Soiree at Palos Park Library Really Stacks up

Palos Park’s “Little Library in the Woods” hosted the second annual Stacks After Dark celebration last Saturday.

   Reaffirming their decades-long partnership, the Palos Park Woman’s Club teams with the library to hold the joint fundraiser that benefits both. The festivities included wine tasting, a beer garden, buffet tables groaning with plenty of food, the raffling of numerous gift baskets, door prizes and live music.

   “The woman’s club was instrumental in founding the library, so we have this special bond between us,” club President Lucy Crocilla said as she welcomed guests. The woman’s club established the library in 1936 in a real estate office at 123rd Street and 82nd Avenue and operated it until 1945 when it was turned over to the village, a commemorative plaque inside the library states.

      “We partner with the library because funds are hard to come by these days,” Crocilla said. “So, whatever our organization can do to raise funds for good causes, we try to do it.”

     “Were doing it as a team,” Library Director Kathryn Sofianos said of the party-planning partnership. “We love them [the woman’s club]. The more we can attract people to the library the better it is for both the community and the library itself.”

      Among community-minded voluneers who helped library staff and woman’s club members to prepare the library’s interior for the party, Maria Rogers said: “I’ve been here for three days because I like to help. We are like a big family over here.” The longtime curator of the Palos Historical Society housed inside the library, Rogers culls its archives to create exhibits in its display cases. The current one memorializes the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks.

      “It looks like it will be a great success,” Palos Park Senior Club President Marie Arrigoni said early on. Doing her part to help as a woman’s club member, Arrigoni added: “I was here last year and everybody enjoyed themselves and had a lot of fun.”

      Patricia Bailey, first vice president of the woman’s club, opened the doors to guests and greeted them as they arrived. Elaine Savage, a prominent figure in library circles, was among them. The longtime administrative librarian of the Palos Heights Public Library, now retired, Savage is the co-president of the League of Women Voters of the Palos-Orland Area. “It’s a library and I will always, always support libraries,” she said. “I know Kathryn [Sofianos], it’s in my neighborhood and it supports the woman’s club, which serves the community in many ways.”

   Artist John Basso, an avid gardener, frequents the library almost daily, his wife, Mary Fran, said. “Well, maybe two or three times a week,” John rejoined. He checks out books, movies and magazines, especially architectural publications. “I would spend hundreds of dollars on magazines were it not for the library,” Basso said. “I love to come here, have a cup of coffee and chat with friends of the library. This library is a community center, a real gathering place. I talk to neighbors and meet my friends here, and Kathryn [Sofianos] is a wonderful lady.”

     Arranging wine glasses at the wine bar, Sofianos said Wild Blossom meadery and winery supplied the fine mead wines guests tasted. “Mead is made of honey and that fits in with the library’s Pollinator Garden, which attracts bees, butterflies, wasps and hummingbirds,” she said. “They all pollinate flowers and plants.” The library worked with members of the Garden Guild I to create the garden on its woodsy grounds that blooms with wildflowers, she added.

   Sofianos would later join library board members to unveil the library’s donor tree etched in glass facing the front entrance. Funds raised that night, added to contributions elicited by the donor tree, will defray the costs of much-needed capital improvements to the library, Sofianos explained. Its roof needs replacement and other repair projects must be done, she added. “The roof is 40 years old and leaks.” The donor tree’s design is based on a photo of a red oak, which is Sofianos’ favorite tree on the library grounds, she said. Brochures detailing the tree’s levels of giving are available near the front desk.

     Meanwhile, guests saw and heard a duo called Sunnyside Up perform blue grass music. Fiddler and mandolin player Colby Maddox and guitarist Chris Walz both teach at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Chicago’s North Side. Few could leave the social function hungry. Volunteers at buffet tables served food donated by Pappa Joe’s, Julianni’s Pizza, Chicagoland Ham and Diane’s Place. Granite City ran the beer tent outside.   

   James Gierach, a former Cook County prosecutor and now retired municipal attorney, and his wife, Missy, were among residents drawn to the event. “Missy is an avid reader, so we’re here to support the library,” said Gierach, who campaigned for the decriminalization of marijuana many years before its time. “It’s a wonderful hidden-in-the-woods library.”

     Alex and Marie Van Huis, 50-year residents of Palos Park, came to the party partly because Marie formerly served on the library’s board of trustees, Alex said. The couple were married at the now-iconic Plush Horse ice cream parlor 57 years ago, he added. “We like to participate in community events – it’s a neighborly thing to do,” Marie said.

   Sitting in the beer garden with his wife, Carol, who is board president of the McCord Gallery and Cultural Center, and their friends, library board President Dave Trzcinski praised Sofianos and Rene Leyva for the work they did to help make Stacks After Dark happen. “It’s such a wonderful community event,” he said. “The library continues to develop, and it’s not just books but all kinds of services. A member of the staff takes people on walks through the grounds to experience its natural beauty. People sign up to make an appointment for it.

   “I’m a book nut,” Trzcinski continued. “I have bookcase after bookcase at home. I fill them with books I find at our used book sales and donate them back to the library after I’m done reading them.”

     An unused portion of the library’s parking lot served as a makeshift beer garden for the event. As he surveyed the trees and bushes along two sides of the lot, lit by bamboo torches under a waning harvest moon glowing on that balmy night, Trczinski grew pensive before becoming inspired by the surroundings. “This is a really nice spot that we should do something with, open it up for people to enjoy,” he suggested.   

Photos by Jack Murray

Published in the September 19, 2019 issue of The Palos Regional