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A microburst of stormy weather with rain, hail and winds of more than 60 miles per hour tore through the Fountain Square Arts Festival on the afternoon of June 28, routing patrons and artists from the sidewalks and booths. The storm hit around 4 p.m. on a day with sporadic sun, clouds and gusty winds. Festival staff had been monitoring the storm, Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said in a prepared statement. “Winds were clocked in St. Charles at 60 miles per hour, and the storm was predicted to move northwest toward the Wisconsin border.” Up to about a half-hour before the storm hit, “It appeared as if the storm would remain well west of Evanston,” he said.
About 15 minutes later, as it appeared the storm was heading toward Evanston, volunteers, staff and artists themselves quickly began securing tents and artwork. Not everything could be held down, and the winds blew metal, glass and other sharp objects through the streets and sidewalks, causing some injuries and, in some cases, major loss of artwork. Tents were “literally lifted off the ground and sent tumbling down the street,” Mr. Perman said.
Seven people were treated for injuries, including two broken arms, a sprained ankle, minor lacerations and cuts, according to the Chamber’s statement.
A massive cleanup commenced at about 5 p.m., and by 6:30 p.m. the streets were clear enough to permit the City’s public works crews to clear away the debris; they finished at about 11 p.m.
“No one will forget the ‘modern sculpture’ of mangled tents and metal objects rising 8 feet high in the middle of the festival,” Mr. Perman added.
Many of the artists were able to return on Sunday, for the second and final day of the festival, the 29th annual Fountain Square Festival of the Arts.