A flurry of ideas started out the first meeting in November 2010 with the 14 members of the Quasquicentennial Committee planning a yearlong celebration of the 125th year of Arlington Heights' incorporation as a village.
How long before most of those brainstorms would be circling the drain? We had a year to plan, a year to execute and a zero budget. What we could scrounge was what we could spend.
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Our Head Scrounger was Lauree Harp. Her tools were a computer spreadsheet, a bottomless reserve of energy, and a voice that could talk the birds down from the trees when too much gab filled the room.
We needed money and a buy-in from virtually everyone in the village. Each of us was assigned a potential sponsor ranging from private businesses and churches to village institutions such as the park district, the Memorial Library, the Lutheran Home and reaching all the way out to the Arlington Park International Race Course.
They received recognition for their good works and village spirit through celebration symbols, and we received their contributions to keep the good times rolling through 2012. What symbols?
We settled on trains, because trains helped build our village. Sponsors could buy fiberglass locomotives, decorate them and display them all over town. Personalized banners hung from 75 light poles, recycled glass sun catchers dangled in shop windows, decals and embossed pins displayed the 125th logo. Three thousand calendars designed in the village showed split image photos of 125 years of our historical heritage.
Sponsors opened their own events to our little canopy tent where we took turns handing out free wooden steam whistles and selling village history books. At Frontier Days, the Union Pacific Railroad gave us an entire 1995 diesel locomotive rolled onto private property so kids and parents could "touch a train."
Our sponsors contributed $53,400 to our efforts and grants of $12,500 came from the Union Pacific plus $500 from the Allstate Foundation.
We honored our fallen heroes at Memorial Park, and had a float in the July Fourth parade that won first place for "Best Theme." We were there at Arbor Day, the Mane Event, Picnic in the Park and helped sponsor a greenhouse built at Miner School for the kids to learn agriculture.
We were everywhere in our maroon T-shirts and windbreakers, and despite the tough economy, we felt a real pride in the village this year in the crowds, the smiles and the desire to pitch in.
At the end, on a cold November evening in 2012, we handed out thousands of lit tea lights at the tree lighting ceremony and concluded our celebration. Our cost to the village was still zero, but at one time more than $100,000 had passed through our hands with a small amount left for committee distribution to close the books.
For us, the 14 members of the 125th Committee, good memories will always linger in serving our community and in our neighbors who supported Arlington Heights as a place all of us call home.