Different place, but fun still the same during Fox Fest
Fox River Grove residents took a different route but still found familiar faces and fun at their annual village picnic Saturday.
Fox Fest 2007 was moved from its regular location in Lions Park along the river where the grounds remain wet from recent rainfall. The festival took place instead at Stanger Park and Kids Care Basketball Courts, both adjacent to Algonquin Road School.
The setting was more spread out than Lions Park, allowing room for an impromptu game of touch football by a group of teens and some skateboarding tricks of middle-schoolers.
"It's in a different space, but it's the same event with the same community groups," explained village clerk Donna Brouder.
Festival goers certainly brought their appetites with them. Four hours into the event, the Cary Grove Area Chamber of Commerce had sold its entire supply of 400 brats. Local residents also were well on their way to putting a dent in the 700 hot dogs the chamber was selling and the 1,200 ears of roasted corn on the cob offered by the Fox River Grove Lions Club.
Food was not the only favorite at the festival. The most popular attraction for the pre-teen set was a haunted maze provided by organizers of Mack Manor, the haunted house open every Halloween at Lions Park.
Dubbed "Habitrail," the maze was inside of a two-story structure the size of a large tool shed. Children ages 6-12 crawled through the maze and exited via a slide.
"It's really dark inside. People climb down the walls to scare you," said 9-year-old Ireland Lockhart.
Alicia Aguirre, 10, agreed.
"It was really dark in there and so scary. I had to hold my friend's hand because it was so creepy."
Many children went through the free exhibit several times.
"It's been nonstop kids since noon. There's been 10 to 20 kids in line all day," said Laura Mack, one of the organizers of Mack Manor which will have "Hollyweird" as this year's theme.
Nick Richter experienced a different kind of fright when he held the head of a red-tailed boa constrictor by the name of Julie Squeezer.
"It was pretty scaly and the bottom was rough. It looked pretty nice except it had weird, beady eyes," said the 14-year-old Cary-Grove High School freshman.
The 10-foot snake was part of the entourage provided by Scales & Tales Traveling Zoo, which also exhibited a pig, hedgehogs, Macaw, chinchillas and a two-toed sloth much to the amazement of onlookers.
Algonquin Road School fourth-grader Will McGhee did not get a chance to hold a snake but instead clutched a trophy he received as winner of the watermelon eating contest. The 9-year-old claimed the prize for eating almost three large slices in two minutes.
He admitted to having previous experience by almost winning a taco eating contest at another event before proclaiming Fox Fest a success.
"This is a lot of fun. The bands make it even more fun," McGhee said while Fox River Grove Lions Club members Don Koss, Andy Oxford and Peter Strand played their own rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama" on stage. They were the warm-up band for Alex & the All-Stars, which would perform later in the evening.
One of the event's organizers, Audra Smith, was pleased with the turnout and happy that the festival retained a small-town atmosphere.
"It's a very unique day. No other town does it like this. There's no big corporate sponsors. It's just the community coming together," she said.
Funding for Fox Fest comes from part of the proceeds of an annual $100 raffle organized by the Fox River Grove Lions Club and from four sponsors, Leader Ace Hardware, Wild Bird Center, Harris Bank and The Northwest Herald.
As the Lions Club band continued playing on stage, more people began filling the beer garden to socialize and listen to the music. Fox River Grove Lioness Kelly Tuman was one of them, relaxing after spending the day organizing games for children.
"I love this town. It's a great community. My kids grew up here. I can't say enough good things about Fox River Grove."