By Ken Trainor
The first weekend in May has long been known as "packed." Lots happening. This year is no exception. Here's a sample:
A gentle force: Thrive Counseling Center will hold its Spring Benefit on Saturday, May 3. They have a tradition of honoring a community benefactor and not many residents have benefitted the community more, or longer, than Carolyn Poplett, who will receive the newly created Spirit of Thrive Award.
Carolyn and her husband, Ray, moved to Oak Park in 1956. She soon joined the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library and did such a good job raising funds for the (previous) new library, that she was asked to join Family Services (Thrive's precursor) in 1958. She served as board president, 1968-1973, and successfully led the effort to get social workers from Family Service assigned to OPRF High School, then helped establish a 24/7 crisis partnership with the Oak Park Police Department.
She also served in the leadership of the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association, the Economy Shop, the Infant Welfare Society, the Senior Citizens Center, and the American Opera Society of Chicago. And she and her husband served as co-chairs of the Oak Park Community Design Commission.
Poplett authored a book about the women's suffrage movement (The Woman Who Never Fails: Grace Wilbur Trout and Illinois Suffrage) and another about the history of the Nineteenth Century Club, titled, A Gentle Force, both of which pretty well describe Poplett herself with her determination combined with refined Southern grace.
The benefit will be held at the Oak Park Country Club. For tickets, visit thrivecc.org.
Superhero Day: May 3 is also a good day if you're into superheroes. Saturday is Superhero Day, all day, at the River Forest Public Library. Costumes are encouraged. Call 366-5205 or visit riverforestlibrary.org for more information.
Afterward, you can head over to One Stop Comics, 111 S. Ridgeland Ave., for Free Comic Book Day. At least two free comics will be given to anyone who enters the store that day. Some of them are sure to include superheroes. Call 524-2287 if you want to learn more.
No dearth of Darth: If you haven't had your fill by then, visit the Oak Park Arts Center, 200 N. Oak Park Ave., on Sunday, May 4, from 5 to 8 p.m. for Opera For Dudes, Verismo Opera Theater's Second Annual Spring Fundraiser. Believe it or not, they promise arias sung by singers dressed as superheroes, including an appearance by Darth Vader. Hard to imagine how he'll sound belting it out through that strange mouthpiece, but finding out is another good reason to attend. Tickets are $40. Visit verismooperatheater.com or call 708-628-3373 for more.
To get in the mood, for Darth singing opera, stop by the Oak Park Public Library, which hosts "May the 4th Be With You," a Star Wars party, where Lord Vader may make an appearance as well. No word on whether he'll sing. 2-4 p.m. Light and dark side equally welcomed.
No really, wherefore art thou Gnomeo?: Lest we neglect Friday, BRAVO, the student performing arts program at Emerson, which is establishing quite the national reputation, at least among middle schools, is putting on Shrek: The Musical, this weekend and next. They promise a 16-foot dragon (not sure if that's long or tall).
The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory, an organization boasting the best, worst and/or most intriguing acronym in the village, FOPCON, hosts their 25th Annual Plant Sale at 615 Garfield St. If you've never been inside, you'll be amazed that something like this exists in Oak Park. Call 708-725-2400 or visit pdop.org.
At FitzGerald's, meanwhile, you can celebrate "Dos de Mayo" (May 2) with Rico. That's not an actual holiday, of course, but it's a pretty clever lead-in to the far more famous Cinco de Mayo. Over in FitzGerald's SideBar music room, you can listen to the Sanctified Grumblers. With a name like that, they have to be good.
Over at the Oak Park Public Library, Dos de Mayo is also known as Gnome Day. To celebrate, they'll be showing the shamelessly named film, Gnomeo and Juliet.
And if that's not kitschy enough for you, the Pro Musica Youth Chorus is holding a fundraiser at Wire, 6816 Roosevelt Rd., with the Velvet Jimis performing classics by one of the kitschiest rock bands, Queen, including (of course) "We will, we will rock you!" 7 to 11 p.m. $100 per person, $180 per couple. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 708-383-1971.
Bathtub Betty: Back to Saturday and Sunday, Actors for a Cause will perform a play with the intriguing title, The Legend of Bathtub Betty, to benefit Sarah's Inn's domestic abuse victims — certainly a good cause. The production takes place at Madison Street Theatre, 1010 Madison St., Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday also at 3 p.m. Visit eventbrite.com for tickets ($15/$10 students).
Saturday also features the Oak Park Society of Model Engineers' 50th Anniversary Open House. Fifty years of model trains! Down in the lower level at Dole Library, 255 Augusta Blvd., 12:01 to 5 p.m., right on schedule. Someone needs to set these poor people free.
Speaking of free spirits, a poetry workshop is being offered by a guy named "Antler" at Unity Temple, 875 Lake St. He was a protégé of Allen Ginsburg and recently served as the poet laureate of Milwaukee. There's a limit of 20 people and a $15 donation is requested. 2-4 p.m. visit antlerworkshop.brownpapertickets.com.
Grandaddy of 'em all: And what would the first Saturday of May be without … no, not the Kentucky Derby … Ethnic Fest! Celebrate Oak Park's diversity for the 34th consecutive year, with a parade on Ridgeland Avenue and activities afterward at Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave. Hosted by District 97's Multicultural Education Department. The parade starts at 10 a.m. Call Julian for details, 708-524-7700, or visit op97.org/julian.
Monday Madness: And if all of that doesn't wear you out, there's always Cinco de Mayo on Monday.
Best of luck.