Friday afternoon, the defunct sitdown portion of the old Petersen’s Ice Cream Parlor sprang to life again as Barack Obama, the Great Black (and White) Hope paid a return visit to the village that was the first to jump on his bandwagon (Hyde Park was presumably already on the wagon) when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Obama hasn’t forgotten, he said, and now a presidential candidate, promised he wouldn’t forget us when he gets to the White House.

Local organizers pulled in a crowd last Friday to help Barack film a commercial for use during the upcoming primary season. A pretty informal affair, Obama conducted an impromptu Q&A, hitting a number of his favorite talking points about the need for change while the cameras rolled. He reportedly answered questions that ranged from health care reform to BP’s dumping in Lake Michigan.

The attendees arrived around 2 p.m. and had to wait awhile, of course, since politicians are always late, but the atmosphere, reportedly was good-natured, the goodwill amplified by plenty of Petersen’s ice cream.

Through the miracle of cellphone technology, we offer this photo to remember the occasion.

Barack Obama answers questions at Petersen’s last Friday.

Preserving local pride

OK, here’s the deal: We’ve been blessed with wonderful buildings of historic and architectural significance. That’s the upside. The downside is they require perpetual maintenance, which in turn requires perpetual fundraising. Now comes a new Internet contest, co-sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, called “Partners in Preservation – Chicagoland Initiative.” We hate the term “Chicagoland,” but we’ve decided to participate anyway. That’s because they’re giving away a total of $1 million to the architectural legacies that generate the most votes by the deadline (Oct. 10). Oak Park has not one, but two nominees in the field of 25-Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and George W. Maher’s Pleasant Home. Everyone is allowed to vote once a day through Oct. 10. All you have to do is register. It’s so easy, even we managed it.

We voted today for Pleasant Home because it currently stands in 13th place (with a meager 3 percent of the vote). Unity Temple is holding its own, but it’s still only in fourth place (8 percent) behind the “Viking Ship” (give us a break!), Von Steuben High School (nice gargoyles, apparently) and currently residing in first place (drum roll please) running away from the pack with a whopping 15 percent of the vote is the renowned On Leong Merchant Association Building/Pui-Tak Center in Chinatown.

With all due respect, we must be able to do better than that. We already lost one of these Internet votes earlier this year when the Bahai Temple (please) beat out the Wright Home & Studio for Chicago’s choice as one of the “Seven Wonders of the State.”

We’ve never actually seen the Chinatown building, and we’ll remain open to the possibility that there is a far-flung and deeply devoted base of supporters throughout the Chicago area, but we have a sneaking suspicion that thus far, the Chinese-American community is simply better organized and more active than the Frank Lloyd Wright and George Maher communities in terms of voting. And more power to them if they can pull it off.

That puts the pressure squarely on the Oak Park Tourism/Local Pride community to pick up the slack for the decentralized Wright and Maher aficionados. Because Oak Park is a progressive stronghold, we tend to have ethical qualms about nearly everything, but we’re going to have to get over ourselves if we want either of these worthy organizations to see any preservation funding. True, this preservation version of “Survivor” is gimmicky to the max, but funding is funding. The problem is, most communities aren’t put in the position of splitting their votes-which is why we need River Forest to get involved here.

Come over to the dark side. Vote early and often. You’re allowed, even encouraged, to vote once a day until Oct. 10. Are we really going to let ourselves get beat out by a Viking Ship?

A dozen years of potluck

Back in 1996, Rickey Sain Sr. and Jim Boushay, among the more well-intentioned people in this village, started an annual potluck tradition to celebrate fellowship, diversity and the sharing of good food. They started a small foundation, which, despite its name (Resources Unlimited) has very limited resources, so it’s a miracle they’ve kept this thing going for a dozen years. But it’s happening again this Saturday in the plaza outside the Oak Park Public Library. Sain and Boushay like to call it “Good Eating at the Big Meeting,” which begins at noon. Price of admission is bringing a dish that serves 12. Attendees are encouraged to “eat, drink, and be literate … sharing foods and gifts of nurturance and discovery in an atmosphere of simple elegance and goodwill.” You can contact the organizers at to learn more.

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