Block parties this summer?

Mayor says he wants to 'make it work'

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By Maria Maxham

With summer already in full swing, albeit celebrated in smaller groups due to social distancing, residents have been wondering about block parties and whether the village will permit them.

Mayor Rory Hoskins said that, at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the village balked at the idea of closing down streets and allowing large groups of people to congregate and share food. With COVID cases dropping in Illinois, however, and with the state already in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, Hoskins said he's working on guidelines for block parties and will allow them in some fashion.

The village's concerns still revolve around keeping people safe. Block parties, by their very nature, focus on people gathering together, along with shared food. Things that, with COVID-19 in mind, seem almost foreign these days.

"We will figure out a way to make it work," said Hoskins, who said he was reviewing Oak Park's new guidelines and would ensure that Forest Park would have its own rules in place.

Most likely, said Hoskins, no bounce houses will be allowed. Communal food will be discouraged. Masks should be worn, and disposable plates and silverware will be recommended.

Hoskins said though it would be tough to enforce, he wants to make sure regular disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces would happen as well.

"We'd like to see the same guidelines that apply to restaurants apply to block parties," said Hoskins. But he added, "Residents don't have the expertise that businesses have."

Still, he wants to offer at least the possibility of "Bike the Block," closing off a street for kids to safely ride their bikes.

Hoskins said the village will communicate guidelines to residents soon.

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