Photo by Dermot Connolly
Chicago Ridge residents formed a guard of honor for 40 recruits from Great Lakes Naval Base on Thanksgiving morning as they filed off a bus and walked into Glenn Maker American Legion Post 1160 for the eighth annual Thanksgiving celebration sponsored by ARMS (Arms Reaching Many in Society). Volunteers prepared a traditional holiday meal and recruits were able to sit back and relax, watching TV, playing video games, and contacting family around the country by phone and on Skype.
Chicago Ridge residents have gotten in the holiday spirit over the past week, warmly welcoming recruits from Great Lakes Naval Base to town on Thanksgiving Day, and gathering in droves on Sunday for the 2nd Annual Christmas tree-lighting celebration.
On Thanksgiving, scores of flag-waving residents lined Ridgeland Avenue in front of Glenn Maker American Legion Post 1160, 10739 S. Ridgeland Ave.
Police Chief Rob Pyznarski welcomed each recruit with a handshake and a smile as they filed into the Legion hall before 10:30 a.m. Pyznarski and his wife, Deb, now a village trustee, began the Thanksgiving tradition eight years ago, when their son, Bryan, was in the service and away from home for the holidays.
The recruits arrived by bus, accompanied by a convoy of motorcyclists. They enjoyed a traditional holiday meal prepared by volunteers, and an afternoon of relaxation, watching TV and playing video games. The recruits contacted family around the country by phone and on Skype, using equipment provided for the day.
Then with Thanksgiving over, even more people came out for the 2nd annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony held Sunday evening in front of Village Hall, 10455 S. Ridgeland Ave.
Mayor Chuck Tokar presided over the tree-lighting about 7 p.m., but the festivities were going on from 4 to 9 p.m.
One of the highlights this year was an artificial skating rink provided by the village. Residents of all ages brought their own skates, or made use of the ones available for free to take a spin around the ice-like rink.
Photo by Dermot Connolly
Chicago Ridge Lions Club volunteer Bill Watt and his daughter, Alyssa, 9, enjoyed skating on the ice-less rink during the festivities surrounding the lighting of the Chicago Ridge Christmas tree on Sunday
“Nobody got hurt, did they? “I am afraid of the village getting sued,” the mayor joked.
“I am so glad that people came to enjoy it. It looks good on paper but you never know how it will be received,” said Trustee Bill McFarland, looking over at the crowds gliding and sliding, on the artificial ice rink. All the village board members participated in the event, in one way or another.
The village co-hosted the festivities with the Chicago Ridge Lions Club, which donated the tree. The ornaments were made by students and members of local organizations.
Boy Scout Troop 3665 provided free hot chocolate, and sold hot dogs, nachos and other treats to keep people warm. The unseasonably warm weather undoubtedly helped the crowds, too.
Musical entertainment was provided by the Finley Junior High School Band and the Richards High School Jazz Band, which took turns playing holiday tunes. The Finley choir, along with the Jon’s Way youth group, also sang carols. The local youth group was formed by Karrie and Roger Grabinski, in honor of their son, Jon, who was 17 when he died in a car crash in 2016.
“I’m totally overwhelmed by the turnout,” said Lions Club President Bill Lammel.
Bill Watt, a Lions Club volunteer, enjoyed the rink with his daughter, Alyssa, 9, holding her hand while carrying a cup of hot cocoa in the other.
Alyssa said she enjoyed the skating but was most looking forward to meeting Santa Claus, who arrived on a fire truck a little later. When Santa did get there, she and the other children gave him a rapturous welcome. They quickly lined up have a word with him, and get a candy cane from his helper elves.
“This event is going to get bigger and better every year,” predicted her mother, Jennifer Watt.