This was Forest Park’s comeback year. Many of our in-person activities returned after being canceled during the pandemic. We give credit to local organizations for the revival of the events that make Forest Park special. 

The Forest Park Arts Association organized the Stoop Session concerts, Garage Galleries, and Storytelling at Exit Strategy. The Chamber of Commerce revived Casket Races and the Holiday Walk. The village again sponsored Groovin’ in the Grove concerts and Ribfest at Altenheim. German Fest made a comeback. 

Some decrepit buildings at Altenheim were finally torn down. This freed up greenspace and placed the remaining buildings in a more attractive setting. Forest Park Theatre put on a production in the field south of the retirement home. 

Brandon Prasek and Monica Berns helped raise money for the theater group by reviving their Faux Pas Comedy Shows at Lathrop House Cafe. They recruited top-quality comedians to perform at the restaurant’s new backyard venue. 

The Park District brought back the No Gloves Tournament. A few weeks later, on Aug. 18, they finally held our 4th of July celebration with music and fireworks. They also took over re-designing of the village’s pocket parks. And now that the Pines Restaurant and Oak Leaf Lounge have been leveled, the district is expanding south of Harrison Street. 

Young musicians, including some from the Gasse School of Music, put on a “Songs for the Ukraine” concert, which raised $5,000 for the children of Ukraine. Forest Park playwright Kevin Bry wrote The Ebony Streak about OPRF football star Lewis Pope, who wasn’t allowed to play in a 1937 national showcase game because he was Black. 

Concordia University put on a moving play titled, The Woman of Lockerbie, about the women of a small Scottish village overcoming grief with love. We also had a warm-hearted holiday commercial filmed on the 7700 Block of Adams Street. 

And speaking of warm hearts, a pleasant visit with retired columnist Jackie Schulz, who is still going strong at 92, was a special treat. 

Celebrated sculptor Edmonia Lewis had a good year. She was honored with a Black Heritage Forever Stamp and finally received her posthumous diploma from Oberlin College. Another Black hero, Professor Joseph Corbin, is having his Forest Home Cemetery grave placed on the National Register. 

The company that restored Lewis’ The Death of Cleopatra statue, received another important commission. The lions that have long guarded the Art Institute were brought to the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio to be cleaned and waxed. The Review scooped all the major news outlets with this report. 

The Review also shrank to a square after more than a century as a rectangle. 

Public Works hired 10 teenage boys from Maywood, giving them to opportunity to earn their first paychecks. They also gave Will Schumacher, from Opportunity Knocks, a job cleaning the streets. He uses a broom but remains fascinated by the department’s street-sweeping vehicles. 

We spoke with Luke McConnell about his illustrious cross-country career. The fifth-grader trains on the streets of his native Forest Park. We celebrated the career of crossing guard Valerie Sivels-Jones, who died on June 20. Valerie was a village resident who protected the students of Garfield School. A bench was decorated in her honor.

My wife, Diane, retired from Garfield School after 25 years. We have been enjoying retirement, with trips to Door County and San Diego. It was also a banner year for nostalgia with my 50th high school reunion. 

Finally, I received an unexpected Christmas gift. After two years of numbness resulting from nerve damage to my right leg, all I wanted for Christmas was two legs that worked. Sensation finally returned. 

Thanks, Santa.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.