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For Oak Fest, resilience reigns

Workers fold up tent Wednesday Oak Fest where storms late Monday night caused extensive damage. The Oak Forest festival runs

Workers fold up a tent Wednesday at Oak Fest, where storms late Monday night caused extensive damage. The Oak Forest festival runs through Sunday. | Nick Swedberg/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 3, 2014 2:09AM



Extreme weather is nothing new for the organizers and volunteers behind Oak Fest, the village of Oak Forest’s large annual festival.

A few years ago, attendees endured sweltering heat as temperatures during the weekend festival reached past 100 degrees.

This year, the problems for Oak Fest began even before the event kicked off. Fest chairman Joe Koce said Wednesday that things were back on schedule, but days of rough storms and high winds forced the event to make a big change.

The 27th annual Oak Fest, which supports several local nonprofit groups with its profits, kicked off Wednesday night.

The volunteer-run fest ran into problems during setup when Monday night’s violent storms knocked down two tents after workers had finished putting them up.

“We were done,” Koce said, “and had to do it all over again.”

A microburst Tuesday night knocked down the large beer tent, which prompted them to scrap that tent altogether, Koce said.

Only the tent is gone, Koce said. The beer vendors and stage are staying right where they always are.

Looking on the bright side, Koce said, the removal of the tent will translate to a better view of the planned fireworks display Friday night for those who plan to sit at the picnic tables in the stage area.

Organizers listened to feedback from residents about what they wanted from this year’s Oak Fest, Koce said. A better and increased selection of rides were brought in for the carnival. They also boosted the discount for all-day ride passes.

“This carnival we’re going to have is going to be the best carnival we’ve ever had,” Koce said.

Koce and other volunteers focused on bringing in Oak Forest restaurants as vendors this year. Beggars Pizza, Chenchos, Doug’s Dogs and La Isla will have booths in the food tent. Koce plans to push harder to bring in more local restaurants for future festivals.

With the bad storms behind him, Koce expects the weather to be perfect for the weekend.

The National Weather Service forecast daytime temperatures to climb through the high 70s on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and reach a high of 82 on Sunday. Nighttime temperatures will fall to the high 60s and low 70s on Saturday and Sunday.

One hundred percent of profits from Oak Fest benefit 25 local groups that volunteer, Koce said.

Oak Fest is open from 6 p.m. to midnight Thursday, 3 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. It is located at the northeast corner of 159th Street and Central Avenue in Oak Forest.

For more information, visit oakfest.com.



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