Left to right: Franz Calixte, Kevin Francis, Patrick Parisien, Vinton Francis, Jude Eliacin, Craig Garfield at last year’s soccer fest.                                                     Submitted photo

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On July 16, the Ridgeville Park District will host the second annual Evanston Soccer Festival at Kamen Park. Festival chairman Elliott Hurtig said the goal of the festival is to bring people together for a day of soccer, food, music and fun. “I think on the surface, the goal is just to have people [come out and] have a great day, bring their families out to an event and enjoy the game that we all love,” said Mr. Hurtig. “But I think the other purpose is to try to force some connections among people who might not normally be hanging out together, and to create some connections and understanding because we live in a great city.”

Mr. Hurtig continued, “Everyone loves Evanston, everyone is really proud of the diversity in Evanston, but there are few events that really bring people together where there is a lot of community building among these groups.”

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kamen East and Kamen West Park (South Boulevard and Asbury Avenue). There will be three different game divisions. The most competitive games will be played in the Marley division, which is designated for players in their 20s and 30s. The second division, known as the Chavez division, will feature games that are less competitive than the Marley division and is for players in their 30s and 40s.

The third division, said Mr. Hurtig, known as the Martin Luther King division, “is for adults who are in their 40s and 50s and beyond who want to come out and kick the ball around.” Everyone is encouraged to participate, but the recommended age range is high school age and up. 

Games will last 20 minutes and will be played non-stop with no halftime break. Every team is guaranteed to play at least three games, and the final game of the day will be a “scramble game,” in which participants quickly join with players from other teams and play in order to help make further connections.

Mr. Hurtig stressed that the games are non-competitive and that scores will not be kept and referees will not be on hand. “One of the slogans of the festival is ‘The goals are not the goal,’” said Mr. Hurtig, “meaning that it is really a festival and not a tournament. So it is about celebrating what makes Evanston unique. And it is about the idea of building community and building bridges among ethnic groups.”

Participants are also encouraged to bring their own teams made up of no fewer than five players, but there is no maximum number of players per team. Teams are also responsible for wearing some sort of unified color, but pennies will be available for teams who wear conflicting colors. Registration is $50 per team and all proceeds from the event will support the Ridgeville Cultural Development Foundation. However, individuals wishing to play are encouraged to show up at the event and they will be assigned to a team.

Mr. Hurtig, who founded the festival, got the idea one night when he was playing pickup soccer with a group of friends at James Park.” I have been playing for years with a group of guys at James Park, just pickup soccer,” he said, “and one night, I just kind of looked around and saw there was our game, there was a game with some guys from Croatia, there was a game with some guys from Mexico, and we were all just loving the game of soccer, but we were all playing our separate games.” He continued, “And I [started] thinking how nice it would be if we had some time where all of us could play together. So that is when I started thinking about organizing a festival in Evanston to bring the diverse cultures and ethnic groups together for a day of soccer, food, music, and fun.”

Last year’s event had approximately 75 participants including 13 teams from AYSO, Team Evanston, and teams representing some local restaurants. This year, Mr. Hurtig says he hopes to have closer to 20 teams play and double the total participants of last year.

“In a way, [the festival] is in the same spirit of Race Against Hate, but I imagine there is going to be a lot more time for people to just be hanging out and enjoying a nice afternoon,” said Mr. Hurtig.

Information and registration are available at ridgeville.org/soccer.