WICKER PARK — At an awards ceremony showcasing the best of the 1st ward Thursday, one thing was certain: Ald. Joe Moreno can "pull off an awesome party."
That's what Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said to Moreno after accepting an award from his fellow alderman for Best Local Politician at the inaugural 1st Ward Awards.
"A lot of people in this room helped get us to where we are," Waguespack said, referring to the 60 people gathered in the 1st Ward Events space at 2033 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park.
Master of Ceremonies Joe Glorioso, who runs a construction permit business, Windy City Consulting, and stars in American Mattress commercials, co-hosted the evening with Moreno.
"It's great to have an alderman that is compassionate, business savvy and your friend," Glorioso said, adding that Moreno has "a fun and creative side."
During the hour-long ceremony attended by leaders from several area schools, neighborhood groups and businesses, Moreno congratulated the winners of an online survey that brought in between 400 and 500 votes cast over 11 categories, including best business, bar, school and park, among others.
Andrea Miller, owner of Miller Chicago Real Estate, said, "This is the fastest growing neighborhood in the city, every retailer wants to be here."
Miller's firm, which received a "Best Business" award, rents out several commercial storefronts in the area.
After accepting the award for "Best New Addition" to the ward, Ben Helphand, president of Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, said it "feels a little premature, since we still can't go up there without trespassing."
Helphand joked that receiving an award for the trail is "like Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize before he was elected."
Scheduled to open in fall 2015, Moreno told the crowd that 70 percent of the 2.7-mile elevated path and multiuse trail, which runs through the Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park neighborhoods, is located in the first ward.
In the best school category , which Moreno said was the "most voted on category of all 11," LaSalle II Magnet Elementary School at 1148 N. Honore St. in Wicker Park snagged top honors.
The evening's best community group also involved a school.
Elise Doody-Jones accepted the award for Friends of Goethe Elementary School, a CPS neighborhood school at 2236 N. Rockwell St. in Logan Square.
"Don't go far away, look in your backyard first," Doody-Jones said about choosing schools.
"We have a $1.2 million playground because inspired neighbors figured out how to change things. The school was wonderful before we go there, we only enhanced it. Schools aren't what the news tells you they are," Doody-Jones said.
In the best park category, Adam Housely accepted the award for Wicker Park at 1425 N. Damen Ave.
Housely said, "The park wouldn't be what it is without Doug Wood," referring to the secretary of the advisory council and organizer of large scale events such as the annual Halloween Boo-Palooza.
The most enthusiastic award recipient was appeared to be Joe Sabath, owner of West on North, a bar and restaurant at 2509 W. North Ave.
Sabath embraced both Moreno and Glorioso in an emotional hug and told the crowd that Glorioso, who aids small businesses with navigating the city permit process, helped him to get West on North's sign permit.
"The 1st ward office has been there for us since day one," Sabath said.
Late Thursday, Sabath posted a photo of the award on his bar's Facebook page.
In addition to the 11 "best" categories, Moreno presented two awards that were not on the ballot.
Rousemary Vega, a mother of three who fought to save Lafayette School from closure, received an Activist of the Year award from Moreno.
"Many know this woman for the champion that she is and the leadership she provides," Moreno said of Coorens, who's lived in Wicker Park for over 35 years.
Coorens said she was "shocked, awed, humbled."
"A lifetime achievement award, does that mean I'm done?" Coorens joked.
Best New Addition: Bloomingdale Trail
Best Neighborhood Group: West Bucktown Neighborhood Association
Best Neighborhood Festival: Do-Division
Best Park: Wicker Park
Best School: LaSalle II Magnet Elementary School
Best Community Group: Friends of Goethe School
Best Business: Miller Chicago Real Estate
Best Restaurant: Prasino
Best Bar: West on North
Best 1st Ward Staff Member: Matt Bailey
Activist of the Year: Rousemary Vega
Lifetime Achievement Award: Elaine Coorens