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Bridgeview treats seniors to Halloween lunch
About 300, some in costumes, attend Toyota Park event
By Steve Metsch
The day after the Chicago Fire lost a playoff game, Toyota Park was still a festive place to be.
That’s because a Halloween luncheon, sponsored by Mayor Steve Landek and the village board and free to Bridgeview residents, was held in the second-floor Stadium Club for an estimated 300 seniors age 55 and older.
Because of the Halloween theme, several seniors dressed in costume. There was a Bears player, a Cub, a bumble bee, a witch and a clown, to name a few.
But for most of those there, it was simply a time to meet with friends and enjoy a hearty lunch of lasagna, zucchini, veggies, garlic bread and dessert on Oct. 26.
“Yeah, I’m having fun. All the time. Every time they have something, my friend, Amy, and I are here,” Betty Noto, 64, said.
Noto brought a friend, Amy Ramirez, along with her.
“The food is great,” Ramirez, 80, said. “You see old friends and you meet some new ones. I know a lot of people from Moraine Court who come here, too. I live in an apartment.”
The task of keeping the two-hour event moving along fell to emcee Ken Pannaralla and DJ Mike, alias Mike Heavrin.
“These (events) are a lot of fun to emcee for. I can kid and joke and they understand. Keeping things lively and entertaining. In fact, I’m a senior myself, but don’t tell anyone,” Pannaralla, 69, said.Pannaralla, of the 6500 block of Kostner Avenue in Chicago’s West Lawn neighborhood, sings at St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church during Mass on Sunday mornings, so he’s no stranger to attention. But being emcee is a special treat, he said.
“Oh, (the seniors) look forward to these luncheons. You can see the crowd, and this is lighter than last year when we had an Oktoberfest luncheon,” Pannaralla said. “Mike is great. He can play any song you want.”
Heavrin, 68, did indeed lay a wide variety of music for the event, including some golden oldies, of course. He even dusted off “Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino, who passed away last week at age 89.
A Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, Heavrin brought the crowd to its feet when he played Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Some sang along with the patriotic lyrics.
A couple of seniors even got up and danced to some of the slower songs.
Bridgeview Village Clerk John Altar said he “heard good reviews from the ones I’ve talked with.”
Village Trustee James Cecott said seniors “look forward to these and we don’t blame them. It’s nice to see them come out. We try to do Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, things like that.”
One of those happy seniors was Miles Rose, 69, whose clown costume was judged the best, earning him a blanket and a $20 gift card to Walmart. “I’m having fun,” Rose said.
Cecott and fellow trustees Claudette Struzik and Norma Pinion judged the costume contest.
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Email Steve Metsch at firstname.lastname@example.org