Lake Forest Day changes tie local businesses to patrons in a fun environment

In its 105th year, the 2014 Lake Forest Day parade and carnival has taken on an updated approach with a new Party in the Park and more sponsorship opportunities to ensure an upbeat two-day festival.

“We’re trying to re-energize Lake Forest Day,” said Bud Turner, an American Legion Lake Forest Post member.

The celebration, run since 1921 by the Lake Forest American Legion, has long been the biggest event in the city and has always been held on the first Tuesday evening and Wednesday in August.

This year, the event starts with the carnival in West Park on Tuesday night, Aug. 5. The annual Lake Forest Day Parade will be held Wednesday morning, Aug. 6, followed by the carnival re-opening around noon.

Lake Forest resident Patrick Blake, former owner of The Vic Theatre in Chicago, is serving as Lake Forest Day chairman. He is working with members of the American Legion to create an updated celebration.

This year the beer garden, located on the tennis courts in the far north end of West Park, will feature a Party in the Park on Wednesday, featuring live bands playing favorite cover songs, quality staging, sound and lights, and dancing.

“It’s going to be a blast,” Blake said.

A new Legion website, www.post264.org, details the new party and sponsorship opportunities for local businesses during the Lake Forest Day celebration.

“We want to help local businesses,” Blake said. “The Chamber of Commerce ‘Shop Local’ message is very important.”

New sponsorships will provide local businesses with opportunities to mingle with their patrons in a fun environment and give them the opportunity “to put their best foot forward and show their customers what they can do,” Blake said.

To reinforce that message, this year’s parade theme is “The American Legion Salutes our Local Businesses” and the grand marshals are Joanna Rolek, executive director of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce, and Deborah Haddad, president of the Chamber Board of Directors.

“We’re looking to help ensure that the local business community has every opportunity to interact with their customers in a positive way,” Blake said.

Along that line, Blake created a free booster program for businesses to have their company name and logo flash on a large screen inside the beer garden during the Party in the Park. Businesses can become sponsors at either the premium sponsorship level, for $1,500, or the local partner level, price negotiable.

At the premium level, sponsorships will include 10 unlimited-ride wristbands, bartending opportunities in the beer garden, parade options and premium placement and a reserved table in the new, roped-off Hospitality Section.

The local partners level will include premium parade options, four unlimited ride wristbands, access to the Hospitality Section during the Party in the Park and bartending opportunities.

Lake Forest Day is the primary fund-raising event for the Legion.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Blake said of chairing the event. “I think it’s important that the American Legion Lake Forest Post get support from people like me, because we want this event to stay in hands of the Legion.”

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