Hemingway Foundation, arts council recreate Paris circa 1920s

If you’ve never been to Gay Paree but have always wanted to go, you can catch a glimpse of what life is like in the City of Lights this weekend as part of Ernest Hemingway’s birthday celebration. I’ve never been to Paris, but I LOVE what the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and the Oak Park Arts Council have partnered to do: They have brought a little bit of the city right into Oak Park.

Have you discovered how the two organizations have recreated Paris’ Love Locks under the viaduct at Oak Park Avenue and North Boulevard yet?

In Paris, lovers write their names on padlocks, attach them to the city’s bridges and pitch the keys into the Seine River. Three bridges in Paris are completely covered with thousands of locks, said John Berry, the chairman of the Hemingway Foundation who just recently returned from the City of Lights and Venice, visiting around the anniversary date of Hemingway suffering life-changing wounds in the foothills below the Italian Alps.

In Oak Park, through the end of September, lovers can also write their names on a padlock and drop their keys into a lockbox (obviously because there is no river), Berry said.

“It’s just a very cool thing,” Berry said.

Bring your own padlock or buy one from the foundation, 200 N. Oak Park Ave., for $5. Then just sign and date it with a Sharpie and hook it to the fence that the village has installed against the viaduct. Put the key into the drop box and you’re all set, Berry said. Just an FYI: Master Lock has donated 200 locks with keys to the project, whose proceeds will benefit both the arts council and Hemingway Foundation, Berry said.

It’s all part of the Hemingway Foundation’s 115th birthday celebration, “A Night in Paris.” You probably already know Hemingway was born July 21, 1899, with his birthplace home right on Oak Park Avenue. The Saturday party was set for the Scoville Square Building, 137 N. Oak Park Ave.

“This is the first time [it’s] at Scoville Square instead of the museum,” Berry said. “We wanted to use the park and building and turn Scoville Square into a Paris train station idea.”

Berry said the red windmill from the Moulin Rouge in Paris will be recreated, and there’ll be a cocktail party, French delicacies, and live music. Sandra Spanier, editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, will read from the second volume of the author’s collected letters from Paris, featuring writings to poet Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and other figures of the 1920s expatriate community in France.

Additionally, on exhibit will be never-before-shown clothing and artifacts from the Hemingway Archives — including a ball gown worn by Hemingway’s mother Grace and an authentic World War I dress uniform.

“It’s just going to be a nice party with drinks and French food,” Berry said.

He reminded me the following day is lemonade on the Hemingway Birthplace and Museum porch with kiddie festivities and “lots of fun for young and old alike.”

“We’re going to have a lot of fun,” Berry said.

For more info, go to ehfop.org.

At the head of the class … Did you hear that Oak Park was ranked third in the nation for education among 140 small cities in America? Movoto Real Estate based the ranking on graduation rates for high school and also teacher-student ratios, among other things.

The village, which also had a graduation rate of more than 94 percent, followed Chapel Hill, N.C. and Novi, Mich. It’s “an all-around great place for learning success,” Movoto said.

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Read about Ernest Hemingway and his ties to Oak Park by clicking here.

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