Photo by Joe Boyle
The Worth Junior High School Band performed in the last Worth Days Parade along 111 th Street in 2018. Mayor Mary Werner said a recent meeting drew a large crowd that is interested in reviving the parade.
By Joe Boyle
Worth Mary Werner did not know what to expect when she walked into the Village Hall Board room last Thursday night.
She was going to hold an informal “Coffee with the Mayor” to try and get some feedback on any interest to return the Worth Days Parade, which was discontinued last summer along with the four-day festival. The mayor had been listening to some residents who indicated they would like the parade to return.
The gathering she planned last Thursday was offered to see if there is more interest in seeing the parade, which was held on the fourth day of the festival in the morning along 111 th Street, make a comeback. Werner had her answer when she entered the chambers.
“I was very, very excited when I walked into the room, I can tell you,” Werner said. “We had about 35 to 40 people in the room and many of them wanted to volunteer to help and start committees. It was very encouraging.”
The Worth Days four-day festival was held at the end of the summer, highlighted recently with a carnival, musical acts, and food and refreshments on land located near the boat launch at 115 th and Beloit Avenue. The carnival was held over the four days at the location. Visitors would be greeted by a large Ferris wheel just over a hill.
The carnival was originally held at Peaks Park and moved near the Worth Park District’s Terrace Centre. While families and community leaders enjoyed the festival, annual reports indicated that the festival was losing money. Local leaders said that the festival, which was kept alive through volunteers and the park district, may have to cease. The end finally happened when it was announced in the fall of 2018 that this was the last festival.
While residents and people who formerly lived in the community were disappointed, what village officials heard most about was the end of the parade. The event drew large crowds up and down 111 th Street. Neighbors and former residents would gather to view the parade to see local Cub Scout and Girl Scout groups, baseball leagues, local high school bands, and area schools.
Werner had previously said that the Worth Days Parade was unique because it drew residents who may have not seen each other in years but got reacquainted at the parade.
“We have a lot of these mini-reunions at the parade,” Werner said at the time. “There are a lot of families who get there early so they can gather in one spot. It is a really, really great time.”
Werner said one of the reasons the parade was discontinued was that the Palos Hills Emergency Services District Agency (ESDA) had disbanded. They provided 45 to 50 individuals from the agency who would monitor the parade. Without their service, more of the burden fell on local officials, the Worth Police Department and volunteers. The expense and time became enormous, Werner said.
When residents had approached the mayor during the past year, she informed them there was no way feasibly possible to return the carnival for a variety of reasons. The amusement companies that provided the rides had increased expenses that they passed on the village. Musical acts also cost money, too, Werner said.
But while residents began to understand that the costs of a festival may be too great, they still wondered if the parade could be revived? The mayor was listening and decided to test the waters by holding an informal gathering in the fall. She was initially disappointed.
“We just had two people show up,” the mayor recalls. “One was a student named Violet, who said she wanted to volunteer. That was nice but I knew we had to do more.”
Werner began to send out more posts and talked to board members. She began talking to residents and had a lot of good conversations, she said.
“A lot of people did not realize that these parades are not free,” Werner said. “Worth Days was created over 40 years ago. At one time, there was a committee that would hold bingo on Friday nights every week to raise money for the parade.”
But Werner said that residents and community organizations are now aware of the costs and time that is needed to bring back the parade.
“I was very encouraged by the turnout,” Werner said. “We had 12 people who right away want to work together as a committee. As soon as we can get the committees organized, we will work with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to get permission and permits.”
Werner said additional meetings will be held to discuss plans for the parade. While more work is needed, she is encouraged that residents want to get involved.
“And at the last meeting, Violet was there with her mother,” Werner said. “They both want to volunteer. That’s how this can happen.”