Evanston Swims! students from Evanston/Skokie District 65 Schools with Evanston150 Steering Committee Member and McGaw YMCA swim instructor Eden Juron Pearlman. Photo by Rich Foreman

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As the City’s yearlong sesquicentennial celebration winds up for the Dec. 29 official birthday, the Celebrate Evanston! party and the return of First Night Evanston, the steering committee of Evanston 150 is calling the year a success.

In November of 2011, ten ideas were chosen from a field of about 2,000. These were refined into the Ten Big Ideas that would help frame the future of the community. Several of the ideas had been proposed in the past, but the enthusiasm of the various committees propelled the ideas beyond talk.

The Steering Committee counts the Evanston Swims! program among its successes.

Now in its second year, the program is serving eight District 65 schools and nearly 200 second-graders, thanks to a collaboration between the McGaw YMCA, YWCA Evanston/North Shore, Presbyterian Homes and Three Crowns Park.  An endowment fund at the Evanston Community Foundation has been created to provide ongoing support of the program.

The year-round farmers’ market envisioned by A Market for All Seasons is in the works.  Successful winter markets have already taken place at the Ecology Center, and the project team recently merged with the Friends of Evanston’s Farmers’ Market to collaborate on a permanent year-round market location.

The Walk ‘n’ Roll project, which aims to make Evanston a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly community, hosted a Shared Streets event on Sept. 1, opening the Dempster and Chicago Avenue corridor for a pedestrian- and bike-friendly street festival and public education event. The team intends to host more Shared Streets events in the future and act as an advocate for bicycling in area planning efforts.

The Learn to Work and Work to Learn conference on Oct. 25 at Northwestern University drew 100 invitees to hear keynote speaker William Symonds talk about “Pathways to Prosperity for Opportunity Youth.”  Local participants are defining the key questions that need attention and working to develop a “road map” for going forward, the Steering Committee said.

“Water, Water Everywhere, A Market for All Seasons and Walk ‘n’ Roll are wonderful examples of long-term community engagement,” said Evanston150 Steering Committee Member Sara Schastok. “However, the full measure of this initiative’s success is not what is completed by Dec. 31. Evanston150 was an incubator for generating new ideas and getting them started.

The work of the 10 ‘big idea’ groups and others that have spun off as a result of the Evanston150 process will continue and will benefit the community for years to come.”