You'd better finalize your Cook County Forest Preserve party plans now if you want to get dibs on your prime date and spot, as a cold January tradition is biting the dust.
The Cook County Forest Preserve District has moved up the opening of special event permit sales for 2019 by almost seven weeks to Thursday, Nov. 15.
"Every year people line up outside, sometimes when the temperature is below zero, to get their favorite groves for their preferred date," Arnold Randall, general superintendent for the forest preserves, said in a news release. Other residents may still be busy or out of town for the holidays, he said.
"An earlier opening day helps alleviate some of these issues and also gives families more time to plan -- some of our customers are planning weddings, family reunions and other important events and they want to celebrate those special moments in our Forest Preserves."
In-person sales will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the forest district headquarters, 536 N. Harlem Ave., River Forest, or at the Dan Ryan Visitor Center, 8700 S. Western Ave., Chicago.
Online sales also will open at 8 a.m. and will be available 24 hours a day. In addition to saving time by purchasing permits online, visitors can view information such as site availability, grove maps and the various fees associated with grove rentals by visiting fpdcc.com/permits.
Those planning to apply for permits in person must have a valid state identification card or driver's license. Accepted payment methods are cash, check or credit card. Purchasers should have additional locations in mind in case the first choice is not available.
Picnic permits are required for groups of 25 or more. To reserve picnic groves and request event spaces, patrons must first set up an account at fpdcc.com/permits.
Permits for groups larger than 1,000 attendees already may be requested. Customers may submit applications at the headquarters, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (708) 771-1071.
In 2018, more than 7,000 permits were sold for picnics and special events. Top sites include Dan Ryan Woods, Busse Woods and Schiller Woods.