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updated: 2/3/2013 5:50 PM

Mt. Prospect Celestial Celebration changes draw crowd

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  • Carolyn Fujara, 18, left, of Mount Prospect was awarded the Rising Star Award by Mayor Irvana Wilks at the village's 20th annual Celestial Celebration on Friday.

      Carolyn Fujara, 18, left, of Mount Prospect was awarded the Rising Star Award by Mayor Irvana Wilks at the village's 20th annual Celestial Celebration on Friday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

Mount Prospect added new twists to an old favorite and has a hit on its hands once again.

A new night and new venue breathed fresh life into the Mount Prospect Special Events Commission's annual Celestial Celebration, attracting a close-to capacity crowd of 386 Friday night to Victoria In the Park banquet hall, said the event's co-chairs, Teresa VanOpdorp and Fred Steinmiller.

"By changing the event in its 20th year, we have revived it," VanOpdorp said. "We increased our attendance by 100 people this year. Sometimes you have to reinvent events to keep them going."

Selling cognac and hand-rolled cigars, booking the all-girl rock band "Serendipity," providing a photographer to take photos that can be purchased online, and allowing those attending to choose between three different entrees were all touches giving the evening a new feeling.

The Celestial Celebration is the dinner dance at which Mount Prospect honors its unsung heroes -- the people who "do good things, not because they are getting paid to do it, but because they want to do it," Leo Floros, former co-chairman of the Special Events Commission, told the crowd.

"I think that it is amazing that we still find people to honor after 20 years," said Mayor Irvana Wilks. "This event is perfect for Mount Prospect because we have so many hardworking people who work together to make Mount Prospect unique."

Thirteen people accepted awards this year on behalf of themselves or their business/organization.

Among them were stay-at-home moms Jodi Bechtold and Stephanie Johanson, who were honored with the "Open Arms Award" for their efforts to collect children's clothing, strollers, high chairs and other necessary items for the Kids' Pantry housed at the Christian Life Church. They solicit donations and then hold massive giveaway events annually in May and October. People and social service organizations in need line up to "shop" for needed items in the church's gym and lobby, which is filled to capacity with donations, according to Bechtold.

Also honored was Carol Tortorello, who received the Volunteer's Volunteer Award for her tireless efforts on behalf of the monthly village blood drive, Mount Prospect Crime Stoppers and the Citizens Emergency Response Team, which goes door-to-door in emergencies and directs traffic at big events. She also helps bag produce for the needy after the weekly Sunday Farmer's Market and is an active tax watchdog.

"I had never done anything like this until I retired and finally had the time," she said. "Then I started poking my nose in, first with the Northwest Tax Watch group. Now, I see a need and try to fill it."

The evening's other honorees were: Rainbow Hospice, Beautify Mount Prospect Award; Rodger Kruse, Good-Better-Best Neighbor Award; Betty Barten, Unsung Hero Award; Michael Davey and Mount Prospect Child Care, Best Business Partner Award; Tom Zouramas of Sub Express restaurant, Hometown Award; Tina Kozil, Champion for Youth Award; Karen Enzenbacher, There Ought to Be More People Like This Award; Carolyn Fujara, Rising Star Award; Jill Galyon, Youth Service Award; and Bob Fey, Star Spangled Award.

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