By Anthony Caciopo
Regional News Editor
It looks like Orland Park hit it out of the park this year with its annual celebration of food, entertainment and fun.
“We seemed to have record numbers again,” said Trustee Carole Griffin Ruzich at Monday’s village board meeting, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the three-day Taste of Orland Park.
It didn’t take long for the food vendor aisles and lawn to fill with fest-goers as the Taste kicked off Friday at 5 p.m. In only 30 minutes, it looked as if the event had been open for hours.
Testina Darvene stepped away from the press of people that had begun to stack up in the dozens of food lines. She held her son Sam, 3 and marveled at how busy the Taste had become so quickly after opening.
“We got here early, thinking we might have a leisurely time,” said Darvene, “but it’s already so busy. I’ve run into two neighbors, but I’ve completely lost track of my husband. He said he’d be right back, but…”
A few seconds later, Sam spotted his dad. Tall, and wearing a bright yellow baseball cap, Thomas Attori was easy to spot as he made his way toward them with an ice cream cone in hand.
“So that’s where you went,” Darvene laughed as she transferred Sam into her husband’s arms so the ice cream-eating could commence.
As music blared from the band Rockstar Rodeo on the main stage, Chad and Amy Trueblood of Tinley Park pulled their stroller to the side to sit on a curb and share a bite of food with their daughter, Amelia, 19 months.
“We come here every year,” said Amy. “We enjoy all the food and entertainment.”
A slice of Beggar’s pizza—a favorite of Chad’s, but maybe not so much of Amelia’s—was shared as the Truebloods decided where to head next.
“I try as many things as I can,” said Amy.
Things were cooking at the Papa Joe’s Italian Restaurant tent, literally and figuratively. More than half a dozen employees were in constant motion in the hot atmosphere, serving pizza and other food under the direction of owner Mike Lorenzo.
Rebecca Chagnon waved and called out to the crowd, making sure that any passersby who hadn’t already considered walking over to make a purchase couldn’t say they hadn’t noticed the Papa Joe’s tent.
Ken Wehrli performed a careful balancing act, doing his best to keep all the beer inside three brimming plastic cups he carried in one of the food aisles. A home builder with Beechan & Dill, he and his wife, Karen, were enjoying the company of a couple that are his clients.
“First time,” he said about his impression of the Taste. “Figured we’d come down to say hi to some people and it’s working out great so far.”
Orland Park’s signature event ran Friday, Saturday and Sunday, featuring at least 20 food vendors, live music performances, the highly popular lip-sync contest for kids and participation by more than a dozen community groups, including houses of worship, sports organizations, civic clubs and more.
A “Welcome Home” event for military veteran was held Sunday, along with a car show.
Trustee Dan Calandriello, chairman of the village board’s Parks and Recreation Committee, said at Monday’s meeting that according to numbers he was given, about 50,000 people came to Orland Park on Sunday alone, either to attend the Taste or go to the Centennial Park pool.
“Hopefully they swam, they shopped, they ate, and they went home happy,” he said.
Dodging and weaving on a trot through the crowd, Bryan Lempa of Orland Park carried precious cargo on his shoulders, daughter Presley. The two-and-a-half year-old was clearly enjoying the ride, high above everyone else.
“This is our first time,” he said. “We’ve been in Orland Park for three years and we’re always looking for something to do, something that’s kid-friendly.
“She likes being outside, she likes running around and she likes dancing,” said Lempa. “And she loves people.”
Presley’s ride was not yet over as her dad called out a hurried “Thank you!” before taking off in another direction.