Attendees walk in the street and check out different vendors on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, during the Barrie Fest in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

Barrie Fest bustled with community members looking to support Takeout 25 and seven local restaurants serving up a diverse array of dishes at the Sept. 11 event at the park at Lombard and Garfield. Food vendors included Amerikas, Khyber Pass, Kalamata Kitchen, Mora Asian Kitchen, Billy Bricks Woodfired Pizza, Carnivore Oak Park, Ben’s Bar-Be-Cue, Happy Apple Pie Shop and Cafe Cubano.

Takeout 25 sold more than 350 ticket booklets at $25 each giving attendees the option to select three items each valued at $8 from any of the seven vendors. The remaining dollar in the booklet price was donated to Beyond Hunger. Khyber Pass also donated 20% of its proceeds to Beyond Hunger. 

Barrie Fest-goers lined up to make their selections from the food booths and, thanks to strong attendance, both Khyber Pass and Café Cubano ran out of food by the end of the afternoon. The seven vendors collectively earned more than $8,000 at Barrie Fest.

“Barrie Fest and the Takeout 25 launch were absolutely fantastic,” said Ravi Parakkat, Takeout 25 founder and now a village trustee. “We had a much larger turnout than we expected, and we would love to partner with SEOPCO again in the future.”

SEOPCO is the South East Oak Park Community Organization. The group began in the early 2000s to respond to the contentious multi-year cleanup of environmental contamination of Barrie Park.

The OPRF chapter of Clean Up Give Back was on hand to ensure the event was clean and green.  Thanks to high school age volunteers the festival was free of litter and helped bring attention to Takeout 25’s focus on sustainability. In addition to working together at Barrie Fest, Takeout 25 and the cleanup group have collaborated to turn some of the take-out related waste generated in Oak Park during the pandemic into a plastic bench that will be installed at village hall in the coming weeks.

“These young volunteers are doing very important work in the community,” said Parakkat. “We are so grateful they helped us handle our waste responsibly.”

Both the Barrie Fest celebration and the forthcoming bench are signs that Takeout 25 is becoming a permanent fixture in the Oak Park community and beyond.

Takeout 25 started as an online initiative dedicated to supporting restaurants through the COVID pandemic and marked its transition to an official non-profit organization at Barrie Fest by offering branded T-shirts in exchange for a $25 donation. The effort raised $3,000 and funds will be used to help Takeout 25 cover its non-profit start up and infrastructure costs.

While all local restaurants will continue to have universal access to the free marketing engine Takeout 25 has become, the new 501c6 is designed to outlive the pandemic and will rely on a membership model to help support dining establishments and enrich the local economy in a variety of ways.

Parakkat acknowledges the not-for-profit is in its infancy but envisions the Takeout 25 membership cost being $25 per month or $300 per year for participating restaurants. The fees will give members the “right of first refusal” on future Takeout 25 events and access to cross community collaborations designed to strengthen the local economy.

“We are very confident in our ability to provide value to restaurants” said Parakkat. “Everything we are hoping to do will enhance the top-line for member restaurants.”

In addition to increasing revenue and lowering costs for restaurants, Parakkat aims to facilitate relationships with local delivery services, introduce collaborative initiatives to aid restaurants in bulk ordering eco-friendly take-out packaging and reduce retail food waste by marketing local food overages in inventive ways. 

As Takeout 25 grows, programs will be staffed by paid interns or part-time paid staff members as needed. Parakkat will stay on as founder and board president and will not be paid for his ongoing efforts.

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