Despite a ratio of 30 dead to every 1 living resident, the Village of Forest Park could never be characterized as a tired old town. Its main drag of Madison boasts a bustling bar scene, several renowned restaurants and a variety of unique novelty shops.
Forest Park’s Chamber of Commerce is far from stuffy, too. They are constantly coming up with unique ways to play up the village’s many strengths—whether it’s free summer music shows on the shaded grounds of Altenheim Cemetery or a festive holiday walk down Madison Street on a December evening.
On Saturday, October 26, they’ll be rolling out the dead carpet to host the Second Annual Forest Park Flapper Ghost Casket Race. Pushing off at 10 a.m at the intersection of Beloit and Madison, this unique event is sure to charge up the Saturday morning somnambulists.
As for the Casket Race, it’s been likened to a creepier, super-sized version of the Pinewood Derby. Participants—local businesses and various fun-lovers—band together to create their own vehicle, which is piloted by a steer person and pushed by teams of 4 down the 195-yard stretch of Beloit Avenue.
Laurie Kokenes, Executive Director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce came up with the casket race concept after hearing of a similar event in Colorado. She said that the races are a “great way to ‘raise’ awareness” and “celebrate community 'spirit', while connecting to Forest Park’s history.”
The teams certainly don’t take the challenge lying down. Last year, there was heated competition to take home trophies, which ranged from first place for the fleetest team to scariest, funniest and coolest teams. There was even trophy for the last place finishers, which was snagged by a group of teachers from Cicero who had a “Titanic” theme.
The creative juices were also flowing on the casket front with entrants that included a rig manned by prancing tooth fairies and sponsored by Children’s Dentistry of Forest Park. McGaffer's Pub came up with a box of reigning Grateful Dead bears and the requisite “Dead Heads” on the beat. While that was cool, Schauer Hardware actually had a casket made of solid ice designed by Nadeau's Ice Sculptures.
Kokenes noted that 5 or 6 more teams should be coming on board with last year's winning team returning to action. She said “ gotta keep an eye on the Park District who won by a very small margin last year. Sleek, light casket and strong, young runners!”
Although Schauer Hardware waltzed off with the “coolest casket” honors, the firm the won’t be trotting out a vehicle this year as owner Schauer has been extremely involved helping plan, prepare and raise awareness of the event.
Schauer said that the Casket Race is “really more about an event the town can have to make people walk around and come back another day to shop/eat. Several of us businesses have participated to make this event happen and volunteer our time to be a part of the community. “
And just about everyone knows that Forest Park is a community that puts on great party. Kokenes said “we did add some live music and breakfast and lunch items for folks to hang out and enjoy.” She even alluded to some surprises and "an ‘infamous’ guest who will be lurking around.”
Parents are also encouraged to break out the kids’ Halloween costumes and bring them out for a nice round of trick-or-treating afterwards.
In short, if you can’t get in the spirit in Forest Park on Saturday, October 26, then you might as well be six feet under. And if the movers and shakers have their way, this is just the beginning. As Schauer said, “we are on our way to having a new event that will be around for a long time, just to keep growing and getting better!”