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Park board considers new approach to Starry Nights program

The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District is about to give the Starry Nights program an update.

Mike Gianatasio, superintendent of recreation, told park commissioners at the Oct. 3 park district meeting, that the program that has presented adult entertainers for more than 25 years, isn’t like it was then.

Starry Nights at Irwin Park started as entertainment with big name stars. Guests paid a fee to see the program. The park was screened off from the general public. Years later, the park district discontinued that concept of Starry Nights, primarily because of the time required and the cost. The program was revamped to three or four concerts offered for free during the summer months.

When the pandemic hit, Starry Nights went into hiatus for two years. 

“It’s sort of morphed and changed over the years,” and attendance has been down, Gianatasio said. “This past year we tried to do something different with Pride Night.”

Starry Nights had a large crowd this June when the park district joined with the Village of Homewood and the Village of Flossmoor to celebrate the LBGTQ community with a Pride Night program. Gianatasio said “It was a really, really good event” that brought the community together.

The second Starry Nights show this summer had two acts — a presentation by a children’s entertainer who was the opening act — and the regularly scheduled singers “Good Clean Fun.” Gianatasio said he got positive responses from parents who appreciated there being entertainment for kids, and it turned the Starry Nights program into a family event. 

“It’s becoming really expensive to get bands. The dynamics has shifted around the event. We’re proposing to (you) the board allowing us to reconsider Starry Nights,” Gianatasio said. 

The first suggestion is to rename the event.

The second is to change the program so that more neighborhoods can have a chance to enjoy entertainment.

Gianatasio said the park district plans for 2024 are to continue the Pride Night celebration, and have a family friendly second show with an entertainer for kids and special activities in the park. He said staff is also considering how it might get more entertainment programming into neighborhood parks.

Commissioner Steve Johnson told Gianatasio he appreciated his perspective. “The world changed, and I think we have to change with it,” Johnson said, adding, “I’m glad you’re rethinking it all.”

“That idea of smaller programs rotating through some of the other parks and smaller community meetings, that to me could bring some energy and life to those communities,” Board President Brent Bachus said.

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