The Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is conducting a study to try to “brand” Oak Park. They’re not planning to brand Oak Parkers though maybe they can design an official Oak Park tattoo.

What they want to do, as I understand it, is turn Oak Park into a “brand” for marketing purposes. The survey is being conducted by a consultant, North Star Destination Strategies, which always makes me nervous. Oak Park has not, generally, been well served by consultants. But I’ll keep an open mind. What choice do we have? Wouldn’t want to be branded “The Village of Broad Streets and Narrow Minds,” which Hemingway most likely did not say, by the way.

Nonetheless, that’s been our brand till now. Unless you’re more partial to “The People’s Republic of Oak Park,” which covers the other end of the spectrum. For some, apparently, we aren’t (or weren’t) open-minded enough. For others, we’re way too open-minded.

You can’t please all the people all the time – although that’s undoubtedly North Star Destination Strategies’ strategy. And a possible brand: “Oak Park: We Never Please All the People All the Time,” though that’s probably more applicable to the village board.

Anyway, the Visitors Bureau and North Star want input (you’ll find a survey at www.visit
oakpark.com or at the Visitor Center at 158 N. Forest Ave. until May 18). They’re hoping to develop a logo and slogan and, as the press release puts it, “one of the best places to find that figurative nugget of marketing gold is in the hearts and minds of the people who call Oak Park home.”

Well, I call Oak Park home, so I’ll start the brainstorming. I welcome your rejoinders.

My favorite slogan remains “One Tree, Many Nuts,” devised by Gina Orlando for the Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest to help promote the village centennial celebration in 2001-02. As one of the nuts who didn’t fall far from the “tree,” I like it because it shows we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and it underscores our eccentricities. The logo should incorporate acorns as the “official village nut” since they have a long tradition in our village iconography (See accompanying photo of the engraving at 1119 Lake St.).

But we’re guessing the Visitors Bureau is looking for something with more gravitas, so here are a few other suggestions:

“Oak Park: Gateway to Cicero” in deference to our neighbor to the south, which once tried to claim Ernest Hemingway as their native son since Oak Park was still part of Cicero Township in 1899 when he was born. It shows our humility.

“The Wright Stuff.” Obvious perhaps, but Frank Lloyd did provide our biggest tourism draw.

“Doing it the Hemingway.” Not as obvious (or as clever) but I couldn’t think of anything better.

“The Importance of Being Frank and Ernest.” OK, I’ll stop.

“Chicagoland’s Best Kept Secret” although technically that would be River Forest.

“The Village of Broad Streets and Diverse Lawns.” OK, now I’ll stop.

“The Village that Kept its Cool.” Honoring our resistance to white flight and commitment to integration from the 1960s to the present.

“Oak Park: The Opinion Dominion.” Honoring our highly educated and/or outspoken population.

“We Put the ‘No’ in Innovation.” The anti-development forces will like that one.

“Oak Park: Very Prairie.” For the architecture (and nature) buffs.

“Squirrel City, U.S.A.” We’re more than just trees and nuts, you know.

“Oak Park: It Must Be the Water.” There has to be some explanation for all these cultural notables.

“Oak Park: A Pleasant Home.” Another architectural allusion, and it has the added benefit of being true.

And my personal favorite, suggested by a friend:

“Oak Park: Like No Place Else on Earth.” Ain’t it the truth.

Send your slogans to Viewpoints Editor Marty Stempniak (mstempniak@wjinc.com).

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