Although it is still 2016, local communities are already looking forward to their 2017 summer festivals.
Chicago Ridge Mayor Charles Tokar told the Village Board at the Dec. 6 meeting that it was time to starting thinking about RidgeFest 2017, traditionally held the last weekend in July. The board agreed to discuss the issue at the next meeting, on Dec. 20.
“We have to decide whether we are going to continue with RidgeFest, for the 28th year. I’m already getting calls from bands (to gauge our interest). And a lot of these bands book up at least six months ahead of time, especially the good bands, like Infinity, that we have been getting,” said the mayor.
Tokar provided printouts showing that RidgeFest 2016 raised a total of $19,239 for local non-profits this year, up from $16,499 in 2015. At the Dec. 6 meeting, the mayor presented checks of varying amounts to a dozen local programs, including the Friendship Club, Ridge Seniors, the Park District, Chicago Ridge Library, Southwest Ball Hockey, and several scouting troops.
Money was also raised for the Kids Christmas Party, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Knights of Columbus and Operation Santa, an annual tradition held last Saturday in which Santa and dozens of volunteer elves of all ages travel through the village on fire engines dropping off gifts for every child in town.
Tokar pointed out that since the fest began in 1990, more than $1.15 million has been raised for local non-profits. According to the information provided, 1994 was the most profitable year, when $43,700 was raised.
“What is this talk about ending RidgeFest?” asked Trustee Jack Lind. “We’re not seriously considering that, are we?”
Trustee Sally Durkin said she was not asking for it to end, but told Tokar, who chairs the RidgeFest committee, that she would like to see details about how much the fest costs, which she has asked for previously.
Tokar said residents have asked him about rumors they heard that the fest would be ending, and wanted to gauge the interest of the trustees in keeping it. An informal poll determined that all six favored keeping it.
“Ridgefest is great. It brings the village together. Rest assured, we all want to keep it around,” said Trustee Bruce Quintos. “What we want to do is see what we do to improve it and make it even better.”
As with RidgeFest, the funds raised for non-profits at Oak Lawn’s Fall on the Green festival were discussed at the Nov. 28 Village Board meeting there.
Mayor Sandra Bury and Trustee Tim Desmond, the special events committee, presented oversized checks representing their shares of the money raised to two local non-profits, Park Lawn and the Courage program. Steve Manning, executive director of Park Lawn, which provides many volunteers for Fall on the Green, picked up a check for $20,512.33. Maureen Shields, director emeritus of the Courage Program, a ministry for young pregnant women and single mothers based in St. Germaine Parish, received a check for $6,837.45.
“Thanks to all the Oak Lawn residents who drank a lot of beer that weekend. That’s where most of this money came from,” said Desmond with a smile. “I also want to thank the Special Events committee and all the volunteers. They are the ones who do all the work, and Fall on the Green would not be a success without them,” he added.