By Bob Uphues
Brookfield's plans for celebrating the 125th anniversary of the village's incorporation are starting to come into focus, with a kickoff event planned for Sunday, April 15.
The village will host a Volunteer Fair on that day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the council chamber of the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave., inviting residents to a one-stop forum where they can connect with a host of local organizations and charities that offer opportunities for volunteer service.
"A lot of people want to volunteer, but they don't know where to go for information," said Maria Kaplan, one of two members of the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission who conceived of the event with another resident.
"We wanted to offer groups the opportunity [to connect with volunteers] before the busy season begins," Kaplan said. "If it's successful, we'll do another one in the fall."
Kaplan hopes there will be representatives from as many as two dozen local organizations on hand to provide information and answer questions from prospective volunteers.
Anyone unable to make it to the Volunteer Fair on April 15 can get more information or have questions answered by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But, the Volunteer Fair is just the beginning, there are already several aspects to the 125th anniversary celebration, and the village has rolled out a website -- brookfieldil.gov/125th-anniversary -- that will maintain a running calendar of events and links to celebration-related activities and opportunities.
Among the signature events later this year will be a Founder's Day celebration on Nov. 3. Exactly what that event will entail has not yet been finalized, said Brookfield Trustee Nicole Gilhooley, who is the village board's liaison to event planners.
Historic photo archive
Residents may have already bumped into one or more of the three anniversary banners that have been placed that the Brookfield Public Library, the Prairie Avenue train station and Brookfield Village Hall, which bear the official Brookfield 125 logo (which will also adorn this year's vehicle stickers) as well as historic photos of the village. The banners will move from place to place throughout the year.
The photos on the banners were taken from the digital collection created over the past several months by the Brookfield Public Library. Volunteers and library staff have combined to scan, label and archive the hundreds of photo that were part of the Brookfield history book published during the village's centennial celebration in 1993.
While library officials had hoped the online archive would be live this week, they're still working out the kinks, said Frank Murray, head of reference and electronic services at the library.
"I hope to have the link public as soon as possible," Murray said.
But, the library also announced last week it has launched a website in collaboration with the Brookfield Historical Society, brookfield.librariescreate.com/village125, where residents can directly participate in the photo archive project by uploading their own photos.
Brookfield: A Year in the Life
The revitalized Brookfield Women's Club has jumped into the spirit of the quasquicentennial on a number of fronts. In addition to members assisting in the efforts to create an online photo archive and organize materials at the historical society's headquarters in the Grossdale Station, the club has launched its own photography project.
"A Year in the Life of Brookfield" seeks residents – from kids to adults – to photograph people, events, places, holidays in order to create a documentary record of what happened in the village, from the mundane to the special, during 2018.
The project take its inspiration from the 1993 book "A Day in the Life of America," which documented what happened in the country on one day in May 1986.
"Sometimes you don't think of current happenings as being significant," said Ann Heinl of the Brookfield Women's Club. "But everyday happenings need to be recorded."
The club has posted information on how to participate on a special Facebook page it has created at www.facebook.com/Bwcphoto2018 or you can direct questions to BWCphoto2018@gmail.com.
Revitalizing a national landmark
Gilhooley said that the Brookfield Historical Society is also assembling a team to help organize the many unarchived materials that have been donated in recent years, including a large collection of photos and items from the late Brookfield historian Chris Stach.
The society's headquarters in the Grossdale Station, 8820½ Brookfield Ave., has been more or less shuttered in the past couple of years. With renewed interest in the village's history, there's hope that'll change.
"The idea is to have it open again to the public by June," Gilhooley said. "There's a lot of fantastic stuff, but we want to make it usable and host new programming."
Gilhooley said she is working on improving marketing of the station, which is one of the only remaining original public buildings still standing in Brookfield. In fact, it predates the village's 1893 incorporation, having been built in 1889.
Grossdale Station is the only building in the village listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"There's a tremendous amount of opportunity and potential there," Gilhooley said.
Village special events
The first fair-weather event that will try to incorporate some historic flavor is the annual Bike Brookfield 10K cycling tour through the village on May 19.
Nicholas Greifer, the village's director of community and economic development, said the village is encouraging participants to dust off and tune up their 1970s banana bikes and big-wheeled penny-farthings to add a dash of old-time flair.
"It'd be fun to have that historical element," Greifer said.
Online registration for Bike Brookfield has opened at brookfieldil.gov/bike-brookfield-registration.
Meanwhile, the Brookfield Department of Parks and Recreation is reaching out to residents, asking for more people to participate in the July 4 parade and encouraging entries to have a historic theme, from wearing period costumes to driving historic cars and riding historic bikes or having neighborhood- or railroad-theme entries, for example.
The after-parade party in Kiwanis Park will be expanded this year into the evening and will feature two additional live music acts. Organizers are also planning to host historic games and have invited Brookfield Zoo to participate.
"We want to involve a lot of different groups," Gilhooley said.