Forest View Elementary School's 50th anniversary celebration was a blast May 3, as more than 500 people filled the building for the capstone celebration.
"Boy, you guys really know how to throw a party," said outgoing Mount Prospect Mayor Irvana Wilks.
Different classrooms transformed into stations for balloon art, face painting, tattoos and ice cream concessions, while a disc jockey spun tunes in the gym for dancing.
Even the walls of the school featured entertainment. Each grade level researched the different decades of the school, while families checked out the giant timeline and the many class photos from its 50 years.
The bash drew nearly all of its current 350 students and their families, as well as former teachers and staff, and many graduates and their families.
"We're thrilled," said Principal Meg Weickert. "We haven't had this many people in the building in years."
Don Drewes of Elgin was there the day the school opened in 1962. He was a fourth-grader and he said the school was far different back in the 1960s.
"When I came here, it was half this size," Drewes said. "It was surrounded by fields and there were only two-lane highways."
His daughter, Lisa Calcagno of Carpentersville, graduated from Forest View in 1981. Like her father, she too wanted the chance to return to her youth.
"It's a walk down memory lane," Calcagno said. "One of the most positive experiences of your life are the years spent in elementary school."
Another former student, Katie Sheahan-Gray of Northbrook, returned with a friend. Both had been students in Forest View's program for the hearing-impaired.
"We got to interact with hearing people," Sheahan-Gray said. "It helped me to understand everything."
Three of the school's principals were on hand, including current principal Weickert, and former principals Carol Zerwas and Don Heitzman, who led Forest View for 23 years during the 1960s and '70s.
Heitzman described how during the early years, the school had more than 400 students but enrollment began to decline to as low as 180 as families stayed in Mount Prospect long after their children were grown.
"District officials were considering closing or consolidating the school," Heitzman said, "but that's when the parents hit the streets."
He told how they surveyed open land for possible new housing, checked the numbers of young families in rental units and surveyed the local preschool census numbers.
"They built a case, based on nonemotional reasoning," Heitzman said, "and here we are, 50 years later. I have to credit the parents. They were always enthusiastic and supportive, and brought a lot of energy to the school."
Fifth-grader Trent Watson of Mount Prospect brought his own energy to the school choir, which sang a sampling of songs from the past decades and concluded with the school song.
"My favorite subject is science, but I like all the sports we play and stuff we learn," he said. "I'm going to miss everything, and especially recess."