The Oak Lawn Park District decided to take the Fourth of July to a different level and have celebrations aimed at local area children.
The festivities kicked off on Monday morning at Centennial Park, 94th and Nashville Avenue, Oak Lawn, with a wide array of children’s-themed activities that included a treasure hunt sponsored by the Oak Lawn Firefighters Union, Freshline Watermelon Eating Contests for both youth and adults, Oak Lawn’s Got Talent, a giant inflatable slide, obstacle courses, games and crafts, balloon animals, gymnastics, dodgeball and archery.
The fun didn’t stop there as children were also able to bring their tricycles and have them washed for free in a tricycle car wash by park district employees.
Entertainment was provided by Magician Gary Kantor, who teaches magic to children at 135 local park districts. Music was provided by DJ Greg Carter of GAC Entertainment, playing today’s hottest hits and children’s favorites.
“We have been coming to this event for many years now,” said Oak Lawn resident Brooke McCain. “My kids love the activities, especially the interactive treasure hunt.”
McCain’s viewpoint was also shared by the Giffey family of Oak Lawn.
“I love this fest,” T.J. Giffey, 7, said. “I like because there are a bunch of games and different things to do.”
Giffey insisted his father, Rick, enter in this year’s Watermelon Eating Contest. Rick took home the 2015 first place title for the event and was looking forward to the challenge again.
“Of course I had to come back to defend me title,” he joked.
The event gathered together 500 patrons, surpassing last year’s attendance of 350.
Popularity for the annual event continues to grow larger every year, according to park district officials.
“This holiday-themed event is held annually in observance of celebrating the national holiday, Fourth of July,” said Mary Crout, safety coordinator and aquatic director for the Oak Lawn Park District. “The event provided our patrons with a safe and fun environment to enjoy and honor this holiday. There was something for everyone. Hopefully, this becomes a traditional event for families to participate in and to make life long memories.”
Bingo was available for adults while the children played, along with a military salute to the veterans in honor of the holiday.
The Fourth of July event has been taking place for more than 25 years, according to Crout, who has been heading the event’s planning since 1999, along with a team of park district employees.
“It is a great feeling of accomplishment, as a staff member and an event coordinator, to see patrons of all ages having a fun, safe and exciting Fourth of July at our event,” Crout said. “It also provided the park district an opportunity to showcase the different services we offer while providing fun and entertainment for our residents.”
In honor of the holiday, there was a special $2 admission for residents and non-residents to both of the Oak Lawn outdoor pools that are located at Centennial Aquatics Center, 94th Street and Nashville Ave., and Central Pool, 9400 S. Kenton Ave. The cost per pool is normally $7 per resident and $12 per non-resident.
A $5 wristband was available for children will allow them to participate in all daytime activities and gain admission to the pool. Last year, the wristband sales totaled $1,500.
“Any money revenue from the event goes back into the special event fund to be used towards next year's event,” said Denise Iwinski, marketing and public relations supervisor for the Oak Lawn Park District.
To end the day, the park district and the Village of Oak Lawn worked together to provide a firework show at Richards High School, 10601 Central Ave., Oak Lawn.