Halloween is exploding. And not just in a dolled-up, vampire-popping-from-a-coffin-to-scare-the-bejeebers-out-of-you sort of way. It has turned into a big-money, all-ages festival of candy, costumes and parties. A sort of “so-long summer and here comes the darkness” homage.

For an interesting combination of reasons, some historical and some commercial, Forest Park has long embraced Halloween. Not to overstate the obvious, but Forest Park is filled with dead people. And not just any dead people. Forest Park’s many cemeteries are chock full of fascinating lives, and for years the Forest Park Historical Society and the historical society from neighboring Oak Park have used Halloween as the perfect moment to offer tours that bring to life the people from our past. This year will be no exception and among the most interesting tours will be the graves of many who died in the Eastland Disaster, the sinking of a boat in Lake Michigan 100 years ago that claimed 715 souls.

Then there is the fourth annual Casket Race (watch for the Review this year!). Movies at the library. Old-fashioned trick-or-treating.

But this year, following the advice of a village-hired consultant, Bridget Lane, the Chamber of Commerce is moving fast to “own Halloween,” as in creating more destination events that will draw revelers and aficionados from across the area.

So new this year is Ghoulin’ in the Grove, a family event at the Altenheim, on Friday, Oct. 23 which features the park district showing a mildly scary movie for kids, along with hot dogs, chips and popcorn. It is possible there might be beer.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, Forest Park gets into the Zombie Pub Crawl craze. Why not?! Madison Street is packed with bars and restaurants. Halloween can be the autumn version of St. Patrick’s Day, but with more eye make-up.

Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, is right when she says that people want “experiences,” not just a drink or a meal these days. And Forest Park can create the ultimate Halloween experience.

Better to talk

The only thing harder than talking about race is consciously ignoring the subject when it is thrust before you. So our thanks to multiple officials and students at Forest Park’s District 91 elementary schools for the exemplary way in which they responded to a racial taunt — the N-word — hurled at students by one player from a competing team at a softball game last week.

Softball coach Christine Haase set the tone by refocusing her young men on the game after the unacceptable incident. She was joined at a team meeting the next morning by Principal Joe Pisano. Together they reinforced the strong values the teammates had shown in responding to the hateful provocation. And Supt. Louis Cavallo got on the phone to officials in LaGrange Highlands schools to express his strong concerns.

Pisano made the best case for his team, his school and our town when he said, “We as a school and community pride ourselves on embracing our multicultural student body. … We will use this experience as a teachable moment for our students.”

Well done.