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Chicago Ridge hosts party of the century

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Updated: May 16, 2014 6:23AM



When you turn 100 years old, you’ve got to do something special.

The village of Chicago Ridge did just that Saturday night with a Centennial Gala at the Glendora House, 10225 S. Harlem Ave.

The village hoped to sell 300 tickets and wound up selling 438, said Judy King, secretary to Mayor Chuck Tokar and liaison to the Centennial Gala committee. Glendora House had to borrow tables from the village for the event, Tokar said.

There was a social hour, dinner, dancing to live music by The City Lights Orchestra, and silent and live auctions.

“Everything went off without a hitch,” King said Monday. “We were very pleased with the turnout. Walking around the tables, I saw everyone having a good time. The band was awesome, and everybody had a lot of fun. I heard many people say, ‘Oh, my God, I haven’t seen you in so long.’ ”

The fun started with the social hour at 6 p.m. By 6:30 p.m. the banquet hall was jumping with neighbors and far-flung friends visiting with one another.

Some of those attending got into the spirit by dressing in period outfits that would have looked right at home when the village was incorporated in 1914.

Sharon Polchow, the former wife of former mayoral candidate Gary Polchow, got into the spirit with a snazzy red shawl worn over a black dress and topped with a red hat.

“I put this outfit together on my own. Gary said, ‘You’ve got to go for the 1914 look,’ ” she said.

The Polchow name has deep roots in the village. Gary’s grandfather, Charles, was the first mayor. His father, Herbert, was mayor in the 1950s. Gary tried to make it a Polchow trifecta but lost in a bid to unseat longtime mayor Gene Siegel in 1985.

“Ah, I was a kid in my 20s,” he said.

The gala, he said, honors people such as his grandparents and others who played key roles in laying the foundation for the village to be what it is today.

Polchow said he plans to write a book about the village. If so, it would be the second. Earlier this year, Ed Maurer Jr. released a book filled with photos and stories about the village’s first 100 years. Copies are for sale for $20 at the public library.

“This is a big recognition night for the village. It’s really heartwarming to see,” said Maurer, who was so inspired he wore a tie.

“Don’t get used to it because this is one of the few times,” Maurer said with a laugh.

Master of ceremonies NBC 5 meteorologist Andy Avalos quipped the village “doesn’t look a day over 50” before he introduced the Rev. Wayne Svida, pastor of Our Lady of the Ridge Catholic Church, for the benediction.

“It’s a celebration that’s only the beginning as we celebrate many more years of dedication to this community that we call home,” Svida said.

Svida got choked up when he spoke. So did Siegel, who came up from Florida for the party and said he expects the village “will keep prospering” before he urged everyone to “have a good time tonight.”

Asked later why his voice wavered, Siegel, who served 38 years as mayor, said, “I miss the people.”

Leading a champagne toast to the village, Tokar said the gala “is a true testament to what can be accomplished if people all work together,” adding that “we all want Chicago Ridge to be the best community around. If we keep focused, together we can keep the village moving forward.”

After dinner, Avalos led a live auction of items such as autographed Blackhawks jerseys. That and a silent auction of 25 gift baskets and other items raised money for the village’s yearlong centennial celebration, King said. Final totals of funds raised were not available Monday, King said. One man paid $500 for 300 Illinois lottery tickets that offer $1,000 a week for 20 years, King said.

“We haven’t heard yet if he’s won anything, but he has a lot of tickets to scratch off,” King said.

Some of the funds will be used to plant a centennial tree in Freedom Park on Arbor Day, April 25, King said. Others will go toward events such as the centennial parade on Sept. 7.

Village Clerk George Schleyer said he was proud of Chicago Ridge and called the party “a great way to kick off the next century.

“What makes me nervous is this will be a tough act to follow. I’m in charge of planning the parade,” Schleyer said.



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