It was a year of celebration for the Forest Park Review, as the newspaper marked a century in print. 

The Review kicked off its coverage with an exhaustive expose of the red-light tickets that extract millions from motorists at intersections along Harlem Avenue. This story shared the front page with an article announcing the advent of video gaming in the village.

The Review reported on the political unrest sweeping the country, which included many protesters from Forest Park. In artistic news, Forest Parkers organized a colorful facelift of the Circle Bridge. Garage Galleries was well-attended, despite drenching rain. Google, meanwhile, put Forest Park on the cultural map by celebrating the life of sculptor Edmonia Lewis and her masterpiece, “The Death of Cleopatra,” which sat in Forest Park for over 70 years, barely escaped the landfill, and is now in the Smithsonian.

Ferrara Pan Candy Co. also found a reason to celebrate in 2017, as the plant reduced landfill waste to zero. The candy maker also spruced up its retail shop. Just west of the factory, the Roos site was finally approved to be the future home of the park district’s Family Recreation Center. 

Meanwhile, new businesses sprang up along Madison Street, including Escape Factor, Twisted Cookie and Suite Spotte, an office-space sharing enterprise. Other businesses left, like the American Art Gallery and Yearbook’s retail store (transformed into an interior design shop nearby). Marty Sorice bought his 11th bar in Forest Park, Carole’s on Roosevelt Road. Just east of Carole’s, Wing Stop shut down after it lost its liquor license. 

In March, construction began on the Roosevelt Road streetscaping project. Businesses report good cooperation with the village and the contractor. On April 1, construction started on the new recreational center. Elections were held for the Park District Board of Commissioners, and Matt Walsh ran on the promise of restoring The Park’s July 4th fireworks. This is one campaign promise that was kept. 

Meanwhile, Proviso Together geared up for the District 209 elections. Despite facing a well-funded political machine, they swept four seats and established a majority on the board. The staff and students of D209, along with their counterparts from District 91, provided supplies and support to the two families that were burned out of 1124 Marengo. 

The 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame recognized the Review’s coverage of the No Gloves Tournament by honoring the newspaper with its “Media Award.” The Review continued its tradition of previewing the tournament with a special section. The newspaper also produced its annual Community Guide with the theme “Taste FP, Shop FP, Play FP and Live FP.” The village lost one of its places to shop when Ultra Foods shut its doors on Roosevelt Road. 

2017 was also the year the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shut down, after more than a century of entertainment. Woodlawn Cemetery also discontinued the annual Clown Week celebration at Showmen’s Rest, where 56 circus performers are buried in a mass grave. In happier news, the third annual German Fest was a great success. This event was held in the picnic grove next to Altenheim.  

The Altenheim property is where Ralph Di Febo is proposing the construction of a Cultural Park. Plans for the park gained traction when an ad hoc committee was formed and the National Park Service approved the plans. The idea also received a boost when the great-great grandson of Forest Park’s founder, Ferdinand Haase, came to town. It was the first time Ben Brooks had visited the village and he saw parallels between Cultural Park and the village’s original Haase Park. Brooks donated some vintage photos to the Historical Society of Forest Park, which once again had to hunt for a home, after moving out of First United Church. 

Music Fest made its return to Madison Street. There was no shortage of celebrations in Forest Park, including Ribfest, the Holiday Window Walk and the Casket Races. There was even an Eclipse Party on the roof of 7503 Madison, hosted by the Urban Pioneer Group and Grateful BBQ. 

But all was not sweetness and light in the village, as a number of disturbing crimes were committed. These included a shooting at Constitution Court and shots being fired on the 1000 block of Circle. 

The year also marked the passing of a number of notable Forest Parkers, including CAAEL founder John Martin; Jim Shaw, longtime owner of Doc Ryan’s; and a heroic single mom named Phyllis Cormack. The Review also honored the memory of Realtor extraordinaire Loretta Walsh and the former president of Grant Hospital, Dick Brennan. 

The village showed its heart for hurricane victims when Kyle Fitzgerald went on a mercy mission to Houston. Ten-year-old Storey Novak also did her part, spearheading an effort to collect supplies and funds for the victims in Texas. 

The mall on Roosevelt Road received a shot in the arm when HOBO opened up inside the long-defunct Kmart store. Starship Subs celebrated 40 years on Madison Street, while Dr. Arnold Clevs shut down his dentistry practice after 54 years. Lenore Koca retired from her State Farm insurance office after many years at the corner of Desplaines & Madison. Meanwhile, St. John Lutheran Church celebrated 150 years of ministry.

Finally, the Review suffered a blow with the retirement of beloved columnist, Jackie Schulz, who will be honored for her many years of service to the community at an upcoming Kiwanis banquet.

Well deserved, if we do say so ourselves.

All in all, quite a year.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...