By Nona Tepper
There's still time to sign up for Forest Park's sixth annual Casket Races on Oct. 27.
"It's just plain, clean fun," Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, said of the funereal contest.
Kokenes first heard about casket racing by chance when researching event ideas for the village and thought, "Forest Park should 'own' Halloween," since the dead outnumber the living in town 33 to 1 (thanks to all the cemeteries).
Over the years, about 20 teams have competed in the annual race, building their own casket and running as fast as they can down Beloit Avenue from Adams to Madison. Races take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with each team competing twice and the top four running in the final heat. Best time wins the race.
Winners receive trophies for first, second, third and "dead last" place. Recognition is also given to teams for being "most frighteningly funny" and "creepiest casket." Jessica Luciano, owner of Creativita, is responsible for the custom-made trophies.
While participants have traditionally chosen to race actual caskets — the specifications and drawings for which the Chamber can provide on request — some have gotten creative over the years and raced refrigerators, trash cans, ice blocks and more.
"It's just a lot of fun, but it does take some planning," Kokenes said, noting that past participants have built their vehicles in a weekend or over the summer.
Kokenes said fast runners, light caskets and costumes have all seemed to help previous winners. The deadline to register your team is Oct. 12. Registration costs $30 online at exploreforestpark.com
"For the community it's an unusual event, which I think helps draw different folks to come and see it. Events like this are unique to Forest Park and keep Forest Park's name out there," Kokenes said.