Mount Prospect's annual community honors banquet has hit a big milestone.
This year's banquet, which takes place Friday, will be the village's 20th Celestial Celebration. The event has become a community tradition -- a time to gather with friends for a night of fun and a time to honor those who contribute to the village in special ways.
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Former Mount Prospect Mayor Gerald "Skip" Farley helped start the event in the early 1990s with the help of longtime resident Leo Floros and his late wife, Lil.
"I'm glad it's still going strong," Farley said on Wednesday. "I haven't missed one yet."
The idea for the Celestial Celebration grew out of a gala community event the village held in 1992 to celebrate its 75th anniversary, Farley said.
"I believe it was Lil Floros who said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to have something like this every year?'" he said. "That's what got the ball rolling."
Initially, charity organizations offered to organize a banquet that would double as a fundraiser, Farley said, but that effort fizzled out. A committee of volunteers took the project over, and after countless hours of planning and hard work, the inaugural banquet was held in 1994.
The first Celestial Celebration was such a big hit that fire department personnel had to keep an eye on the packed ballroom at the Bristol Court banquet hall, Farley said.
"I think we needed to get some special dispensation from the fire marshal that year," he said. "The response was huge."
The centerpiece of the night was the distribution of the Shining Star awards, which honor people and organizations that have helped enhance the quality of life in Mount Prospect. The awards have remained a part of the Celestial Celebration ever since.
"Those awards really mean a lot to the winners," said Leo Floros, a former village trustee and longtime MC of the event. "Just the other day I was in a store that had won one a few years ago and they had the award plaque hung up right were everyone can see it. It's nice to celebrate the community that way."
This year's Celestial Celebration will start with cocktails at 6 p.m. Friday at a new venue for the event -- Victoria in the Park banquet hall, 1700 S. Elmhurst Road.