Every time I’d hit a stoplight en route to this year’s Houby parade in Cicero (sponsored by Berrrrr-wyn), I glanced up at the sky expecting a downpour. Fortunately, my iphone’s weather app was as wrong Sunday as it is just about every other day of the week and this didn’t happen. With the help of my friends, Don and Bunny, I found a parking spot about half a mile from the event before my daughter, Jade, and I sought them out on foot. This was the 50th year Berwyn celebrated its Czechoslovakian heritage by holding a festival dedicated to mushrooms…or at least that’s how it all began. In an interesting twist, the Slovak tradition has since been embraced by the community’s predominant Latino population, thus making Chicago’s parade (and, yes folks, there are others) rather unique even by Houby standards. Now I do love mushrooms, especially when sauteed and sitting next to a sirloin steak, but confess they weren’t the reason for my being here. Rather, I was celebrating a more personal tradition…stalking national horror host, Svengoolie during his busy Halloween season!
Last weekend I went to see national horror host, Svengoolie, at a Chicago store called Cook Brothers (“We stack em Deep and Sell em Cheap!”). Though not as remarkable as his previous appearance at The Squared Circle, it did represent a bit of a milestone for me. Since discovering that he’d return to the airwaves in 2003, this would mark my 35th time seeing him (either as Svengoolie or Rich Koz) at a public event.
Last Sunday, I grabbed the kids and headed over to the town made infamous by the Svengoolies – Berwyn, Illinois – to observe a rather unusual event. The Annual “Houby” parade has taken place for over forty years now and, along with the National horror host, has become a local Berwyn tradition! For those scratching their heads wondering what a “Houby” is, it is the Czechoslovakian word for “mushroom.” Yes, you are reading this correctly, the entire parade is dedicated to mushrooms! Mushrooms and truffles are to the Czechs’ what the tomato is to the Italians. It is a big part of their culture and it should also be noted that other “Houby” events take place throughout the year in other places throughout the United States.