By Dermot Connolly
The statewide extension of the stay-at-home order because of the pandemic is resulting in a majority of summer events being canceled or postponed throughout the area.
These include everything from parish festivals to major events such as Chicago Gaelic Park’s Irish Fest on Memorial Day Weekend, which has been postponed to an unspecified later date.
St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Oak Lawn has already canceled its festival scheduled for June 3-7. St. Joseph Parish Festival in Summit is still on schedule for the same weekend, but staff said that might change, too.
“ We will definitely will be canceling our Day in the Park,” said Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton, referring to the annual village-wide “block party” usually held the last Saturday in June,
“ And it doesn’t look good for the (Independence Day) Parade. But I haven’t made a decision on that. I want the Village Board to have their say. We are kind of waiting on some direction from the state about summer camps,” which usually begin in mid-June.
Sexton said that most of the free weekend “concerts in the park” planned throughout the summer have been already canceled due to the current circumstances. The only one still scheduled to be held is the City Lights Orchestra with conductor Rich Daniels, the traditional end-of-summer event set for Sunday, Aug. 30 at Klein Park.
“ It is unfortunate but we have to worry about lives now, not music,” said Sexton.
Maddie Kelly, executive director of the Oak Lawn Park District, said the “good news” from Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week was that golf courses can open in May, with social distancing rules, and the village’s Stony Creek golf course will open on Friday.
Summer camps in Chicago, Oak Lawn and other communities are still up in the air, awaiting direction from the governor.
“ The moment (the governor) gives us the OK, we will move ahead. Our staff is trying to make plans for opening the pools too, so we will be ready when he says we can. It is really difficult for planning,” said Kelly.
She said plans as of now are moving forward for the village’s traditional July 4 fireworks show held at Richards High School. “People need something to look forward to.”
Kelly said she has been in touch with officials throughout the south suburbs and they are all facing similar difficult decisions about planning recreational activities.
“ People need us now more than ever,” she said.
Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said a decision will likely to be made in the next week or so about whether to hold the city’s annual Friendship Festival from July 9-12 on the grounds of Moraine Valley Community College.
“ That is going to be a big decision. We have to be realistic about it. These are unprecedented times,” said Bennett.
“ We are glad that our golf course is on Friday,” said the mayor, referring to the Palos Hills Golf Club’s nine-hole course. “I think that the residents have been very good about this. We want to reopen in a slow, measured way.”
In Hickory Hills, Mayor Mike Howley recently canceled an Arbor Day event scheduled for May 2. But a decision has not yet been made on the annual Street Fair, scheduled for June 28.
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said RidgeFest, scheduled for the last weekend in July, has not been canceled yet.
“ We don’t know where this is going to be in July,” said Tokar. “Hopefully, the (COVID-19) curve will be downward. If it is not possible, maybe we could schedule something later in the year. But the contracts with bands don’t include changing the date.”
In Palos Heights, Bob Starzyk, organizer of the annual Classic Car Show, said planning is “on hold” for the event on Thursday, July 16.
“ If we do have a car show, it will be much smaller, without a concourse area and just a DJ,” he said. He noted that the Aug. 16 Pebble Beach Car Show in California, said to be the biggest in the world, has already been canceled.
“ I don’t see any cruise events going on either,” he said.
Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz noted that the farmers markets held on Wednesdays during the summer have already been postponed. He said the Recreation Department staff is starting to prepare for opening the pool and other facilities, so they are ready whenever it is possible to do so.
He is waiting to make a decision about the July 4 parade and other activities.
“ If we can’t have it, I would like to have a community celebration later in the year,” he said.
“ Ultimately, we want to open businesses safely. The faster we can get to that day, we can get to it, the better.”
Palos Park Village Manager Rick Boehm said the village is now planning a “virtual Memorial Day celebration” on May 25. “We can’t have a bunch of people gathering around. We’ve had to cancel most of our building rentals (for private events) for the same reason.”
He said a Movie in the Park event planned in conjunction with the Cook County Forest Preserves has also been canceled, along with all events planned in forest preserves.
Orland Park officials are taking an optimistic view, and moving forward with a schedule of three concerts being held in July and August. One was moved from June.
Mayor Keith Pekau said he would rather plan with the expectation that things will be better in July, and allow ticket sales to begin. If they were canceled now, it would cost the village $200,000 in contracts. If they do have to be canceled later, due to circumstances, it will cost the village $70,000 for the publicity.