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Organizers Aim to Make This 'Oak Fest' the Best Yet

It's back, it's bigger than ever, and yes, it's free to get in. Are you ready for the 24th annual Oak Fest?

What would summer be without fireworks, carnival rides and good music? Nothing like Oak Fest 2011, that's for sure.

Now in it's 24th year, the six-day summer fest is shaping up to be Oak Forest's biggest. With plenty of events and attractions—including a car show, family activities tent and several different cover bands—there's something for kids and adults alike. The best part: admission is 100 percent free. Food, rides and games are the only things that aren't.

It's a community tradition, said Deborah Houtz, marketing coordinator for the fest, with a “family atmosphere” and great deals.

“I've been going to the fest since I was a kid,” Houtz added. “It has grown so much, and many more people are involved now.”

Organized by a board of 25 Oak Forest natives, the fest seeks to improve community outreach, ticket prices for next year and future fireworks shows—especially during the July 4th celebration, which Houtz said hosts one the best fireworks shows in Chicago.

As for Oak Fest performances this year, one homegrown singer is set to take the stage and wax his vocal skills. Oak Forest native , who competed on the last season of American Idol, will perform Wed. June 29, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“He's a local hero,” Houtz said of Medina. “A far as the talent we've been able to get, the fest has grown. The quality [of acts] is much better.”

Veterans can also look forward to something special. Thursday at 9 p.m., Oak Forest Mayor Hank Kuspa will speak in their honor, and the Oak Forest High School band will provide music for the ceremony, during the Salute to Hometown Heroes.

“Our veterans ceremony is always fantastic,” said fest chairmen Joseph Koce. “They'll be in full dress—older veterans, too. The support for this ceremony has been great.”

Other events and attractions include a watermelon eating contest, bingo and the 5K Liberty Run on Friday at 7 p.m.

Most of the fest proceeds will be donated to 28 non-for-profit organizations – including the Knights of Columbus, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection and Oak Forest Park District Gymnastics.

“It's for the greater good,” Houtz said. “Money from the fest has helped [each organization] grow.”

Oak Fest, which will be held at 159th and Central Avenue, runs from Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4. Mega passes are on sale at city hall, for $50 until June 30. At the gate, the mega pass price increases to $75 for carnival rides. The passes are good for all six days, and are available at city hall. Tickets for individual days are $25. Bring a buddy on Friday, and your second ticket is free. Saturday, from 11 a.m. to noon is for children with special needs only.

Check back with Oak Forest Patch, where we'll feature the events you can't miss (though the whole fest sounds amazing) each morning of Oak Fest.

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