In 1923, The Walt Disney Company was founded, the New York Yankees won their first World Series title, the inaugural issue of Time magazine was published and the original Hollywood sign was unveiled in Los Angeles.
That same year, in a small, quiet corner of the Midwest nestled between the City of the Big Shoulders and vast forest preserves, the village of North Riverside was incorporated, setting the trajectory toward a century of life in the suburb.
One hundred years later, North Riverside village officials and residents from across generations gathered on July 30 for the village’s official centennial celebration.
The afternoon kicked off with a parade from the west end of town at 9th Avenue heading eastbound along 26th Street toward Veterans Park.
Parade participants included not only North Riverside village officials, but an array of local politicians across Riverside and Proviso townships and Cook County, first responders from the near west suburbs, Komarek School staff and local business owners.
The fun then shifted to the Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave., where young festival goers enjoyed carnival rides and games and guests of all ages enjoyed an abundance of food, fellowship and live music. The evening capped off in true North Riverside fashion — with a fireworks display.
Though North Riverside was long known in the area for many years as the home of Melody Mill Ballroom — one of the nation’s largest, which entertained thousands with music and dancing from 1930 through 1984 — residents today proudly reflect on the village as a place that cherishes family values and lasting friendships with neighbors.
“I know people that grew up here, got married and bought homes here themselves and are now raising their families here,” said Donna Landa, a 24-year resident of North Riverside. “Raising my own family in North Riverside, I loved the down-home feel. We have restaurants and stores and all that stuff, but it still feels like a small town where so many people know each other.”
Debbie Czajka, a lifelong resident and village trustee now serving her third term in office, agrees.
“The people of North Riverside have made the village so great,” she said. “Being the small community with the big heart, I think that when times are tough, we all band together and look toward the future.”
Mayor Joseph Mengoni, who has lived in North Riverside for more than 20 years, says that whether he meets with other local government leaders or makes small talk with people, he’s always proud to say he’s helping North Riverside not just remain a quaint village of under 7,000 residents — but move toward a promising future.
With new plans on the horizon for North Riverside, including revitalization of vacant property at North Riverside Park Mall, Mengoni says he hopes residents always feel they are made a priority.
“In North Riverside, we’re always looking forward,” he said. “We want to continue to provide the same quality services that we’ve always provided from kids to seniors, change as the times change, and continually improve the village. I want to help keep North Riverside beautiful, just as it’s always been. We’re a small town, where everybody knows everybody — it’s family.”
As for other centennial events planned this year, North Riverside has a few things in the works.
At the upcoming annual Autumn Fest & Chili Cookoff in September, a new time capsule is set to be buried at the Village Commons.
The village’s 75th anniversary time capsule, which was buried during celebrations in the summer of 1998, was recently unearthed by village officials. Unfortunately, father time and mother nature were not kind to the contents of the capsule.
Mold and water destroyed many of the capsule’s artifacts. However, items that were salvageable, including historical village photographs, village building sketches, a menu from Mother’s Day Restaurant and letters from residents at the time are now displayed inside a small glass case located inside the Village Commons.
On Friday, Oct. 20, the North Riverside Historical Society will host a centennial gala at Riverside Golf Club, promising guests an evening of dinner, drinks and lively music.
In November, the North Riverside Players will produce a special centennial show. Though details are yet to be unveiled, the theater troupe says the production will be an upbeat musical review of the past 100 years.
In addition, visitors to the Village Commons can now check out a visual timeline of North Riverside’s history on the wall next to the Council Chambers, with photos and years marking major events, people and places from throughout the years.
For more information on North Riverside’s celebrations and events throughout the end of the year, visit the Village’s website at northriverside-il.org or check out the village and Parks and Recreation Department’s Facebook pages.