Welcome cool temperatures for SW Half Marathon

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

armando avalos photo 5-11


Photo by Dermot Connolly

Armando Avalos (left), 51, of Posen, and Joe Betz, 67, of Valparaiso, Ind., celebrate after running in the 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon in Palos Heights. Avalos said his habit of running the Swallow Cliff stairs on Sunday mornings prepared him for his first half marathon.



The 10th Annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10K races were run under blue skies on Sunday, and the cool temperatures were judged perfect for running.

“Here in Camelot, the weather is always like this,” joked Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz, as he welcomed everyone to his city before the races kicked off on Route 83. He did the countdown for the half-marathon at 7:30 a.m., while Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett did the honors for the 10K Run/Walk 10 minutes later.

Next came the Walk, Run & Roll, sponsored by Southwest Special Recreation Association (SWSRA) for people with disabilities.

About 100 children also ran in the new Kids’ Dash, featuring races of various lengths for children between 2 and 10 years old. The free event, with everyone getting medals, was intended to make the 10th anniversary more of a family event. Refreshments and live music were also part of the festivities. After Pastor David Grutheson, of Harvest Bible Chapel in Palos Heights, got the day started with a prayer service, a rock band entertained the crowds during and after the races.

“We’re almost sold out of beer,” said Bridget Provost, a volunteer in charge of beer sales, at about 11 a.m. “We had a lot left over last year, when it was raining.”

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) continued his tradition of serving as grand marshal, and running in the half marathon. His wife, Judy, also ran this time.

After being introduced on the podium, the congressman pulled up his sweatshirt to show off the T-shirt with his original bib number 1 that he wore in the inaugural race. State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), also an avid runner, was there again on Sunday, too.

Emcee Jeff Prestinario, who co-founded of the race with Mel Diab, recalled how Cunningham’s predecessor, Ed Maloney, helped make the race possible.

“It takes a lot to put this on,” said Prestinario. “The two of us told him what we needed, and while we were in his office, he called IDOT and got permission to close Route 83,” he said.

“I don’t have as much clout as him, but I’m a runner, and this is my fifth consecutive half marathon,” said Cunningham.

Diab, the race director, was pleased with the turnout, noting that 1,000 people ran in the half-marathon and 400 in the 10K. 

Comic book fans follow their “quest” at Oak Lawn Library

  • Written by By Joe Boyle



warriors photo 5-11

Photo by Joe Boyle

Jen Usellis (left), also known as the Klingon Pop Warrior, prepares to “battle” Julie Malnekoff, of Marok’s Imperial Emporium, during the “Cosmic Quest” Fan Fest on May 6 at the Oak Lawn Library.




Superman, Batman and the Power Rangers flocked to the Oak Lawn Library on May 6 for a "Cosmic Quest."

Free comics ranging from “Doctor Who” to “Archie” were also available to comic book fans of all ages before they journeyed downstairs to see numerous displays and adults dressed as superheroes and action figures.

Burbank resident Mike Wilson had his “Dorkabout Art” display set up downstairs. Wilson has been at all three of the fan fests and enjoys the camaraderie with the guests. He draws original art figures for young visitors who are drawn to his table.

“My mom liked the idea of me drawing,” said Wilson. “She liked that I started using paper instead of walls. You feel as though you want to make this a career. I really enjoy doing this. It’s fun.”

Wilson said he is currently working on making a comic book. He enjoys attending the fan fest because he has an opportunity to talk to youngsters who are interested in drawing.

“I like to encourage kids to draw,” Wilson said. “Other people inspired me so if I can inspire other children, then it would make it worthwhile.”

One of those fans was Jessie Quilanta, a resident of Midlothian, who received a caricature drawn by Wilson. Quilanta said she was enjoying her day at the fan fest and was looking forward to a panel discussion on the origins of the Power Rangers.

Another panel discussion took place on diversity through comics. Another presentation was held on how to bring your science fiction story to life through audio drama and podcasting.

Jen Usellis, also known as Lieutenant Jenbom Vestai, entertained visitors as the Klingon Pop Warrior. Dressed as a warrior in a comic book world, she “battled” Julie Malnekoff to the delight of the crowd. Usellis is not only a Klingon Pop Warrior, but she sings and plays guitar as well. She performed later in the day in the library lobby.

Usellis was also at the same table as Marc Malnekoff, of Marok’s Imperial Emporium, who also entertained visitors in Klingon attire along with his wife, Julie.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Usellis. “We make a lot of appearances and we were just at the Chicago Star Trek Tour.”

Meanwhile, Mike Giba, of Alsip, was working on some caricatures from his post. He has appeared before and entertained members of the Alsip and Oak Lawn Chambers of Commerce.

“It’s been a fun time,” said GIba, who has been in the business for 12 years.

Giba began his career in Iowa before moving to the Chicago area. While he enjoys attending various events, he enjoyed his day at the fan fest.

“It’s more personal,” explained Giba. “You get a chance to meet people. I go to people’s homes and parties. I meet a lot of people. How can you beat that?”

Many exhibitors were on hand and several performances took place. Along with the singing Klingon Pop Warrior, a Chicago Lightsaber Academy performance also took place. Tandang Garimot, a martial arts and wellness instructor, helped to bridge the gap between martial arts and the Star Wars universe. The event was held outside the library at the gazebo.

A steady crowd also played board games with a comic book or space-age theme. Face painting was also offered. An after-hours trivia session was held for adults at nearby PD’s Place.

Wilson continued to talk to curious youngsters who were interested in his art. His stepdaughter joined him at the fan fest.

“My stepdaughter likes to draw,” Wilson said. “She said I can’t do it like you. But I tell her you are doing fine. I’ve been doing this a long time.”


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Delilah No. 1 on the SW Half Marathon charts

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Delilah DiCrescenzo won the women’s portion of the 10th Southwest Half Marathon on Sunday in Palos Heights.

Delilah DiCrescenzo was a world-class runner and steeplechase athlete.

The former Queen of Peace student has competed all over the world and was close to becoming an Olympian.

But no matter what she accomplishes in athletics, she will forever linked with the Plain White T’s megahit “Hey There Delilah,’’ which was released in 2006 but became a No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts in 2007. It was also No. 1, 2 or 3 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The 34-year-old has been out of the limelight for her competitive running since 2014 but on Sunday, she competed in the 10th running of the Southwest Half Marathon in Palos Heights and won the race in 1 hour, 38 minutes and 52 seconds.

Like the half marathon, the song is 10-years-old as well and it’s still making an impact. Recently it was heard on the TV show “Orange is the New Black” and “Family Guy.’’ A Time magazine critic said the song was “an intimate love song that’s damn near universal.’’

And, yes, she was the Delilah the song was written for after Plain White T’s frontman Tom Higgenson met her when she was at Columbia University. The two never became a couple but there were some close moments while the two were in and out of their own relationships. So he wrote the song about her and it became a No. 1 hit and she was his guest the next year at the Grammy Awards. The song was nominated but did not win – losing to the late Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.’’

“Truth be told, it’s probably a good thing it never worked out with us,” Higgenson told in 2015.

But it led to an iconic song and as far as DiCrescenzo is concerned, it never gets old being linked with the tune, even though I was probably the millionth person to ask her about it.

“It doesn’t get old because it’s amazing that it’s still popular with a lot of people,” she said. “I’m happy to be associated with it. I’m happy for the band because it is still doing really well. All-in-all, it’s great.’’

DiCrescenzo, who lives in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood of Chicago and has family in Orland Park, said she made her Southwest Half Marathon debut because she’s shopped at Palos Heights’ Running For Kicks store (owned by race co-founder Mel Diab) for years, starting back when she was in high school.

“This gave me an excuse to get back into shape, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last eight weeks,” she said. “It was a longer race than I’ve been training for but I was happy because the course is actually pretty forgiving. It’s flat. It was a nice day. I want to come back next year.’’

DiCrescenzo is now leading a normal life as she works for Gatorade in Chicago and works with college and high school teams.

“I needed a break body-wise, mentally and emotionally,” she said. “Now I feel recharged and ready to train again. I enjoy being normal. The teens and first part of my adult life was running and being singularly devoted to that. It’s nice to feel more well-rounded. I can pursue my career and have running be more in the background than in the forefront.’’

Like many Queen on Peace alums, DiCrescenzo did not like hearing the news in January that her former high school was closing.

“I was really bummed,” she said. “That’s where I started running and I still have a lot of lifelong friends from there. It kind of feels like the end of an era. I’m just so happy that St. Laurence (the school next door to Queen of Peace in Burbank) decided to go coed, because it keeping that spirit alive.

“It’s a bummer, but they are making the best of it. At the end of the day, it’s a building and it won’t stop the memories that we have and the relationships we created.’’


Three restaurants receive outdoor seating permits at new Plaza

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Construction of the new Evergreen Plaza, at 95th and Western Avenue, continues moving smoothly as evidenced by action at the Evergreen Park Board meeting Monday where trustees approved special use permits for outdoor seating at three restaurants planned for the site.

Following a brief public hearing on the issue, as required by ordinance, the trustees granted approval for outdoor seating to Potbelly Sandwich Restaurant, Raising Cane’s and Mod Pizza.

Village Attorney Vince Cainkar explained that requests for special use permits are required to be reviewed by the village’s Zoning Commission and presented in a public hearing before an ordinance can be established.

Trustee Mark Mazullo asked if the new ordinance covered any other restaurants that may want outdoor seating in the plaza, or would each restaurant have to submit an individual request.

Cainkar replied that each new restaurant would have to submit an individual request, but a public hearing would not be required since an ordinance is now in place to address the issue.

Also approved was an ordinance for the NET3 Evergreen Park II subdivision of property located at 8900 S. Troy Ave. The property is the site of the former Aqua Center.

Mayor James Sexton reminded the trustees that the village does not own the property and the ordinance approval was for the NET3 developers of the site, which presently contains a building housing a dialysis center.

 “The site will also have a parking lot, a detention pond and open space,” he said.

Besides being approved for a special use permit for outdoor seating, Potbelly’s Sandwich Restaurant, 9544 S. Western Ave., was the recipient of a business certificate. Three other business who were approved for business certificates were Weight Watchers, 2540 W. 94th St.; PetCo, 9670 S. Western Ave.; and Sports Traveler, LLC, 3100 W. 95th St.

On another matter, Sexton asked the trustees to consider a topic that had been tabled at the last board meeting regarding the selection of a low bid on a roofing project at the Bliss building, 3300 W. 93rd St..

The subject was tabled because Sexton had questions on the company selected, Malcor Roofing of Illinois, which had submitted a low bid of $196,000. He said his questions had been satisfactorily answered so the bid could be considered.

The board then approved the bid, but Sexton stated that he wanted to be kept informed on how the work was progressing.

Sexton also proclaimed May 21-27 as National Public Works Week.

“We honor our other departments and it is time to recognize our public works team. They have done exceptional work for the village and sometimes in very trying situations,” Sexton said.

At the close of the meeting, Sexton recognized Trustee Dan McKeown, who is stepping down after choosing not to run in the recent election. Sexton thanked him for his four years of service as a trustee and for the many years he spent on the Police Pension Board.

A reception was held for McKeown after the meeting was adjourned.

Chicago Ridge mayor, new trustees are sworn in

  • Written by Dermot Connolly



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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar shakes hands with newly elected Trustee Edmund Kowalski following their swearing-in ceremony before the Village Board meeting last Thursday. Trustees Debbie Pyznarski and Lisel Kwartnik were also sworn in to their first terms in officer, along with Village Clerk Barb Harrison.


Three newly elected Chicago Ridge trustees and village clerk were sworn into office, along with Mayor Chuck Tokar, who won a second term, during a special village board meeting on April 25.

 Cook County Judge Denise Filan swore in Debby Pyznarski, Edmund Kowalski and Lisel Kwartnik. They took the seats vacated by Bruce Quintos, Sally Durkin and Amanda Cardin. Quintos and Cardin lost their bids for re-election, while Durkin, whose term was up as trustee, lost her bid to unseat Tokar.

Barb Harrison, who bested incumbent George Schleyer in the April 4 election, was sworn in to her first term in office. Family members held the Bible for all the new officeholders as they took the oath.

“I gave that oath of office many times in my 24 years as village clerk, and it never seemed so long (as when I said it)” joked Tokar afterward. “It’s a very serious oath and we’re honored to be your public servants. We appreciate your support through the coming years.”

Chicago Ridge Village Board meetings are usually held at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month, but Tokar said last Thursday’s meeting was necessary to accommodate Filan’s schedule. The only trustee missing was Frances Coglianese, who informed the mayor that she was unable to attend. She came in second to Tokar in the three-way mayoral race with Durkin, but has two years remaining on her term as trustee.

After everyone took their seats, the board met briefly in executive session to discuss the sale of the former Nicobee’s property at 10255 S. Harlem Ave., before resuming the public meeting, The board, including trustees Bill McFarland and Jack Lind, then voted unanimously to approve an extension of the closing on the vacant village-owned site where a developer plans to build a small strip mall that will include a Starbucks restaurant. Plans for the Starbucks, which would be the first in Chicago Ridge, were announced at the March 7 meeting.

Tokar said last Thursday that the developer asked to extend the closing date to May 31 to give him time to come to agreement with several other businesses interested in leasing space on the property. The sale price has not been made public yet, but Tokar said at the meeting in March that it would be “a lot more” than the $650,000 the village paid for it.

The board also voted to cancel the board meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday, May 2. The board will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting in Village Hall at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 16.