Asked who won the Best Window award during the annual Holiday Walk on Madison St. last Friday evening, Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, chose to emphasize cooperation instead of competition.
“We’ve come to realize,” she said, “that every shop participating is a winner. The live windows are what make the Chamber’s Holiday Walk so unique. By the effort they put into it, it’s evident that the merchants ‘get it.’ There was something happening in almost every shop — homemade cupcakes, face painting, activities and crafts, local music students playing for the crowd and so much more. Augie Aleksy even had a live choir dressed in period costumes in his window singing Medieval and Renaissance madrigals.”
Kokenes also had praise for village government as well as the merchants. She pointed out that the village splits the cost of decorating the main business thoroughfare with the Chamber and also puts up the Christmas tree in Constitution Court. McAdam Landscaping is the third player in the partnership.
“McAdam does an amazing job choosing and installing the beautiful live and lighted garlands and wreaths on Madison St.,” Kokenes said. “We’ve had countless compliments on the holiday décor.”
The Chamber’s primary mission is to promote business, of course. Erik Fjelstand, a vice president at Forest Park National Bank and a member of the Chamber board of directors, said the event did just that.
“Our informal surveys of the crowd,” he noted, “found that it was a mix of people from Forest Park and the surrounding villages, along with quite a few people from Chicago and other more distant suburbs.
Besides promoting business, the Holiday Walk seems to lift the spirits of many of the residents of the village with small-town charm.
“It’s always a treat to walk around during the event and feel the spirit on the street,” Kokenes said. “This year it seemed that the positive vibe on the street was at an all-time high, so much excitement at Santa’s arrival and children singing Christmas songs while walking with their family.”
Rob McAdam, vice president of McAdam Landscaping and also on the Chamber board of directors, shared a story that captures how the Holiday Walk combines the promotion of business with the creation of a fairy tale atmosphere.
“I met a young woman from the North Side of Chicago,” he said, “who was waiting for the carriage ride with her child. She said the Forest Park Holiday Walk was the highlight of her family’s year and the perfect kickoff to the Christmas season, that she comes every year, and that Forest Park ‘is the best place around.'”
Kokenes was grateful to every shop and restaurant that participated. “Each business,” she declared, “is a star that makes Madison Street shine brightly.”