Forest Park residents and visitors will have a chance to dance to salsa, merengue and machete music in Constitution Court on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at an event celebrating Latino culture.

Solskin Gomez-Krogh, a Forest Park resident and member of the Bailando En Las Calles event planning team, said, “We will be celebrating Hispanic culture in various family-friendly activities and through music and dance. We will have a balloon artist for the little ones. We will have DJ music by DJ Budha, dance lessons from Extreme Latin Dance AniaMK, and live music by Grupo Bachateame. 

Forest Park’s District 91 elementary schools will have activities including coloring a map of Latin America, and the library will have a booth with information.

Joana Fischer, owner of Twisted Cookie, will be at the celebration selling “a red, white and green sprinkle cookie along with some of our other popular flavors.” Connie Brown reported that Brown Cow will be “featuring our craft made super premium Avocado, Horchata & Mexican hot chocolate ice cream. We will also have a non-dairy piña colada ice cream and mango sorbet available.” 

The event closes at 5 p.m. with the hope that participants will patronize a restaurant in town.

Gomez-Krogh said the primary purpose of Bailando is to celebrate Latino culture, but that the event will also be good for the village’s main business street.

Posters promoting Bailando refer to it as Volume II, because in 2019 Mayor Rory Hoskins had approached Hispanic leaders in Forest Park with the idea of having an Hispanic Pride event. The result was Bailando Vol. I which ran from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The event went on hiatus for two years because of COVID 19 and is continuing in a shortened version this year because the virus still is active although not as dangerous as it was during the height of the pandemic.

Gomez-Krogh, who is in her late forties, has an interesting bio. She was born in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to a Mexican father and Danish mother. The family moved to the U.S. when she was nine, and she became a Forest Parker seven years ago. She has one daughter and her husband, who was born in Chicago, also identifies as Hispanic. 

“I love my Latino culture and how it is celebrated in Chicago,” she said when asked what motivated her to invest her time and energy into planning Bailando. 

She acknowledged that although Latin American cultures are certainly not monolithic, they have many things in common like the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil and Spanish spoken in the rest of Central and South America, both of which come from the Iberian Peninsula and trace their origins back to the European colonizers who came from that area and to the indigenous people already living in the Americas.

“There are many Latin American cultures represented in Chicago,” she said, “and many of us have adopted a mix of Latino America in each of us – a pan-Latino culture.”

Bailando Vol. II seems to seal Hoskins’ legacy as a promoter of cultural diversity in Forest Park, because along with this Hispanic event, he initiated the Juneteenth parade and pool party as well as the gay pride event featuring seven drag queens held in Constitution Court three months ago.

Mayor Hoskins said the Juneteenth Parade was a joint effort by the villages of River Forest, Maywood and Forest Park as a symbol of unity and cross community cooperation. 

“We celebrate Juneteenth, Hispanic Heritage Month, St. Patrick’s Day and Pride Month because these are important American traditions,” said Hoskins.

He said another reason to initiate these celebrations is because Forest Park has large Latin, Black and LGBTQ populations. “Representation matters,” he said. 

The committee planning the event is composed of, in addition to Gomez-Krogh, Sarah Moloney who works with the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, Joel Ortiz, Maria Maxham a Forest Park commissioner, Nurys Ucenta-Ramos who works at D91 and Rachell Entler, the mayor’s executive secretary.

Looking for a taco or enchiladas after Bailando?  

Mexican Republic Kitchen & Cantina, 7404 Madison St.

Cactus Grill, 315 Harlem Ave.

Tacabron, 7330 Harrison St.

Macho’s Grill, 7300 Roosevelt Rd.

Chirrion Mexican Grill, 7510 Madison St.

New Rebozo, 7403 Madison St.