Beards, games and ice cream help local residents celebrate village's history

Raymond Ondrejka of Homewood, with his long, well-tended whiskers, topped a field of five contestants in the beard contest on Sunday, July 22, at the ice cream social on Martin Avenue. 

The event was a celebration of the village's 125th anniversary of incorporation, and the beard contest was one of several old-fashioned activities designed to harken back to the late 19th century.

Ondrejka's experience as a competitive whisker-man paid off. He said he grows his beard anew each year and shaves it in late fall as part of a fundraiser. Joining him in the contest was Jamie Turlay of Crown Point and Paul Eisenberg, Mark Leschuck and Troy O'Quinn of Homewood.

The event was ornamented with historic photos, including one from 1940 depicting a beard contest during the Homewood Homecoming festivities. 

Beards were not the only old-fashioned feature of the event. Homewood Events Coordinator Allisa Opyd said children's games were chosen for their connection to the past. 

"The earliest documentation of an egg and spoon race was 1894 so we're incorporating that into our event," she said.

The races used plastic eggs, which O'Quinn, a member of the village Community Relations Committee and race coordinator, pointed out have almost no weight. He cautioned the first group of competitors that the race would be tricky. 

"The wind can blow this thing off, so you have to use a little engineering mind to figure out how to make this thing stay on there."

"I know how to make it stay on," Justin Jolivette said. "Walk slow. Slow and steady wins the race."

Justin, of Homewood, proved correct as he claimed victory in the first run for his age group, 7 and above.

While the egg and spoon races continued throughout the afternoon, residents heard a steady stream of Dixieland jazz from the Kings of Dixieland, a band that regularly performs during the Homewood Fourth of July parade. 

Members of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Viking Choir scooped chocolate and vanilla ice cream with optional brownie, another nod to the year Homewood was incorporated. One story traces the creation of the brownie to the Columbia Exposition hosted by Chicago in 1983. 

The Homewood Historical Society had a booth set up with books, pamphlets and photo displays portraying Homewood's history. 

The organization also gave away treats from the time of the village's incorporation, including Cracker Jacks, Good & Plenty and Juicy Fruit gum. 

The event was smaller and simpler than Homewood's other festivals, but Mayor Richard Hofeld later said he would like to see the ice cream social become an annual event precisely because it could offer an alternative to the bigger, busier gatherings. 


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