By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe
On Saturday, September 11, from 12pm-5pm, the 17th annual BarrieFest will take place in Barrie Park at 1011 S. Lombard Avenue, just across the Eisenhower Bridge from the Oak Parks Arts District.
First celebrated in 2005 when Barrie Park reopened after being closed for several years for environmental remediation, BarrieFest is sponsored by the South East Oak Park Community Organization (SEOPCO), a group that was founded to give neighbors a voice and make sure they were being treated fairly during the remediation. Today the event has two purposes: to provide a family-focused festival for the residents of southeast Oak Park and to offer all Oak Parkers a chance to experience the unique neighborhood.
Some of this year’s free activities include a climbing wall and inflatable obstacle course, information booths from local businesses and organizations, and bicycle repair from Wheel & Sprocket. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of September 11, the Fire Department plans a flag raising at 12:30.
In 2020, COVID-19 forced organizers to get creative. “We partnered with Fitzgerald’s last year to sponsor their Community Truck that brought live performances to seventeen different locations in our neighborhood (masked and socially distanced). It was very different from what we usually do,” said Jim Peterson, SEOPCO treasurer. Although it was different, the truck was a success, and Fitzgerald’s will be back this year providing live music in the neighborhood from 11:00-12:30 and in the park from 12:30-2:00.
New to BarrieFest is a partnership with Takeout 25, an initiative launched in November by Oak Parker Ravi Parakkat. Ravi wanted to support local restaurants during the pandemic and envisioned 10,000 Oak Park residents each spending $25 per week on takeout equating to $1 million in monthly revenue. Divided by the 100 restaurants in Oak Park, the “Carry Out to Carry On” pledge aimed to provide $10,000 in monthly revenue to help each restaurant survive. To date, almost 9,000 people have joined the Takeout 25 Facebook group and not a single restaurant in Oak Park permanently closed due to the pandemic.
BarrieFest will mark the launch of Takeout 25 as an official non-profit. “Takeout 25 saved local businesses and jobs. These results prompted me to talk to local business owners about the future of Takeout 25 and the consensus was an expanded mission that included addressing food insecurity and sustainability of food systems while strengthening the local economy and community. We quickly determined that the best way to achieve the optimal impact was to organize as a non-profit,” said Ravi.
Nine local restaurants will participate in the event including Oak Park Arts District favorites Mora Oak Park and The Happy Apple Pie Shop. Ticket booklets cost $25 and include three $8 food tickets with the additional dollar donated to Beyond Hunger in support of Hunger Action Month. All food options will be priced at $8 and tickets can be used at any participating vendor. Tickets can be purchased on the day of the event but advance sales are encouraged to facilitate planning. To pre-purchase tickets, visit Takeout 25’s new website at www.takeout25.org.
BarrieFest organizers are excited to be back in Barrie Park with most of the traditional elements of the event returning. Said SEOPCO co-chair Stuart Barnes Jamieson, “It is time for this close-knit community to come back together to celebrate our identity as one of Oak Park’s most diverse neighborhoods. With the new partnership with Takeout 25 for food, and the second year of our partnership with Fitzgerald’s for entertainment, we expect this year’s BarrieFest to be better than ever.”
For more information about BarrieFest, visit www.facebook.com/seopco.