Two friends and I went down to the Taste of Chicago to see (hear?) Stevie Wonder. The crowd was beyond description. We inched along in a line that was supposed to lead to seats.

When the line curved around, we found ourselves dumped into a free-for-all situation with nothing separating the line from all the other folks. People bumped, pushed, and even challenged each other to fights.

To top it off, people pushed wheelchairs through the crowd, getting angry and yelling because people couldn’t move or move quickly enough to let the wheelchairs pass.

Hmmmmm! We managed to see Stevie on the big screen, glimpsed him in the flesh, heard him talk and sing, but after a while, being squashed like sardines and being hot and thirsty made us head for the fringes of the crowd.

We inched along again, at times coming to a complete standstill with no way to get around or through the people ahead of us.

We eventually wound up at an exit and decided to just go over to Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and wait for the Orchestra Baobab concert. What a relief it was to sit down in the shade and have something to drink, thanks to the gallant efforts of one of my friends who hiked to a store and back.

As time for the concert approached, three women sat down in front of us. One of the women was mentally challenged, whom I shall call Clarissa.

The musicians in Orchestra Baobab are from Senegal and their music makes you want to get up and move. And that’s what Clarissa did. As soon as the music began to play, Clarissa got up and danced. Clarissa’s mother made her sit down out of consideration for those behind her.

Clarissa would get up again, and her mother would again make her sit down. Finally, Clarissa stayed up, dancing in perfect rhythm.

Dancing, dancing, dancing.

She’s a dancing machine. …”

“She’s moving, grooving,

“Dancing to the music stop now.”

When Clarissa finished dancing to one song, she looked back at us, smiled and did a high five with one of my friends.

 The Orchestra invited the audience to dance in the aisles. My friends went down front to dance. Clarissa continued to dance in front of me, and when I clapped when she stopped, she bowed and said “thank you, thank you.”

Clarissa too went out into the aisle across from her family to dance. She bobbed her head, twirled around, raised her eyebrows and smiled at me, making sure I was watching her. She never missed a beat.

She’s a dance, dance, dance,

Dance, dancing machine.

Watch her get down,

Watch her get down.”

A lone man appeared, dancing in the aisle. He danced around Clarissa and with her. Clarissa never stopped

“…as she do, do, do her thing

‘right on the scene.”

Finally, for whatever reason, Clarissa came over to the row in which her family sat, said something, and they left.

Well, I was disappointed about not getting a seat to watch Stevie in the flesh, but Clarissa had made my day.

*Sung by the Jackson Five.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...