HUMBOLDT PARK — The gently falling flakes made for a picturesque holiday scene on Division Street Monday afternoon as Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Riot Fest founder Mike Petryshyn passed out 500 turkeys to families in need.
The 14-pound turkeys were donated by Petryshyn and his Riot Fest partner Sean McKeough as a way to give back to the community that has supported their now enormous three-day punk music festival and carnival in nearby Humboldt Park.
"When we find opportunities like this where we can give back, we're all for it," said Petryshyn, who himself lives in the 26th Ward.
Along with Riot Fest employees and other volunteers, Maldonado and Petryshyn — McKeough couldn't make it — unloaded 7,000 pounds worth of turkey from a truck parked in front of Maldonado's office to put into the waiting hands of 26th Ward residents.
This was the fourth year Maldonado's office has organized a turkey giveaway. As in years past, priority was given to needy women with children.
"The first year we gave 26 turkeys for 26 unemployed women with kids," Maldonado said. "But we observed a need much greater than that. There are a lot of people that are working that can barely make it."
So in the years since, they've approached area businesses for turkey donations, getting a few here and few dozen there and bought some themselves to give to as many turkeys as possible.
Then this year, they approached Petryshyn.
"He said, 'I'll give you 500,' and so we stopped asking," Maldonado said with a laugh. "This year Riot Fest gave 100 percent of the turkeys."
And the need was clearly there Monday.
People lined up to go inside the office where they were given tickets to exchange for the turkeys, and it took just a couple hours to pass out all 500.
"You know, it feels good," Maldonado said. "We want it to be a festive time of year for these families, not the opposite, and we are happy to be a part of the Thanksgiving festivities."