Rocket ship park in St. Charles gets updated equipment

When it comes to loving rocket ships, the country's billionaires don't have anything on us.

The St. Charles Park District informed residents on the city's west side nearly two years ago that its beloved "Rocket Ship Park" playground was in line for a significant overhaul and new safety measures.

Residents flooded social media with suggestions, sadness and nostalgia as the park district prepared to remove the slide from the iconic rocket ship at Kehoe Park, located at the corner of Prairie and Howard streets.

We knew exactly how neighbors felt, as this was a park my wife hung out with friends after it opened in 1964 and the first place my son went down a slide about 25 years later.

When the park district first revealed its intentions, Jenny Santos, administrative assistant to the parks and recreation director, noted that most of the employees at the park district could relate to the neighbors' nostalgia, as "most of the people here grew up playing on that rocket, too."

The finished product of a restructured Kehoe Park and a repainted rocket ship has been open for a few weeks, but a grand reopening party is scheduled for 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 27.

"The rocket ship is closed off now, but it has been repainted to its original colors," Santos said last week. "The slide has been removed, and, from the inside, the rocket ship cannot be climbed."

That's the safety part. But as a piece of restored local history, the rocket ship has never had it better.

The St. Charles Park District has installed a new slide and playground equipment in Kehoe Park. A grand reopening party is scheduled for June 27. Courtesy of Dave Heun

"There will be landscaping around it and a nice edged bed," Santos added.

Santos acknowledged feedback in the community about how sad people were to consider seeing the rocket ship possibly removed aided the park board's decision to keep it on site. The park district never intended to remove the rocket ship, at least not without a go-ahead from neighbors.

"After all, it is Kehoe Park, but most people call it Rocket Ship Park," Santos said.

As luck would have it, when I stopped by the park last week to look at the new amenities, I struck up a conversation with a person who was certain that she and her daughter were the last ones to use the rocket ship slide and climb inside the structure.

In early April, Michele Garza, who had recently moved to St. Charles from Elgin, had heard about the park and its history. She wanted to check it out so that she and her young daughter Harper could have their own story about the historic rocket ship.

Kehoe Park in St. Charles will now offer two play areas with new equipment, including a water sensory table. Courtesy of Dave Heun

And it's not a bad story.

"As we walked up, we noticed they were working on the rocket ship and were just about to take out the slide and block off entry to the inside of it," Garza said. "We told them that we had hoped to use it at least one time, and they said it was OK to do so. I really think we were the last ones to use the slide and climb inside."

Nostalgia for the rocket ship aside, Kehoe Park will now offer two play areas with new equipment, one for young children and another for older ones. New benches have also been placed in the park. An ADA drinking fountain and bottle-fill station, with a dog bowl and water sensory table donated by the St. Charles Kiwanis, will also be new features.

"The colors of the new amenities really tie in with the rocket, so from an aesthetics standpoint, it really looks nice," Santos said.

The park is fenced off for safety along the busy Howard and Prairie streets.

As for the grand reopening, park board members, administrators and employees will do an official ribbon cutting.

Then, the good stuff starts. Hot dogs, chips and ice cream will be available for families. The park district also created posters from some old photos of the park that residents submitted to display during the party.

"This is one of our bigger neighborhood playground parks, so we are trying to spread the word to the community so they can come out and see how cool the renovation to the park is," Santos said. There may be an occasional complaint on social media from longtime residents about the changes in the park. But from what I witnessed last week, the target audience (young kids) was having a great time at Kehoe Park.

Watching for First Watch

When we visit my son and his family in Lisle, we go by the First Watch restaurant on Ogden Avenue in Naperville. I wonder when the First Watch planned for the Geneva Commons will open.

Some readers have been wondering the same, asking if there is any type of update to share on the breakfast-lunch restaurant going into the former Claddagh Irish Pub site.

The First Watch website notes one of its restaurants is opening soon on Golf Road in Schaumburg, but there is no mention of one coming to Geneva. So, in translating that, the folks at First Watch headquarters in Florida may not want to post a "coming soon" tag just yet.

But all indications are that the restaurant is coming, and maybe fairly soon.

The city officials say a permit was issued to First Watch on March 15, 2023, and inspections have been ongoing since April 3. The most recent inspections completed were for the rough interior, or framing, on May 17 and for plumbing on May 19.

That indicates things are moving along. And Kathy Charhut, the property manager at Geneva Commons, confirmed that.

"I can say that they are projecting, or aiming, for Aug. 7 as an opening date," Charhut said. It's difficult to consider a solid date at this point, Charhut noted, because there is always the potential for delays or unforeseen problems.

Boot yourself to this sale

St. Charles Episcopal Church in St. Charles is onto something different if you want something to do Saturday, June 10.

The church at 994 N. Fifth Ave. will host its first "boot" (or car trunk) rummage sale, in which visitors will shop in the church's back parking lot between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Various items will be for sale, but a bake sale and live music should also attract folks if the weather is nice. In addition, a Taco Madre food truck will be on site.

More information is available on the church website at

Was mask a big ask?

For most of us, a declaration that the emergency aspect of the COVID pandemic had come to an end was welcome news. For others, it might create an empty feeling after losing loved ones to the virus or even continuing with the long-term COVID effects.

At another level, it leaves many with nothing to rant and rave about regarding vaccines, masks and lockdowns. That's a big void for those who like something to shout about, though people with those tendencies easily find other targets for their displeasure on social media.

But it should mean an end to people badgering staff at restaurants, businesses or health clinics that required masks.

I never minded wearing a mask. I was annoyed when I forgot to bring one when going to a store, but otherwise, I never found it a big ask to slip one on.

In fact, I thought a mask would have been nice, pandemic or not, during the five years I walked to work about six blocks from the train station in downtown Chicago.

I've never been a fan of walking into a billow of cigarette smoke, which happened often, and a mask would have diminished that.

More doughnuts available

The reaction to the Dear Donuts shop opening at 507 S. Randall Road in St. Charles has been highly positive.

We certainly like our doughnut shops around here, and this newest entry into that arena appears to be gaining loyal customers quickly.

I have it down on my to-do list to stop in and see for myself, and I will share more information with readers.

The shop is in the same retail strip as the Syrup restaurant.

A babysitting no-no?

Many grandparents likely have formed a list of what not to do after years of babysitting for grandkids. It's not that you are oblivious to what it was like to care for little kids. It's just been a long time.

Plus, we're only a couple of years into this grandparenting thing, so you kind of learn on the fly.

So it is that I have entered details of the "Big Mistake" into the log book - "Do not give two children, both younger than 3 years old, a large Frosty from Wendy's to share as their dessert after dinner."

First, it's messy. But, mostly, the rampage of running and screaming that followed would qualify as an interesting science-study video if you were experimenting with what this sort of sweet treat can do to a child.

It's wild and not for the faint of heart.

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