Village of Forest Park's last St. Patrick's Day parade in 2020. This year's parade was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be held in September. | File photo

A rising tide, goes the saying, lifts all boats. The mission of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce is to promote a rising tide in this village’s business community, i.e. to promote the business community as a whole in the hope that each business will benefit.

It’s been an ebb tide for most business owners during the pandemic, but Laurie Kokenes, the Chamber’s executive director, senses the tide is turning and shared ways in which her group is, to switch metaphors, leading the economic rebound.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St. Patrick himself might get a little disoriented when he learns that this year the parade named after him will be celebrated in Forest Park on Sept. 18 instead of March 17.  It’s the kind of move the Chamber has been making for 14 months now, i.e. making lemonade out of life’s lemons. 

Chamber board members like to repeat the fact that the parade brings thousands of people to Madison Street and is an example of the conviction that what’s good for the whole community is good for each individual business.


One benefit of Chamber membership is the monthly networking luncheons held on a rotating basis at member restaurants. Kokenes said, “We are excited to announce that our first in-person luncheon since the stay-at-home order will be in O’Sullivan’s beer garden on June 9.”


Kokenes said that last year the Chamber raised funds to fill all the flower pots on Madison Street and Roosevelt Road with spring and summer flowers.  This year, she said, the village will be planting summer flowers and has asked the Chamber to work with Empowering Gardens to source the flowers for fall. “We’ll need to raise some money to pay for the flowers,” she said, “but we’re excited to support their mission.”

Art Stroll

The Chamber and the Forest Park Arts Alliance will be hosting a family-friendly art stroll the first Thursday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m., beginning June 3. Each month, local artists and their art will be located inside different businesses where folks can meet the artists and purchase art.

The goal of Chamber programming? “The event is designed to bring people to Forest Park and showcase the host businesses as well as shops and restaurants along the way,” Kokenes said. The August stroll will be held on Roosevelt Road. For this and all events, watch the Chamber’s Facebook page for more details.

Back to “normal” in the fall

The following events are expected to be held, said Kokenes:

Casket Races – Oct. 23

Wine Walk – Nov. 6 

Holiday Walk – Dec. 3

On the drawing board

Sidewalk Sale: “We’re just beginning to discuss the event with merchants,” said Kokenes, “so we can get everyone involved and make it a really big deal.”

Golf Outing: This combination fundraising and networking event has often been done with the Oak Park Chamber. Like the sidewalk sale, the event is still in the research stage.

Jobs List/Job Fair: “We are reviewing the available options for managing and promoting job openings for our members,” said Kokenes. “Currently they are being posted on our Facebook page and are being widely shared, and the posts are getting a decent reach.”