Block parties have been a part of Evanston’s summers for decades. Tom Twigg, the city’s Traffic Operations Supervisor, has been overseeing the summer outings for more than 40 years.
He says there are typically some 180 block parties from May 1 to Sept. 30, the official block party season. Applicants can fill out a form on the city’s website, which enables them to close down the street to auto traffic.
“That way kids can ride their bikes and adults can barbecue on the street,” Twigg says.
The city drops off barricades, but residents are required to put them up during the course of the day and take them down when the block party is over. Block parties can run as late as 11 p.m., Twigg says, as long as noise levels don’t get out of hand. The only restriction is that bouncy houses and other construction cannot be placed on the street, for liability reasons.
Twigg says the busiest block party times are the last two weekends in August.
Evanston Police can come by and talk about crime prevention, and the Fire Department will supply a fire truck in which kids can climb into the cabin or run around outside while the truck’s giant hoses spray water.
Twigg admitted that in all the years he’s been in charge he has never been to a block party, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his hands full.
“It’s a lot of work to process the applications and coordinate dropping off the barricades,” he says.
Every block party is different. On Lincolnwood Drive, the party – this year is the 44th annual – typically focuses on kids’ games, and the annual egg toss contest is a favorite. In years past some of the more industrious residents have coordinated special block party T-shirts and painted giant banners.
The best part of the annual block party, people agree, is reconnecting with neighbors and sharing communal meals together. For kids it’s the games and riding their bikes up and down the street.
The Marcy Avenue block party kicked off at 9 a.m. last Saturday, Aug. 20, with waffle making al fresco under colorful outdoor canopies. The all-day, end-of-summer celebration featured arts and crafts, games, music, food and fun for all ages.
After dark, there was an open-air cinema. Popcorn and an animated movie wrapped up a perfect summer day on the block.
Nothing says summer in Evanston like a block party.