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The 4th of July in Oak Park is a grand day of celebration. From the Community Relations Commission's morning parade, to youth baseball at Ridgeland Common to the cascade of the grand finale of the fireworks at OPRF, it is a day to count the blessings of being an American even in these hard days, maybe especially in these hard days, for our democracy. 

A thanks, one last time, to Community Bank for keeping a great local fireworks show going in Oak Park. The bank, which by fall will become Byline Bank, has funded this fantastic event for nearly two decades. 

And a special thanks to Community Bank for allowing Wednesday Journal to underwrite the Grand Finale for all these years. It is our favorite 120 seconds of the year. We hope you think so, too.

Maybe, just maybe, Byline Bank can be persuaded to continue this community-building connection as it begins to make its own name in our villages.

See you Thursday.

We remember 1970 when the Oak Park Conservatory was in advanced decay. Broken glass. Limited or no hours. Basically forgotten. Without champions. And then a group of Oak Park women, led by the inestimable Elsie Jacobsen, put this hopeless cause on their shoulders and saved the conservatory.

This summer we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the conservatory — more years since its salvation than between its founding and near demise — with generously donated new technology to recycle rainwater and capture solar energy. Now the conservatory is on everyone's radar with rising attendance, more programming, and wondering how we might ever have considered the wrecking ball.

Congratulations to Beyond Hunger, the new incarnation of the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry. The new name recognizes the ambitious work of this nonprofit as it grapples with root causes and daily manifestations of hunger across 13 ZIP codes in and near these villages.

Plastic Free July is a fresh way to focus our attention on what is increasingly seen as a major cause of environmental damage: the single use of plastic for bags, straws, leftover containers and more. With leadership from the local League of Women Voters and Oak Park's Environment and Energy Commission, this month is a start on changing our habits in yet another critical area. 

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