By Joel Hall
Clayton County residents came out by the hundreds on Thursday evening to Starr Park in celebration of Forest Park turning 100 years old.
The kickoff marked the start of a weekend festival, as well as a new beginning for the City of Forest Park.
"This is the rebirth of Forest Park," said Elaine Corley, director of recreation and leisure services for Forest Park. "When you plan an opening, you don't know what kind of reception you are going to have. I think the people are really excited.
"Forest Park has so much to be proud of, and there are so many areas where we can still go," said Corley.
Hundreds of residents, young and old, black, white, Latino, and Asian, gathered under tents and ate food, ranging from hot dogs to boiled peanuts, jerk chicken, and enchiladas. Children played together on trackless trains, moon walks, and large, inflatable slides.
Forest Park residents, some who have lived in the city most of their lives, reflected on Clayton County's largest city, the many changes made in recent years, and the development to come.
"It's really something to see," said Kenneth Miles, a retiree. "It's a difference in the times ... to where we couldn't go, and where we are going now." He said that he looks forward to the planned redevelopment of Main Street and Fort Gillem and the jobs it will bring to the city.
"It's just amazing how people can come together," said Sandra Render, a Clayton County resident. "All different ages and all different cultures. It's beautiful. We should do things like this more often."
Mary Parker, 94, is one of Forest Park's oldest residents. She has lived in the city since 1943, and looks forward to the city's growth.
"I think it's wonderful," said Parker. "I'm glad I've been here to enjoy it. We're growing and we have a good foundation."
Elected officials from around the county also joined in the celebration, making proclamations on behalf of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, the Georgia Governor's Office, the Georgia State Senate, and the State House of Representatives.
Prior to several proclamations, Forest Park Mayor Corine Deyton released a flock of doves signaling the start of another 100 years.
"This is awesome," said State Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale). "Very few things come around to be 100, and I am very glad to be a part of it. Clayton County is alive and thriving."
U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga) was the keynote speaker. "We've got some great things planned for Forest Park," said Scott, noting the planned redevelopment of Fort Gillem and the possibility of commuter rail. "I fought as hard as I could to keep this base open, but sometimes when God closes a door, he opens a highway.
"We are blessed," said Scott.
The celebration will continue at Starr Park today, from 5-10 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 a.m., to 10 p.m.
Today, from 5-8 p.m., and on Saturday, from 10 a.m., to 2 p.m., and 5-8 p.m., the city will also show its temporary history museum, which will visually illustrate the evolution of Forest Park. For more information, call Forest Park City Hall at (404) 366-4720.