A Pope-pourri of fun

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



This is an event that will feature clowns.

It will also have face-painting.

There will be some Tai Kwan Do demonstrations.

Don’t forget the softball game.

And the main event will be the Pope.

Well, actually Pope Francis won ‘t physically be there but he will be giving his message from Philadelphia live and on a 13-foot high, 22-foot long HD video board.

Incarnation Parish of Palos Heights is hosting its first World Festival of Families at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. It is open to all families and religious denominations.

“This is not an event just for Catholics,’’ Incarnation Director of Religious Education Kathy McNicholas said. “This is for everyone. It’s about family and it’s our way to celebrate the family.’’

Outside of the stadium, at 12:30 p.m., there will be the disc jockey, clowns, face painting, pony rides, Tai Kwan Do demonstrations and food available for a picnic lunch.

The gates open at 2:30 p.m. to go inside of the stadium and there will be a 16-inch softball game between the Crestwood Police/Incarnation Youth Group against the Crestwood Fire/Incarnation Alumni.

The Pope’s message will broadcast on the screen at 3 p.m.

The cost is $20 per family.

McNicholas said she has received positive reaction toward the event and people are not deeming it to be sacrilegious.

“Gosh no –I think the Pope would be very happy with the way this event is run,” she said. “It’s a celebration of family life. It’s going to be more like a wedding reception.’’

Incarnation volunteer Andrea Covert said this was the “perfect way to go” to raise funds.

“Families don’t get together enough,” she said. “Sometimes they go to Mass on Sunday and go their separate ways. We want everyone to go to Mass in the morning and have fun in the afternoon together as a family.’’

For more information, call 708-388-4004 or visit

Lemont-Palos Park golf war escalates

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Page 1 Cog

It’s getting a little nastier out there.

Golf may be considered a gentlemen’s game by some, but annexing land with golf courses? Well, that’s a different beast.

Shortly after Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves went on television to rip the city of Palos Park in a segment shown on Friday, the city went on the offensive.

The Friday fights started when Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves told Fox-32 that Palos Park’s annexing of 1,400 acres of unincorporated land which includes three golf courses including the jewel of the bunch -- Cog Hill – was a “land grab.’’

That came 11 days after a Lemont village board meeting in which some people in that town portrayed the City of Palos Park as “selfish and self-centered” and a “political predatory parasite” officials.

“I call this a land grab because at the end of the day, the village of Lemont had no chance to combat what’s going on,” he told the TV station.

He also accused a deal was cut between Cook County and Palos Park but added he couldn’t prove it.

“I can tell you something doesn’t smell right,” Reaves said. The village’s website calls it a “back-room deal.”

New Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison, who has publically said he favors the annexation, called Reaves’ accusations “hogwash” and told the Chicago television station that Reaves has lost his mind.

That didn’t sit well with Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney and City Manager Rick Boehm.

Not long after the broadcast, Boehm sent out a seven-page information packet to the media about the situation from Park’s point of view.

 “Even the suggestion of a ‘land grab’ is ridiculous and utterly false,’’ Boehm said in the statement. “The properties involved in the proposed annexations – both the Forest Preserve District land and the private properties – are not the Village of Lemont’s land and are not within the Village of Lemont’s corporate limits.

“Lemont appears to be laying claim to land over which it has no control or authority. Lemont knows that the annexation of Forest Preserve District land can lead to Palos Park annexing the significant lands owned by leading area families. And these families have freely exercised their rights and made the decision to be annexed into Palos Park. The annexation of unincorporated property into a municipality is governed by state law, and the Village of Palos Park has followed these laws in pursuing the proposed annexations.’’

This controversy started in 2009 and died down for a few years. Now it’s become a full-blown fight and Palos Park officials don’t think they did anything wrong since they content that property owners sought them out. With Cog Hill, a course that has hosted PGA events, in the mix, the emotions are running high.

 “These property owners first met among themselves prior to 2009 to explore a plan to jointly seek annexation into either Palos Park or Lemont,” Boehm said in the statement. “They then asked for annexation proposals from each village.

“Both Palos Park and Lemont made proposals and after long and thoughtful consideration of each village’s proposal the property owners unanimously decided, as one landowner has stated, ‘to rule out Lemont because only Palos Park offers the real prospect of securing the use entitlements, the public utilities, the marketplace and the community identity essential to a long-term redevelopment of Cog Hill, Gleneagles, Mid Iron and Ludwig Farm to their highest and best use.’ ”

Boehm also said this was good for the people of Palos Park.

“Palos Park sees these prospective annexations as a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to enhance the quality of life in Palos Park by annexing lands from property owners who appreciate our village’s commitment to quality development, recreational, and open spaces that Palos Park fosters.’’ he said.Palos Park sees the annexations as a way to enhance our Village, gaining lands and future residential development that will fit into the Palos Park environment that emphasizes recreation, cautious growth and green development. The annexations will also provide the Village with control over future development in significant local corridors along Bell and other roads.

It will likely be months before this gets resolved but for now tensions are running high.


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: It's not a a stretch to like the Cubs' seventh-inning singers

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

One of the bigger arguments I’ve had with my peers back when I covered the Cubs was what the organization was doing with the seventh-inning stretch.

My first year on the beat was 1998 and Harry Caray had died in February. Harry, who was the popular Cubs announcer who bellowed “Take Me Out To the Ball Game” for years during the stretch, was known for not being able to sing well. That’s what made it fun and iconic.

When it comes to trying to find an act to follow Caray’s, John McDonough (now the big boss of the Blackhawks) and his crew in the Cubs marketing department came up with this idea to let guest celebrities sing during the stretch. Dutchie Caray, Harry’s wife, was the first.

Since then, so many guests have leant their voices to the cause – some with success and some with notoriety.

My brethren in the press box thought it was cheap and tacky. I usually frown on gimmicks like this, but for some reason I liked this one.

 Gary Pressy of Palos Hills has been the organist with the Cubs for 29 years and never missed a day of work in his life, so he has been there for many of Harry’s warblings and for every sweet and sour note from the celebrities.

Talking to him about his career for the front page story in the Reporter reminded me of so many things I liked about the stretch.

(bullet) My top memory came on a humid night in August, 2001.

I was walking down the press box hallway during my sixth-inning stretch and former Bears legend and pro rassler Steve McMichael, who was ticked off that Cubs baserunner Ron Coomer was called out at home plate, looks at me and said “I’m gonna have some speaks with that umpire.’’

Knowing the man known as “Mongo” was going to sing during the stretch, I told my beloved brothers in the press box “I know you clowns don’t like the seventh-inning stretch, but you should watch this one – it might be pretty funny.’’

Well, it was a part of history. McMichael told the crowd of 40,000-plus he would have “speaks” with  home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, who was already hot under the collar from hearing from both the Cubs and the Colorado benches about balls and strikes. Angel did not look angelic as he turned around and ejected McMichael.

McDonough said that at that point, he felt “queasy” about what went down. (One wonders how he felt when he got that call about Patrick Kane a few weeks ago.)

As soon as the ex-Bear got the thumb, Mongo had a few comments and laughs before leaving.

“Did you see him down there? He got all sensitive and (bleep),” McMichael said. “I didn’t threaten to kick his ass. Mongo’s back in town. You know the Andy Frain security guards ain’t man enough to get me. You can’t be insecure and be a home-plate ump for God’s sake. Somebody get a [wrestling] promoter and get some money. – I’ll take him at the [Allstate Arena]. ‘’

It’s believed that McMichael is the only person in a press box to be ejected from a Major League Baseball game by an umpire. 

Fun stuff.

(bullet) Speaking of rasslin’, I was able to chat with Randy “Macho Man” Savage and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper during separate stints at the yard. Both were cool. Both are now dead.

(bullet) Before Cyndi Lauper sang, I saw her in the press box cafeteria sitting by herself. She wore this sun dress and she really didn’t look her best. She kind of looked like she could hang out with the “Myrtle Manor” gang.

The next time I saw her was for an ad for her coming torch song tour and she was all glamour-ed up and wearing a fancy black tight dress.

What a difference.

(bullet) The first time Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder  sang in the seventh, I got to meet him before the game and we talked about music for about 10 minutes. He had just come off presenting my favorite group, the Ramones, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also sung a number with Bruce Springsteen at the United Center a few nights before.

Wiseguy that I am, I mentioned I had a bootleg of him singing with Joey Ramone and I said “Wow, so, you got to sing with Joey Ramone and Bruce Springsteen – someday you are going to make it big.’’ He actually got a chuckle out of that.

That day, he sang the song and it wasn’t until a few years later that I downloaded it for my iPod and instead of singing “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” he sang “Buy me some [word that sounds like ‘peanuts’ but is a male body part] and crack.’’

I don’t think anyone noticed that day. Years after I discovered his sly shenanigans, I heard someone on the radio replaying it and laughing it up.

(bullet) Cheap Trick sang it one year and since they sang in the room next to the press box, I was one of the only people watching the show while my mopey brothers had their heads buried in their computers. Rick Neilsen made eye contact with me and gave me the thumbs-up. I gave him the thumbs up and I’m sure it made his day.

(bullet) I don’t know why, but seeing Beaver Cleaver (actually actor Jerry Mathers) as a grown up man was cool and it should have been creepy.

On the flip side I thought back in 2000 that seeing Donald Trump up close would be cool and it was creepy. 

Ah one, ah two...Pressy plays 2,300 straight Cubs games

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


When the presidential election reaches a boiling point and if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two who are fighting it out for the nation’s top position, there is a good chance they won’t have much in common.

But if you look hard enough, there is at least one common connection between the two and it involves  a Palos Hills musician.

Cubs organist Gary Pressy, who has been playing music at Wrigley Field for 29 seasons, is the guy who accompanies celebrities when they sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretches.

In 2000, Trump performed the iconic song and even though no one knew that 15 years later he would be making a bid for the presidency, he was booed heavily.

In 2012, Secretary of State Clinton also joined Pressy for the tune.

“Does it get any better than that?” Pressy said. “I played with two people who could be the top two combatants going for the White House.”

Pressy won’t reveal who he would vote for. Heck, he won’t even give an opinion on who the better singer was.

“I’ll stay away from that,” he said. “And I wouldn’t want The Donald to say ‘you’re fired’ to me.’’

Pressy has never been told “you’re fired” by the Cubs. He has had 29 one-year contracts with the team and on July 4, played his 2,300th consecutive game.

He’s been there for the good and the bad and has played numerous songs but one he has been itching to play is Queen’s “We Are the Champions” after the Cubs win a World Series.

The 2015 version of the Cubs is young, talented, likeable and has a knack for thrilling come-from-behind victories. They just went through a scorching month of August where they beefed up their record rather than faded. It’s likely they will earn a wild-card playoff berth.

Meanwhile Pressy is there to entertain the crowd through historic wins and blowout losses.

The St. Laurence graduate has a great streak going and said he never came close to not making it to work.

“Knock on wood, everything had gone pretty well,” he said. “I got the job on April Fool’s Day in 1987 after doing a few games in 1986. It’s been great.”

Pressy said there are only a handful of club employees who have been there longer than he has and that roughly 50 percent of Major League Baseball teams use an organist.

Wrigley Field went through a fancy facelift and a left-field video board has taken his job of providing the Cub’s walkup music away. But he’s still busy.

“I think there is more organ music playing at Wrigley Field than any other ballpark,” he said. “For pregame music, I’m banging away for an hour or an hour and 10 minutes straight. During the game, I’m going little ditties for the crowd. I’ll play walkup music for the other team’s players.’’

And of course, there is the seventh-inning stretch…

Celebrities took over after legendary announcer Harry Caray died in 1998. Caray used to open the song bellowing “Let me hear ya! Ah one…ah two…ah three… and then sing an off key rendition of the song.

It’s been awhile since the stretch made news but early on Pressy accompanied Mike Ditka when he went into his whirling dervish version, Jeff Gordon when he sang off key and called Wrigley Field “Wrigley Stadium,” Steve McMichael when he got thrown out of the game for addressing umpire Angel Hernandez before singing and Ozzy Osbourne for his mumbling, bumbling rendition.

Those were some of the more colorful renditions that made national news.

Pressy was able to meet everyone from politicians to astronauts to entertainers.

He said the Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon and international star Gloria Estefan were the nicest to him but his favorite celebrity  was former Boston Celtics basketball great Dave Cowens.

“I am a Celtics nut and it was a great chance to sit with him and talk for 10 or 15 minutes about the great Celtic teams of the past,’’ he said.

Pressy’s family moved to the Palos Hills in 1991 and his 91-year-old mother, Virginia lives with him.

She is able to get to an occasional game at Wrigley Field and she is one of his biggest fans. Pressy, a huge fan of the old TV show, “The Honeymooners,” joked that his mom is like Ralph Kramden during an episode in which Kramden bought a television set and prepared to watch a show with a bag of snacks.

“She has the popcorn and all the chips spread out all over the place and watches all of the games,” he said.

And the Cubs have been watchable all year.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in September but right now, the team is having fun and that’s a reflection of the manager – Joe Maddon,” Pressy said. “It’s great that we will have some meaningful games in September.’’

-- Exhibit highlights stories of displaced people from WWII era

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

An ongoing exhibit at the Balzekas  Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S. Pulaski Road in Chicago,  brings to life the stories of  thousands of World War II-era “displaced persons” from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, many of whom came to the southwest suburbs after fleeing their homelands.

Called “No Home to Go To, the Story of Baltic Displaced Persons, 1944-1952,” the exhibit shows through photos and donated memorabilia, from luggage to clothing, how they kept their cultures alive while waiting in displaced persons camps mainly in Germany and Austria, until getting permission to settle in the United States and Canada.

Rita Janz, the director of the museum, explained that the Baltic states were independent between 1918 and 1940, when their countries were invaded first by Hitler’s Germany and then Stalin’s Soviet Union. Nazi forces invaded the Baltic states first, and then Soviet forces took over. Fleeing Soviet domination, and possible deportation to Siberia, hundreds of thousands of people fled westward to Germany toward the end of World War II.

“A lot of people thought that they would just have to leave for a short time, and they could return when independence was restored after the war. But that was not the case,” said Janz.  She pointed out that when the Iron Curtain came down after the war, and the Baltic states were absorbed into the Soviet Union, few people who left wanted to return.

According to statistics, after the Allies defeated the Nazis, some 200,000 displaced people from the Baltic states were living in “DP camps” in Germany, and perhaps 100,000 more living in cities and towns.  They were all largely dependent on “CARE” packages from the United States to supplement their food rations. Janz pointed to one photo in which Campbell’s soup cans are evident among the food donations.

When the Allies divided Germany into zones run by the U.S., British, French and Soviets, Janz said the displaced people felt lucky to be anywhere but the Soviet zone, because people there were repatriated to their home countries, or sent to Siberia.

The exhibit includes a wealth of photographs showing all aspects of their lives, from the cramped quarters they were living in, to their efforts to keep their languages and cultures alive any way they could while waiting for permission to leave. National costumes made of curtains and other materials available in the camps are on display in the exhibit, along with everything from personal documents to a box of sugar that a fleeing Lithuanian family took with them when they left home.

Many educated women who may have been doctors and dentists in Lithuania, were taught how to be seamstresses in the camps so they could find jobs in the United States and elsewhere.

           The exhibit also includes a display of the luggage that the refugees brought with them from their home countries, and took with them when they eventually resettled in the United States and Canada. One steamer trunk is labeled with an address in Orland Park.

                Among those displaced persons who eventually settled in Chicago, coming to the already thriving Lithuanian community around Marquette Park, was Valdas Adamkus. His high school  class photo, taken while he was in a DP camp in Germany, is featured in the display. Adamkus worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before returning to an independent Lithuania in the 1990s, where he served two terms as president.

                The exhibit also points out that Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who served two terms as president of independent Latvia, also spent time in a displaced persons camp in Germany before immigrating to Canada. The parents of Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the current president of Estonia, also were DPs who left their country in 1944.

                Stanley Balzekas  Jr., the museum founder who said he is now 91, said it is important to tell the stories of the displaced persons. He noted during a recent visit to the museum that his parents came to the United States in the years before World War I. But he saw the DP camps firsthand when he served with the US armed forces in Germany during World War II.

So many items have been donated to the exhibit that they cannot all be all shown at once.  So it is going to be “re-installed” during a ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, with many new items put on display.

The museum, which also includes an exhibit that tells the stories of the Lithuanians who remained at home during World War II to fight the occupying forces, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

Janz said the Displaced Persons exhibit is expected to be open through next year. A traveling exhibit has been to Washington, D.C., and plans are in the works to bring it to New York City.