The Skeletons of Highwood, IL

Happy Halloween! While we may not be trick-or-treating in the traditional sense this year, we’re still celebrating All Hallow’s Eve with costumes, a walk around the neighborhood, and candy. 2020 has been a year filled with canceled plans and creative solutions so its not a surprise that October 31st is any different. To be honest, it’s not difficult to get into the Halloween spirit this year – there is a chill in the air, the leaves are vibrant shades of orange, yellow, and red, and there are hundreds of skeletons around town.

Yes, skeletons.

Even though the Fort Sheridan military housing area has a Highland Park address, it’s the community of Highwood that borders the northern gate. When the now-closed active-duty installation of Fort Sheridan (read more about the history of Fort Sheridan here) opened in 1888, the citizens of Highwood and surrounding communities weren’t crazy about the saloons, gambling dens, and speakeasies that popped up to cater to the off-duty soldiers. The Prohibition-era further catered to the environment due to bootleggers creating a large-scale smuggling operation into Highwood. During World War II, the Highwood community prospered due to Fort Sheridan being a key training center for deploying troops. Today Highwood has a strong immigrant population – past and present – which gives the town a vibrant energy. Murals and sculptures pepper the landscape, a variety of cuisines are found within a few block radius, and this October hundreds of skeletons invaded Highwood.

When the handful of our Army friends who have been stationed here in the past found out we were moving to Fort Sheridan, they excitedly told us about the annual Pumpkinfest in Highwood – a popular three-day event that kicks off with the annual attempt to garner the world record for most lit jack-o-laterns (Keene, New Hampshire is the long-standing current record holder). Due to the pandemic, Pumpkinfest was cancelled this year but instead of getting down, Highwood got creative. And that’s why there are now hundreds of skeletons posed throughout the town.

We spent yesterday afternoon walking around Highwood with friends, participating a scavenger hunt sponsored by the Highwood Chamber of Commerce that took us by almost every skeleton display in town.

The best coffee in town, Tala Coffee Roasters.

The sense of community in Highwood is evident in their commitment to creative solutions during the pandemic. Indoor dining ends again today due to spiking cases and restaurants are ramping up their take-out and delivery endeavors more than ever. I hope that the many local restaurants are able to survive the winter months – if any small town has demonstrated the grit and determination necessary to survive, it’s been Highwood, IL. Skeletons and all.

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