The City of Highland Park (City) and the Park District of Highland Park (Park District) announce plans for community events on Independence Day 2024. The schedule of events is intended to balance the diverse needs within the community by providing space for remembrance as well as familiar traditions. This will include a morning remembrance ceremony, an afternoon parade along a new route in Downtown Highland Park, and the return of the family friendly 4th Fest.

“Independence Day has traditionally been a special opportunity for our community to come together with beloved traditions,” said Mayor Nancy Rotering. “As we continue our journey as one Highland Park, we do so with respect, compassion, and support for all whose lives were forever changed on July 4, 2022, while maintaining the community spirit that has always been a hallmark of Highland Park’s Independence Day events.”

“While our community was forever changed by the events on July 4, 2022, this Independence Day, we can start a new chapter by coming together in love and kindness for one another,” said Terry Grossberg, president of the Park District of Highland Park Board of Commissioners. “Celebrating this national holiday with our loved ones is crucial to our community’s identity. Let’s come together, share this special moment with our neighbors and friends, and create cherished memories.”

The City and Park District have undertaken a trauma-informed approach to planning Independence Day events, with guidance from the Department of Justice – Office of Victims of Crime and community-based mental health clinicians who have been working in Highland Park over the past nearly two years. The schedule of events recognizes the importance of providing structured and unstructured opportunities for reflection and remembrance while reintroducing the Independence Day parade and 4th Fest event, which community members identified in 2023 as beloved community traditions that are important for Highland Park to reclaim.

The slate of events includes:

Remembrance Ceremony
The City will host a remembrance ceremony at 10:00 AM. The program will be available in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and will include remarks from Mayor Nancy Rotering, faith leaders, and music. The remembrance ceremony will be open to the public via advance registration to ensure venue capacity. To protect the privacy of individuals in attendance, the ceremony will be held indoors. In addition to the in-person remembrance ceremony, a remembrance video message will be available to view the morning of July 4, 2024. Further information about the remembrance ceremony, including location, will be available at nearer to the date.

The temporary memorial, located in the Rose Garden adjacent to City Hall (1707 St. Johns Avenue), is always accessible to the public, and will be available on July 4, 2024. Visitors who may be concerned about re-traumatization from patriotic décor, floats, etc. related to the parade itself are encouraged to avoid visiting the memorial between 11 AM – 2 PM.

Independence Day Parade

The City and Park District present “Sweet Home Highland Park,” a community-focused parade kicking off at 1 PM along a new route through Downtown Highland Park. The theme invites participation from residents, community organizations, and businesses encouraged to showcase their love for Highland Park with float design and festive décor that spotlight something special about the city. To emphasize Highland Park’s spirit of community, neighborhoods are encouraged to collaborate on a shared float or parade entry. In keeping with the Highland Park tradition of a festive children’s bike and pet parade, families are invited to register to participate as part of the parade with decorated children’s bikes and pets in their patriotic best. The parade entry that most creatively embodies the “Sweet Home Highland Park” theme will be awarded “best in show” in three categories: neighborhood, community groups, and businesses. Participants are encouraged to draw inspiration from Highland Park’s natural resources, landmarks, history, and traditions in planning their entries. Parade participation sign-ups are now available, 2024; all parade participants, including families, neighborhoods or walking groups, must register in advance. Further details are available at

4th Fest
Following the parade’s conclusion, community members will enjoy entertainment, rides, carnival games, a petting zoo, and other family-friendly activities at Sunset Woods Park as part of 4th Fest, presented by the Park District of Highland Park from 1:30 to 4:30 PM. Main stage entertainment will feature the popular band Radio Gaga and other entertainers. Food trucks will be available on site. Learn more about the event.

There will not be a City or Park District-sponsored evening event on July 4, 2024.

The City recognizes that community members may benefit from professional support in considering participation in Independence Day activities. The City’s Resiliency Division provides assistance including short-term counseling, resources and referrals, case management and needs assessments, and more. For information about support services available through the Resiliency Division, please contact Resiliency Manager Madeline Kati, LCSW, at [email protected] / 847.926.1036.

Information regarding Independence Day activities will be shared by both the City and Park District as planning continues. Updates from the City are available at, and updates from the Park District are available at Individuals are welcome to share their feedback via email to the City at [email protected].

Grading work is now complete on the bluff. Native seeds and plants have been installed on the bluff; these deeply rooted plants will help in the re-establishment of the bluff’s native plant communities in the three grading zones. Additionally, a buffer of native seed was installed along the top of the bluff, and grass seed was installed in the upper park. This area will remain fenced off to allow the plants to establish.

For more information, contact Liz Ricketts, Natural Areas Manager, at [email protected].

The 2023 Champions Gala is March 15, at Studio One, in Highland Park. There are so many great reasons for you to be there and support the Foundation, but the special presentation of this year’s Legacy Award is something you truly don’t want to miss.

If you were one of the hundreds of kids who were learning to play baseball or basketball under Coach Baker, he knew your name. And he remembered it when you grew up, got married, and brought your kids to play on the teams he was coaching. Long before psychologists studied the effects of that, Marv Baker knew exactly how important it was to each and every student and young athlete he taught. It was a sign of respect. An indication of how much he cared for you as a person. You called him Mr. Baker. Or Coach Baker. “It was a real milestone in your life when you were an adult, and could call him Marv,” said his son, Doug. And as the ultimate sign of respect for their coach, everyone who played in his baseball and basketball leagues—and their parents—called it BakerBall.

Everyone was welcome to play BakerBall. That was one of the joys, and part of the experience that made being around Marv so memorable. His approach to teaching youth sports was inclusive and impartial. The best local athletes and kids with special needs were on the same team, and they all learned much more than how to play the game. Of course, they were drilled on the fundamentals—the game isn’t fun for anyone without knowing the rules and having some skills. But coach taught that it wasn’t about the scoreboard or the won-loss record. When they learned how to back up the throw, they were becoming team players. And when they learned how to not be afraid of failure they took that lesson into adulthood, taught it to their kids, and became successful business leaders.

BakerBall kids grew into high school athletes, and they returned year after year to work with Marv coaching the next generation of young players. Some of them now manage the programs they started in, teaching what they were taught: love the game; be humble in victory; learn how to lose gracefully. Coach Baker was ahead of his time in making sure that parents and fans behaved properly at games as well. He insisted on only positive cheering, and would stop a game if necessary to toss a belligerent parent out of the park. “He was kind of a big guy, having been an offensive lineman in college,” said Doug, “so there was typically not much pushback!”

Marv Baker grew up in DeKalb, and early on knew that youth sports education was his passion.

He was a 3-letter varsity athlete—baseball, basketball, and football—and attended Northern Illinois University on a football scholarship. He began his teaching career in Highwood, at Oak Terrace Elementary School, while raising a family. That’s when he started the BakerBall youth leagues and began to instill his philosophy of the game in the area’s young players. “Parents respected my dad,” says his daughter Patti, “and knew instinctively that their kids were in good hands. They also chose his programs because of their inclusivity.”

Marv instilled a love of sports in his children as well as his grandchildren. While his oldest daughter, Susie, played softball, she did not play BakerBall. “At that time, I would have been the first girl in the program, and he didn’t want to put me in that awkward position of being included because I was the coach’s daughter,” she said. A few years later, when Patti was old enough, she did play in the program, since girls were now included.  “He showed no mercy,” Patti remembers, “when I hit a hard line drive, he caught it just like any other!” Later, Susie’s two children, Nick and Sami, and Patti’s two children, Sophia and Anthony, all played BakerBall under their #1 Papa. Henry, Doug’s son, is just 3 years old, but BakerBall is waiting.

Susie, Patti, and Doug all replayed a similar memory: not fully appreciating the impact their dad had on the community—both the kids and their parents—until they were a little older. “My dad always rode his bike everywhere,” said Patti, and one day in high school another kid opened a window and yelled out ‘Hi Mr. Baker!’. That’s when I figured out that everyone knew him.” When Susie went to U of I, and told people where she was from, “They would ask if Mr. Baker was my dad. That was pretty amazing.”

Marv was, above all, a family man. A loving husband to two wives, Beverly for 5-1/2 years and Sue for 51 years. “He would always tell me how lucky he was to have found two loves of his life,” said Susie. As a father, and a grandfather, he never missed a school concert or an open house, or, of course, a game. Whether it was soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, or football, he was there in what must have been his favorite role, #1 Papa.

Coach retired from his job as a Physical Education teacher in 2005, after a 40-year career. He coached his last BakerBall players in the summer of 2009. When he and Sue moved to Sedgebrook, in Lincolnshire, in 2017, it was no surprise that there were people there—parents and grandparents of his former players—who knew him. Of course they did!

Marv succumbed to the ravages of ALS on April 1, 2022. “The irony of it being April Fool’s Day was not lost on those who knew his big sense of humor,” said Doug. On Wednesday, March 15, at the Parks Foundation of Highland Park’s 5th Annual Champions Gala, the community that is so much better for having known him and loved him, will say ‘Thanks, Coach’ one more time as the family is presented with Foundation’s Legacy Award. A fitting tribute to a man whose legacy lives on every day, all over the country, in everyone he included in his incredible life.


Purchase your tickets for the 2023 Champions Gala today, and join us on March 15 to enjoy this glamorous evening! You’ll enjoy signature cocktails from the open bar, delicious hors d’oeuvres, an exciting game of chance to win up to $100,000, and of course hear our featured guest: Chicago Blackhawk’s legend Chris Chelios. The live auction will feature fabulous trips, dining experiences, one-of-a-kind items, and memorabilia. Sponsorships are still available.

The Parks Foundation of Highland Park has received a grant from the Highland Park Community Foundation. These funds will support the Park Foundation’s “Foundation For Youth” (FYI) Scholarship Program. FYI offers Highwood residents of lesser financial means the opportunity to participate in recreational programs, including swimming lessons and summer camps.

Though the Highwood families attend the same schools as Highland Park residents, Highwood is not within the tax-body bounds of the Park District of Highland Park, and residents cannot take advantage of the Park District’s resident scholarship program.  Highwood also does not have a park district, and the City of Highwood offers limited recreational programs for residents. 

The Park’s Foundation FYI Scholarship Program was introduced in 2019 and currently funds approximately 100 learn-to-swim lessons for low-income Highwood children. FYI summer camp scholarships were also made available to Highwood residents with financial constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. For families facing increased financial hardship due to the pandemic, recreational activities are often the first expenses cut out of a household budget. At the same time, outlets for exercise and enrichment are more critical than ever in promoting physical, social, and emotional health. Further, the need for greater equity and inclusiveness motivates a primary organizational goal of the Parks Foundation to boost funding so that more Highwood residents may enjoy access to Park District programs. The FYI Scholarship program reaches low-income preschool and school-aged children, predominantly Latino Highwood residents.

“The Parks Foundation is grateful for the Highland Park Community Foundation’s generous support for our FYI Scholarship program. Highwood is an important part of our community – our children go to school together,” says Rafael Labrador, the Parks Foundation Board of Directors president. “FYI helps level the playing field for Highwood families.”

About the Parks Foundation of Highland Park: The Parks Foundation of Highland Park is an independent, community-led, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 2016 to support access to the world-class Park District programs and facilities that enhance community life in Highland Park. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and donations that help keep taxes and program fees in check and bridge the gap between public resources and the funding needed to maintain our vibrant park system. We are committed to providing the resources for everyone in our community to participate in a wide variety of Park District offerings. Scholarship funds raised by the Foundation have allowed Highland Park/Highwood residents of all ages to enjoy athletic and recreational programs and summer camps. In cooperation with government entities, private enterprises, nonprofit partner organizations, and local families, we enrich current and future generations by supporting the open space and recreational programs that bring our community together. For more information and to donate, visit

About Highland Park Community Foundation: The Highland Park Community Foundation was established in 1992 at the request of the City of Highland Park to build and maintain a permanent endowment fund. As the philanthropic heart of the community, the HPCF improves and enriches people’s lives with annual grants to nonprofits that provide educational, human service, and cultural programs for Highland Park and Highwood residents. The Foundation’s avowed purposes are to expand opportunities and address the unmet needs of the community – needs that are not met by governmental or other sources.

The Highland Park Community Foundation annually awards grants though a competitive application and review process. For more information, visit

parks foundation logo

The National Parks & Recreation Association (NRPA) and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation have awarded the Park District of Highland Park a $600 pack of supplies to help the Park District establish additional pollinator habitats at The Preserve of Highland Park. The award is part of NRPA & Scotts “Parks for Pollinators” national campaign to raise public awareness of the pollinator crisis and encourage local action through public parks and recreation.

As participants in the campaign, Park District staff and volunteers successfully documented a variety of pollinators throughout September at The Preserve. They demonstrated the significance of the newly created habitat at The Preserve and all of the pollinators it supports.

Findings included:

“This information will help us understand how we can better protect pollinators and other important wildlife in our community,” said Elizabeth Ricketts, Natural Areas Program Volunteer Coordinator. Learn more about The Preserve of Highland Park.

In support of the Highland Park community that has been through so much this past summer, the Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation is underwriting a full day of golf for Highland Park residents at the Sunset Valley Golf Club on Wednesday, October 12.

Includes an 18-hole round and a golf cart (carts are limited and available on a first-come basis).

Book your tee time now.
Click the Wadsworth Golf Outing button.
(Please show your ID at check-in)

Crews are removing the flagstone path and retaining walls and began stabilization work at the toe of the slope. The boardwalk sections are being fabricated offsite. Additional equipment and materials will be delivered over the next several days. Once received, on-site work will resume.

Learn more about the project.

Work continues to remove the existing barge breakwater in preparation for the installation of the new breakwater and boat ramp.

About the Project

At the April 27 meeting, the Park Board approved construction of Phase 1 of the Park Avenue Breakwater Project in the amount of $2,221,890.  The base scope of this project includes removal of the existing barge breakwater and boat ramp, stockpiling and salvaging existing breakwater fill and armor stone, construction of a new steel sheet pile breakwater with a concrete crown wall and construction of a new concrete boat launch.   Funding for the project includes $2,000,000 from the Park District’s capital fund and $400,000 from the Parks Foundation of Highland Park, made possible from community donations. Construction began as scheduled on Sept 6, 2022. Learn more.

Demolition of the rink floor and concrete trench have been completed. Installation of under-floor drainage will begin soon.

About the Project

Centennial Ice Arena is temporarily closed, and ice programs will not be offered in Fall 2022 due to an unexpected and necessary replacement of the rink floor. 

An unknown issue was uncovered on the rink floor during our regular annual maintenance in June. Since then, the Park District has acted swiftly to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the facility and ice flooring system with an engineering firm. The findings confirmed that the building is structurally sound. However, the rink floor has been compromised and will require complete replacement.   Learn more.

We are batty for Halloween and have a spooktacular lineup of fun events for you and your family.

Highland Park Hauntings(Fri., Oct 21, 5:30-8pm, Larry Fink Memorial Park) Kick off the season with a frightful walk along our haunted trail. Look out for spots along the way for Halloween treats to calm your nerves. This spooky event includes live characters, moving props, and spooky music. Fee: $20/$25 per person (resident/non-resident). Learn more & register.

Drive-in Movie: Hocus Pocus(Thu., Oct 27, 7:30-10:30pm, Recreation Center of HP Parking Lot) Amok! Amok! Amok! Hop in the car and cruise on over for this classic Halloween movie. Fee: $30/car. Learn more & register.

Scary Miniature Golf(Sat., Oct 29, 8am – 5pm, River’s Edge Mini Golf) Wear your costume and receive a free round of miniature golf! Learn More.

West Ridge Trunk or Treat – (Mon., Oct 31, 10:30 – 11:45pm, West Ridge Center) Welcome all little ghosts, superheroes, pop stars and professionals! Our preschool trunk or treat will take place in the West Ridge Parking lot and lots of goodies will be shared! Fee: $2 Learn more & register.