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Living beyond the immediate scope of a city boasting a population in the millions, Mokena residents might seem like just the kind of people willing to remain complacent with long, hot summers and uneventful winters. Each year would only fold into the next, and its denizens would go about annually none the wiser. Mokena might find itself absent a sense of village pride and look to others for recreation and inspiration. Luckily for Mokena, its residents have far better vision than to squander its ample resources of people, food and general culture. Through a combined effort of several organizations within Mokena and contributors from farther out than even the village, Mokena has begun a new tradition capturing the class and style of the village, known as the Mokena Festival of Elegance.

Much of the springboard for the Mokena Festival of Elegance comes from the idea of the Food and Wine Fest which takes place at the McGovney Yunker Farmstead. The Fest combines wine tastings paired with samples of local restaurant cuisine.

“When the Chamber of Commerce began with the Food and Wine Fest years ago, “ recalls Mayor Joe Werner, “their long term goal was to hold an upscale, classy event that would grow as other components were added, ultimately resulting in a weekend of events.” In 2006, a Village Trustee visited the Concours d’Elegance in Geneva, Illinois and recognized the great prospective benefits such an elegant car exhibition would have.

Summer months bring frequent car shows, seemingly one for every night of the week. “A Concours is a step above that,” said Mayor Werner. “It’s a different scale of car. It’s a different class of car, and a different class of car judging.” Though Mayor Werner did not initially realize the value of a Concours in Mokena, researching the topic led the mayor to appreciate the idea enough to make a big push for the event.

Part of what Mayor Werner had seen when looking into Concours-type events was that coupled with the high level of refinement inherent in the idea, each event tended to have a major charitable beneficiary, as well. He wanted the fundraising to go toward something local, but with broad reach. Mayor Werner did some research, and soon recognized the Jennifer S. Fallick Cancer Support Center as the perfect focus as a charity. “Having lost several family members to cancer over the years,” said Mayor Werner, “it became my focus that I was going to do whatever I could to help out that charity.” The Concours would play a major role in doing just that.

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Hence, the mayor had a strong idea and a goal for which it might benefit, but the idea had not yet grounded into a concrete date. Early pitches for the Concours suggested a possible relevance to the Food and Wine Fest, allowing it to be the day before or after the latter. The group deciding upon the idea concluded that putting it on the same day as the Food and Wine Fest would give residents something to do during the morning and possibly the night before the Food and Wine Fest. With the Food and Wine Fest already placed at the beautiful farmstead, it was decided to host the Concours at Village Hall with a Classic Car Exhibit extending from there through the historic streets of downtown Mokena. A Downtown Fine Arts show was also added to the days’ events interlaced with the cars lining Front Street. All of the ideas gelled together wonderfully as a way to highlight Mokena at a minimal cost to the residents. “It didn’t cost any money to park, it didn’t cost anything to walk through the fine arts show, and it didn’t cost anything to come see the cars,” said Mayor Werner. “We wanted it to be a free day.”

The only remaining problem was naming and advertising the event. For the city to help advertise, the event had to overtly benefit the community. Eventually, the name Mokena Festival of Elegance surfaced as the logical choice as it took bits of all the individual parts and saliently exemplified some of the best in excitement that Mokena had to offer. From there, the event was set, and continues as a current tradition of Mokena excellence.

A village could quite easily fall into the trap of letting the surrounding communities come up with the entertainment and look to leeching off of them. Mokena, though, maybe due to the obvious waste of resources such a dependency would require, manages to bring forth its own brilliance for residents to enjoy. Come August 23, 2008, Mokena residents will have more to do than look to other cities for excitement; in fact, those other cities will probably look on to Mokena.

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