By Bob Uphues
The village of Riverside will host a pair of new special events this summer – one in conjunction with Memorial Day and another celebrating the village's landmark landscape design.
Both events are the brainchild of new village trustee Alex Gallegos and both were granted special event permits by the Riverside Village Board on May 2.
The first of the new events will be a River Lantern Night on Sunday, May 26 at dusk along the Des Plaines River in Swan Pond Park.
Gallegos said he approached Riverside American Legion Post 488 about hosting the event as a way to honor Riverside veterans who have recently died, including Lou Heine and Richard Tuscher.
American Legion Post Commander Joseph Topinka said the post also plans to remember Victor Molinar Jr., a 19-year-old U.S. Marine from Riverside who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in San Diego in January.
The post is underwriting the cost of purchasing the biodegradable bamboo and rice paper lanterns, about 11 inches tall, which will placed in the river and float downstream to a collection point where they'll be scooped up by volunteers in boats.
Gallegos said the families of the three late veterans have been invited to launch those lanterns first. The public is also invited to participate in the event, either in memory of a family member who was a veteran or simply in memory of a loved one.
Lanterns can be purchased at the event for $5 apiece. Gallegos said people are encouraged to bring along a magic marker to write a message on the rice paper walls of the luminaria-like lanterns, which are lit from within.
The event date could change depending on weather and river conditions.
Later this summer, tentatively scheduled for July 20, the Riverside Township Lions Club has obtained permission to host a Hot-Air Balloon Affair at Big Ball Park.
Gallegos, a Lions Club member and former club president, said the event hearkens back to a similar one the village held during the nation's bicentennial year in 1976. This time around, however, the purpose is for residents to be able to celebrate – by seeing it for themselves from an elevated vantage point – Frederick Law Olmsted's plan for Riverside.
Because 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the plan, the document is ubiquitous around town.
"Now, 150 years later. People will be able to see the living legacy we have," Gallegos said.
There are still some details to nail down, said Gallegos, but the general plan is to have two hot-air balloon tethered to vehicles on the ground. People will be able to ascend in the balloons above the tree canopy to get aerial views of Riverside's winding streets and green spaces.
Information on how to purchase tickets will be revealed at a later date, Gallegos said.