The Historical Society of Forest Park and the Arts Alliance of Forest Park would like to thank everyone who participated in this year’s Invasion of the Scarecrows fundraiser. The creativity was once again amazing, and many folks have told us how hard it was to vote for just one winner in each category. All who participated are winners in a way, and should pat themselves on the back! The Historical Society and the Arts Alliance are winners also, because we were able to raise $1,500 to go toward programing and events. And, of course, there are four winners who each took first place in one category and whose announcement has been anxiously awaited. Drumroll please…… here it is!
It was definitely the year of Barbie! Not just one Barbie, but two Barbie-themed scarecrows won prizes! Weird Barbie at 937 Circle took first place in the Most Artistic category, and the Barbie Photo Booth at 301 Elgin received most votes as People’s Choice. And while the Chicago Bears have not had a winning season so far this year, or maybe because of that, folks fondly remember the 1985 Bears and Da Coach Mike Ditka, since the scarecrow with his likeness at 7348 W. Madison won the Most Historical category. Last, but definitely not least, the winner of the Forest Park Pride category was the Forest Park El train conductor (who looks a little like John Candy) at 439 Hannah.
Congratulations to Zackary McDowell (937 Circle), Burhan Syed (301 Elgin), Hillary Mason (439 Hannah) and Forest Park Bank – Loan and Deposit Operations (7348 W. Madison). Honorable mention should go to Ricky Poonsa at 537 Marengo whose Peanuts Great Pumpkin theme just barely missed a prize and landed in fifth place in the total number of votes. The prize for block with the highest participation went to the 900 block of Circle with scarecrows at four locations. Congratulations to Zackary McDowell (937 Circle), Colette Anderson (932 Circle), Meaghan Hunt (911 Circle) and Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa at 905 Circle who all contributed displays!
Winners have been notified and will be honored at the Historical Society’s Membership Party on Sunday, November 12. As in previous years, prizes were donated by local businesses, and the Historical Society of Forest Park and the Arts Alliance of Forest Park would like to thank the following businesses and individuals for their contributions:
Arts Alliance of Forest Park
Historical Society of Forest Park
La Maison de Bonbon
Loyola Center for Fitness
Scratch Public House
Click photo to enlarge
From the words of Amy Binns-Calvey, the past came alive in Forest Home Cemetery. Thank you to the Forest Park Public Library for organizing and to our 35 friends who joined us on the 2 mile walk.
The Historical Society of Forest Park's Garden Walk in 2023 was a tremendous success, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, volunteers, board members, and garden hosts. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our sponsors: the Gillian Baker Team, Grand Appliance, and Lauren Burjan @Property, whose contributions made this event possible.
With the help of 23 dedicated volunteers, our Garden Walk was organized seamlessly and efficiently. Their hard work and commitment to the cause were invaluable, and we are deeply appreciative of their efforts. Additionally, our board member played a crucial role in overseeing the event and ensuring its success.
We are incredibly grateful to the 10 garden hosts who opened their beautiful gardens to the public. Their enthusiasm and willingness to share their horticultural knowledge created an inspiring and educational experience for all attendees. The variety and splendor of the showcased gardens captivated visitors and contributed to the overall success of the event. A huge thanks to Michelle Melin-Rogovin for hosting our first-ever pre-party for volunteers, host. and members.
Through the combined efforts of our sponsors, volunteers, board member, and garden hosts, we were able to exceed our fundraising goal for the Garden Walk. The funds raised will enable the Historical Society of Forest Park to continue preserving and promoting our community's rich history and heritage.
Once again, we extend our sincerest thanks to the Gillian Baker Team, Grand Appliance, Lauren Burjan @Property, the 23 volunteers, the board member, and the 10 garden hosts. Your support and dedication have made the Garden Walk of 2023 an unforgettable and impactful event. We look forward to your continued partnership in our future endeavors.
Best in Show
We had a wonderful time at the 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame! Al Maag did a wonderful presentation and we are so happy to now have his book in our collection. Thank you to the hall of famers who came out to the event.
They are open Saturdays noon – 4pm come check them out!
John Rice, who has been writing for the Forest Park Review for 35 years, was honored by the Historical Society of Forest Park on May 1, at the Haymarket Monument with the "Mark Rogovin: Working Class Hero Award," for his contributions to our community through his articles and columns on Black history, homelessness, importance of literacy, Forest Park business personalities, and his most recent efforts with Gladys Turner to promote Dr. Joseph Corbin, founder of University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, with National Register of Historic Places status.
2022 was the second year for the Invasion of the Scarecrows fundraiser for the Forest Park Arts Alliance and the Historical Society of Forest Park. The 100 new scarecrow kits the two local organizations created almost sold out again, and many participants in last year’s event decided to re-use their kits from 2021. Forest Park residents who decided to be part of the “Invasion” and display scarecrows in front of their homes showed off their creativity, talents and pride in Forest Park. Some of the creations were funny, some were scary, some were very clever, and all were very unique. There were even two residents of Oak Park who participated this year.
Forest Park residents and non-residents alike were able to find the scarecrow locations on an online interactive map on the historical society’s website, and they were also able to vote for their favorites in four different categories online. The winners have been announced:
Most Artistic: Dia de los Muertos - 819 Circle – Chris Harder
Most Historic: Showmen’s Rest – 946 Thomas – Sandy Byrnes
People’s Choice: Grogu – 901 Circle – Lucas Hanson
Forest Park Pride: 70’s Disco – 301 Elgin – Burhan Syed
Honorable mentions go to 438 Hannah (Hans and Lulu by Jana Schroeder) and 537 Marengo (I got Boo, Baby by Ricky Poonsa, who each had over 40 votes total, but not quite enough in any category to win. Bragging rights go the 900 block of Lathrop who had 5 entries, more than any other block.
All four winners received gift baskets with merchandise and/or gift certificates from local businesses. The Historical Society of Forest Park and the Forest Park Arts Alliance are grateful for merchandise, services and gif card donations from the following local businesses and organizations: Brown Cow, Kribi Coffee, Lin Beribak, Twisted Cookie, Sweetcastle, Jimmy’s, Maison de Bonbon, Fiore’s, Lathrop House, Loui’s, O’Sullivan’s Public House, Starship Subs, Tood & Holland’s, Smokey Joel’s, Schauer’s, Loyola Center for Fitness and Ed’s Way. The Forest Park Art’s Alliance and the Historical Society of Forest Park also donated prizes. A special Thank You goes to the sponsors Ed’s Way and Jimmy’s for their extremely generous donations.
100 more scarecrow kits will be available for purchase again starting next July. The Arts Alliance of Forest Park and the Forest Park Historical Society hope that this year’s “invaders” will want to be involved again in 2023 again as well, and that 200 scarecrows will be invading Forest Park next fall.
The Eagles Aerie 1344 was founded in 1906, just before Harlem became Forest Park, when the Harlem Racetrack was hanging on in business, and as automobile racing was dominating the horse track. Just moments older than the Forest Park Amusement Park, the Aerie has survived to this day.
Members of the Historical Society filled the Eagles Hall on Sunday, November 13th for a member appreciation party. Smokey Joel’s provided chili, Italian beef sandwiches, and his signature Chicago Style Hot Dogs. The Bingo machine, which takes center stage at the Hall, filled the room with anticipation as guests tried their luck. The Bingo cards were pure 1950s-era vintage, as was the lighted Bingo display high on the wall.
At the top of the agenda was honoring the Volunteer of the Year Amy Binns-Calvey and recognizing Orland Awardee Augie Aleksy. Amy helps the Society immensely by conducting popular tours of the Forest Home Cemetery. Augie was President of the Society and responsible for bringing us into the modern era. His support of the Des Plaines River Anthology was a highlight of his speech. After all the Bingo prizes were distributed to winners, the Gulyas Brothers played sixties tunes until closing time.
The members of the Historical Society are a distinctive group, worthy of great celebration. Every person in attendance has been an integral part of our Society, either as a volunteer, a supporter, or a lover of local history. Bringing everyone together was a tremendous pleasure, and we look forward to next year’s celebration.
Dr. Orland Award
Dr. Frank Orland, a respected dentist, teacher, and researcher, was also a visionary and a man who dearly loved his hometown Forest Park. “Everybody has a story,” he was fond of saying, and he made it his mission to record, research, and give a voice to the rich tapestry of our history. Dr. Orland was an early and important proponent of fluoridation and taught for many years at the University of Chicago.
He brought his skills as an educator and advocate to the task of creating a Historical Society from scratch. He and his wife Phyllis, a physician in town, recognized that Forest Park was special. Although neither were professional historians, they were drawn to Forest Park’s unique and thrilling heritage.
As the first President of the Historical Society, Dr. Orland put together a Board of Directors and organized tours of Forest Home Cemetery. He collected treasures and artifacts and displayed them in the Forest Park Public Library while moving the Historical Society forward despite a slim budget, a small membership, and no permanent home for an ever-growing collection. Dr. Orland died in 2000 and Rich Vitton, Orland’s successor as President, moved the Society’s collection to his own basement and graciously stewarded the collection for many years.
Citizens approached Mayor Calderone to ask for his assistance in transitioning the Historical Society’s collection out of one man’s basement and within reach of everybody. Mayor Calderone reached out to the community and brokered a way forward for a new Board of volunteers and the Historical Society of Forest Park was reborn.
Stepping up to create a more stable and professional organization, Augie Aleksy became President. Never again would the Historical Society lose sight of its mission to be an active part of the community. Augie, the owner of the acclaimed Forest Park bookstore Centuries and Sleuths, was an ideal choice to get the Society on its feet again. Under Augie’s leadership the Society sought to hire an Executive Director and find a permanent home. The Society was able to secure space in Saint Peter’s church until it was sold, and Augie helped the Society secure a home in the Village building on Adams and Des Plaines where it currently resides.
During this time, the Society came up with innovative ideas for fund-raising, like the Des Plaines River Anthology—both a book and a theatrical adaptation that was performed locally. Augie also shepherded the creation of the board game Forest Park-opoly.
Committed to keeping history in the public sphere, Augie helped acquire space for a modest museum at First United Church on Harvard and Elgin. Hoping to secure a permanent long-term home at First United, Augie helped broker a deal with the congregation. When structural flaws and challenges of co-habitation with an active congregation proved insurmountable, he worked to broker a mutual agreement to part ways.
After eight years Augie reached his term limit as a board member but his spirited assistance and support of the Society continues. For the past 5 years Augie has been our Madison Street face, our Garden Walk starting point, a receiving point for donations, our box office for ticket sales, our host at the annual Holiday Walk, and our exclusive retail merchant.
In the spirit of "everyone has a story," we are honored to grant Augie Aleksy the 2022 Frank Orland Award.