Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hula hooping and Santa Claus at the Orland Park tree lighting

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Orland Park's Christmas tree lighting was a blast. It had the children rocking and rolling to the fun songs and energy of entertainer Rick Kelley and the music of the Encore Orchestra -- and they are an orchestra consisting of volunteers of all experience who come together to play great music.

But it's all about the kids. There were crafts for the children, music, hot dogs and pop sold by one of Orland's two Cub Scout Packs, and two horse-drawn carriage rides through the Civic Center's parking lots. The horses were King and Mary, who brayed to each other as they passed with their carriages filled with holiday celebrating families.

At the end of the evening, around 6 pm, Mayor Dan McLaughlin was joined by some of the village's officials -- Pat Gira, a cheerful and joking Kathy Fenton, Ed Schussler and Brad O'Halloran -- in lighting the tree, but only after a carolers sang several fun holiday songs. The tree -- there are two actually at Village Hall, one inside and one outside where everyone gathered -- was more than enough in height to keep the kids in awe. It was decorated with ornaments made by local children and multi-colored lights.

But the real hit was Kelley. This guy knows how to entertain children. He had them all up front dancing, singing, playing musical instruments and even doing a Caribbean Limbo. The finale was a hula hoop contest for the kids. Amazing how they can spin those hula hoops.

Of course, it reminded me of when I was a kid and in 1964 hula hooped at the Community Discount Store opening on 95th Street just past Stony Island Avenue. I won a Beatles' album.

And it got me thinking, of course. Instead of having elections, why not make the politicians hula hoop. We could have Liz Gorman, Dr. Victor Forys, Gerald Maher, Patrick Maher, and the rest hula hoop for the 17th District seat. I still think Liz would win hands (hips) down. I did see that Maher's Orland Fire Protection District had a little table and that wonderful lady who is their spokesperson. I had my wife check if there was any campaign literature there -- I couldn't bear it if there were, but it is a 19th Ward tradition. There was none, fortunately.

Still, the hula hoop contest would be a blast, although the thought of watching Todd Stroger, Cook County's "Tax you up the Wazoo" president, hula hooping, is sickening. That would take courage and faith in yourself, the very characteristics voters want but that Stroger lacks. He's such a coward and won't sit down for an interview in print or on radio, though his spokesperson, Chris Geovanis is the best among the herd (Caryn Stancik, Sean Howard, Chinta Strausberg included), At least she has some kahones! (Not cojones, the Peruvian musical instrument).

But back to the holiday spirit from some humor: Kelley can be booked by reaching out to him on email at I hope McLaughlin, if he is really in charge of the whole kit and kaboodle, brings him back next year. (And no, I never met him before -- some politicians would screw someone just for knowing me. Well, not McLaughlin but maybe in a certain clerical office possibly?)

And if you are interested in the Encore Concert Band, you can reach them, too, at If you play an instrument, you are invited to join them and try to keep up or even lead, if you have the talent. It's open to everyone.

-- Ray Hanania

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