 p.m. and midnight. Two trollies sponsored by Burke Beverage will be carrying patrons — who pay $10 for a wristband and a commemorative Zombie Pub Crawl Mug — safely from one drinking establishment to another. The tickets for the pub crawl will be sold by bars that are Chamber members, each getting a percentage of the sale. Kokenes said that gives the bars an incentive to join the Chamber or renew their membership, participate in the event and take a big part of the sales burden off the shoulders of the Chamber staff.
She added that the participating bars have the opportunity to plan their own special attractions like a costume contest or serving a specially concocted Halloween drink.
The pub crawl will cap off a busy Saturday of activities in Forest Park. The Casket Races will begin at 10 a.m. at the corner of Beloit and Madison, followed by Trick or Treat on Madison from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m., after which The Park will hold its annual “Trunk or Treat” event from 2 till 4 p.m., at which families are invited to decorate the trunks or hatchbacks of their cars.
Part of the Chamber’s goal is to market what already is a full calendar of events in “the village with small-town charm.” The Forest Park Historical Society led a tour of the Haymarket Martyrs Monument and Radical Row at Forest Home Cemetery on Oct. 3, followed by the 3rd Annual Fall Fest at The Park.
On Oct. 10, the Firefighters 5K run will be held in Concordia Cemetery.
The Forest Park Public Library has a long list of events on its Halloween schedule. They started a Creepy Classic Movie series on Oct. 2, along with a virtual tour of Forest Park’s cemeteries, followed by family read-ins, pumpkin painting on Oct. 21, a craft and costume event on Oct. 28, the annual Halloween Storytime on Oct. 30, and a Dia De Los Muertos celebration on Nov. 1.
Likewise, the Historical Society is offering several events in addition to the Haymarket Martyrs tour. On Oct. 17 they will move to Concordia Cemetery to do a morning walking tour of Section 8, which is the final resting place of many victims of the Eastland Disaster, followed by a bus tour of the cemetery in the afternoon. On Oct. 24, they will lead a kid- and family-friendly walking tour of Forest Home, and on Oct. 31 there will be a bus tour of the same cemetery.
Kokenes explained why the Chamber is going to such great efforts to “own Halloween.”
“With online shopping and competition from other areas, everyone is fighting for the same customers. In this current economy, you have to run faster to just stay where you are. I think the key is getting people to come to our business district with activities. People want an experience when they go to a place. Sure, they come to shop or dine or have a drink but nowadays they also want to have an ‘experience.’ We are creating events like the Holiday Walk or the Casket Races to do that.”
The trick for the Chamber, and maybe the treat as well, is to package all of the possibilities and then market them in a way that benefits local businesses and the whole village.