If you have ever attended a performing arts event in Park Forest, you have likely seen Cultural Arts Supervisor Chuck Sabey.
Many would consider Sabey a staple in Park Forest. He's served the Village in numerous capacities since the age of 17 when he took a part-time custodian position at Freedom Hall. Just over 45 years later, Sabey is set to retire this month.
"As a teenager, I had needs and I was looking for any job that could help me fulfill those needs, but little did I know what working at Freedom Hall would do for me," Sabey said. "From the beginning, this place opened my mind to groups and ideas and changed how I viewed things as a teenager. It gave me a perspective that other jobs could not."
After a few years of working part-time, Sabey was promoted to full-time custodian and took on more responsibilities, including maintaining Park Forest’s Tennis & Health Club.
Sabey continued to work his way up the ranks and went on to serve as program supervisor for Park Forest’s Recreations and Parks Department for 19 years.
"I inherited many programs in my new role, but I was also allowed to create my own events based on my interests," Sabey said. "[I created new events] like an in-line hockey league and a bike race in downtown Park Forest. The possibilities excited me."
In the summer of 2008, Sabey walked into a meeting and unexpectedly came out of it as Park Forest’s first cultural arts supervisor, landing him back at the facility where he got his start at 17.
Sabey's return to Freedom Hall was much different from when he was a teenager working as a custodian. In his second stint at the facility, Sabey was encouraged to bring his creative talents and implement new events. In addition to enhancing Freedom Hall’s reputation for hosting world renowned performers, Sabey went on to manage a relatively new outdoor performing arts series, Main Street Nights, which has grown dramatically in popularity since its beginnings.
"This position was rewarding because of the people I worked with and worked for, the people I met, and the connections I made," Sabey said. "During our recent showing of Booker T. Jones, we celebrated his birthday on stage. That experience left a mark on him because later he gifted me with a 60th-anniversary record of 'Green Onions' signed by him and a handwritten letter thanking me."
Over the last 45 years, Sabey said he had opportunities to leave Park Forest but ultimately decided the Village was his best fit.
"My father and brother are all salesmen, so I wondered if I was relegated to the family occupation," Sabey said. "I was not a good salesman. My wife told me if we counted on you as a salesman to survive, we wouldn't because you wouldn't drive a hard bargain."
After retirement Sabey looks forward to doing what he enjoys most, like in-line skating, cycling, and attending the same concerts at Freedom Hall and Main Street Nights that he once produced.
Sabey said those things he introduced to the Village brought him the most joy and he'll now have plenty of time to do them.