By JAMIE O’TOOLE
On Oct. 22, 17 teams will compete in the Chamber of Commerce’s 10th annual Casket Race with the chance to win the most ‘frighteningly funny’ or ‘creepiest’ casket theme. Not to mention the possibility of actually winning the race.
The event will begin at 9 a.m. and run to 2:30 p.m., animating a community of over 13,000 people in a town of 800,000 people who are six feet under.
At 10:30 a.m. the parade of caskets will begin. The Chamber of Commerce Casket Race Committee and radio personality MC Bonnie Greene will judge the casket decor at the race.
“We look at all the teams and how they’re creatively dressed and their casket, and we look for the creepiest casket and then the funniest,” said Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the chamber.
Runners will begin the race at 11 a.m. on Beloit Avenue just south of Madison Street. Each team will have the chance to run twice, Kokenes said. Runners will push their casket vehicle along a 585-foot course that begins on Adams Street and ends at the alley south of Madison, she said.
Kokenes said the goal is for participants to reach their best time within two tries, and the runners with the quickest time will win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, awarded with a trophy. There will also be a trophy awarded to the last and slowest team, named the “Dead Last’ trophy.
“[Dead Last] is what [some] want to win, because they really don’t want to run or perhaps can’t run,” Kokenes said.
Many residents along the racecourse have outdoor viewing parties, Kokenes said, so the chamber will also award the best “house party.”
Kokenes thought of the idea for a casket race a few years before the Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary, and the anniversary celebration presented the opportunity to commemorate Forest Park’s history of multiple cemeteries during Halloween time. The ratio of residents underground and above ground is 50 to 1, Kokenes said.
“There’s more dead people than alive in Forest Park. So it kind of ties the Halloween theme, the fall theme in the little unique information about Forest Park in there,” said Jackie Iovinelli, director of the Park District of Forest Park.
The park district team took 1st place in the 2021 race. Their casket theme this year is inspired by the district’s recent purchase of the old The Pines restaurant property on Harrison Street and playing on the park district’s “inside joke” of Shady Pines from the Golden Girls.
“This year…we are going with Golden Ghouls,” Iovinelli said.
In between the race there will be a kids and pets costume parade, and following the race will be a chance to Trick or Treat on Madison St. and support local businesses from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
If you’re interested in participating, call the Chamber of Commerce at 708-366-2543 to check availability and register.