German Village Gazette

Village notebook

September saw spotlight shine on Schiller Park, Village

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Photo courtesy of Norman Hall
Schiller Park welcomed 4,500 people who wanted to see a sitting president close up Sept. 17.
By Shiloh Todorov
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Surely Herr Schiller has earned a day off.

In the nine days from Bicentennial to President Obama's visit, Schiller Park saw more high-profile activity than it has, perhaps, since Prince Alexander Ernst zu Lynar of Prussia and his local bride, May, showed up to plant the "peace oak" in 1871.

And, frankly, at that time the 23 acres at the south end of the Village wasn't yet known as Schiller Park and the statue was still 20 years from dedication.

So suffice it to say -- it was a whirlwind of a September in German Village.

Friends of Schiller set out a year ago to put us in the city spotlight, when the committee decided to create German Village's bicentennial celebration.

On the power of sheer grit and volunteer determination, they put together a terrific, whiz-bang weekend of activities that saw the Schiller statue get a nightlight for the first time; followed by a day celebrating the many historical moments celebrated over 200 years in the park.

When you add in the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up moment of a flock of geese flying over the statue just as the lights were turned on for the first time, you can imagine the neighborhood has been abuzz with positive energy in the warm afterglow of the Ode To Joy weekend.

"Kevin Lohr's coordination of the chimes at St. Mary playing Ode to Joy with the crowd humming along in the evening shadows was quite moving, and a lasting tribute to our Villagers and the traditions we embrace and share," German Village Society Trustee Jeff McNealey said in a posting to our website blog.

Jerry Glick said, "The park was full of energy and lots of people having a great time. It is exactly the way a park should be used."

Just as we were passing around heaping helpings of congratulations for the big history show that was the Bicentennial, a campaign eyeing the future -- namely, November for the moment -- came knocking.

Less than a week after one great event leaves the park, we learned that the national spotlight was about to shine on the Village.

No -- the Obama campaign didn't call up the Society weeks ago, asking about plans for a rally in Schiller Park.

We learned, when many of you did, from the evening news Thursday or the morning paper Friday.

Friday morning, Friends of Schiller was offered 800 tickets to distribute to neighbors to see a sitting president up close and personal.

At that moment, another gaggle of uber-volunteers flashed into action to gather and sort ticket requests, and then man a weekend's worth of booths to get them distributed.

The buzz was complete excitement through the weekend of planning the Obama event, followed by the pure adrenaline rush shared by those 5,000 ticketholders who witnessed it first-hand.

"Shook the hand of the President (along with my son and my husband) and made a lot of new friends," Pam Makowski posted to our Facebook page.

"Felt so united!" said Lisa Boggs.

Heidi Zwick Drake noted, "People from every background all standing together peacefully and positively. Very proud to be a part of it!"

What I loved, as I drove past the park at 7:15 p.m. the Monday after Obama left, was that it appeared every walker/ jogger/strolled/dog mom/dad within a 5-mile radius had chosen a route that would take them past Schiller Park to just have a moment with some of the greatness that brushed through our park in the previous 10 days.

German Village Society Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column to the ThisWeek German Village Gazette.

 

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