Visitors to the Evanston area over Christmas break should not miss this. FIRST NIGHT is the local family friendly New Year's Eve arts festival centered in downtown - it's billed as the largest in Illinois.
Interior venues like the library auditorium, a hotel ballroom, the Rotary Atrium and church halls are filled with arts & crafts, as well as performances as diverse as bluegrass & comedy, jazz & theatrics, ballroom dancing and circus acts. Ice sculptures line a bank plaza next to the huge outdoor Christmas tree. Hot cocoa, cider and other treats keep revelers fueled for the Midnight Countdown at Fountain Square.
The admission 'button' is less than $10.00 per person. A map with complete schedule of events and their locations, as well as the buttons, are available at area retailers beginning in early December. Additional information is available at the website:
Both 'local' and 'off the beaten path' is an international festival hosted by the neighboring community of Skokie. Each year in May, the FESTIVAL OF CULTURES offers a sampling of the tastes, colors and sounds of the ethnic groups residing in the area.
A large tented area holds displays of ethnic arts& crafts, as well as gift items available for purchase. Several outdoor stages feature folk dancers and musicians, puppeteers and storytellers of varied backgrounds with performances throughout the day. Food stands in the park offer delights for sampling such as loukoumi, falafel, curry and papadum. Communities that participate regularly are honored by the display of their country's flag in the Friendship Circle in Skokie's Sculpture Park.
The festival is located at Oakton Park, corner of Oakton and Skokie Blvd.
Upcoming festival dates are: Saturday and Sunday, May 22 - 23, 2004. Open 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Parking is free in the adjacent lot or on side streets in the area.
Evanston celebrates the 4th of July in a big way. Beginning early in the morning, lawn chairs are set up the length of Central Street, from just below Crawford to the parking lot at NWU's Ryan Field Stadium. They are there 'saving places' for spectators who begin to show up at 1:30 for the 2:00 PM kick-off of the Independence Day parade. The show usually runs over two hours with more than 150 bands, gymnasts, marching troops, lawnmower precision drill teams and floats.
Beginning at 7:00 PM townsfolk reconvene along the Dawes Park lakefront for a holiday band concert -- followed by spectacular fireworks over the water.
Evanston residents - and visitors- enjoy the open vistas along our Lake Michigan shore. In the summer this stretch along Centennial Park is a favorite spot to jog. Bright winter days attract cross country skiers.
Northwestern University, which is located in Evanston, is the smallest university in the Big Ten athletic conference, and is also the school with the highest academic standards (although some Michigan alumni may argue that claim). As a result, it is often in the bottom half of the league standings in football and basketball. However, Northwestern has strong programs in a number of the less visible sports, such as soccer, golf, softball, swimming, and field hockey.
Northwestern's team nickname is the Wildcats and its mascot is Willie the Wildcat. The university's official color is purple, and its teams wear uniforms that are purple and white.
Most of the streets in Evanston were either named for founders of Northwestern University, Methodist Leaders (NW was founded by Methodists), or prominent citizens.
Chicago Avenue is the second oldest street in Evanston. It got its name for the very reason it was created in the 1850s: as the first straight and direct route to the city of Chicago. The road was sandy and its condition so bad that a corporation was formed in 1859 to grade it, and it was then called the gravel road. Proposals were made in the 1930s to change the street's name, but none was accepted.
Dempster Street was named for Dr. John Dempster, a prominent 19th century Methodist who founded Northwestern's Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary (originally called Garrett Biblical Institute).
Sherman Avenue, which runs through the Chicago/Dempster neighborhood, was named in honor of Alson Smith Sherman, a member of the first board of trustees of Evanston's Northwestern University. He was also the mayor of Chicago in 1844 but he never lived in Evanston.
Davis Street was names for Dr. Nathan S. Davis, founder of Northwestern’s Medical School and one of the founders of the American Medical Association, and of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.
Orrington Avenue was named for Orrington Lunt, leader of the expedition of Chicago Methodists to find a location for North-western University. He was one of the founders of Northwestern and a leading benefactor. A rich grain merchant, he moved to Evanston after the 1871 Chicago fire, and was a charter member and supporter of Garrett Biblical Institute.
Ridge Avenue is the oldest street in Evanston. As high terrain left by the prehistoric retreat of Lake Michigan, the road was established as a military route in 1832. It was also the route of a stage coach line in 1836, which continued until the railroad came in 1855.
Green Bay Road is the old Green Bay Trail, the early road from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Fort Dearborn, Illinois.
A little Evanston history......
The region we know today as the North Shore was once home to the Potawatami Indians. Villages were situated along the forested shores of Lake Michigan, where abundant game and easy access to the lake supported a lifestyle of hunting and fur-trading. Traces of these Native American villages have been found in Evanston on the site of present-day St. Francis Hospital and at Dempster St. by the lake.
The first known European visitors were French voyageurs, who referred to the area as 'Grosse Pointe,' after the large point of land now marked by the Grosse Point Lighthouse. The first permanent settler of Grosse Pointe was Major Edward H. Mulford, a jewelry dealer from New York. In 1836, Mulford bought 160 acres and improved the land with the Ten-Mile House, a house and tavern which held the territory's first post office and the first court of Cook County.
In 1850 Grosse Pointe was renamed Ridgeville, and this loose conglomeration of land increased its population to 441.
On May 31, 1850, nine devout Methodists gathered with a common vision: to found a university which would be a haven for 'sanctified learning' in the West. They chose a spot just south of Grosse Pointe, and in 1855 Northwestern University opened its doors. The founders, including John Evans, Orrington Lunt, and Andrew Brown, hoped their university would attain high standards of intellectual excellence. Northwestern's founders had a vision not only for a university, but also for the surrounding town of Ridgeville. In 1854 Brown and Evans submitted a plat to the county judge for a new community: plans that included laying out wider streets, adding parks, and renaming the town 'Evanston,' in honor of John Evans which happened on February 15, 1857.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Evanston earned a new nickname as 'the city of homes' because of the many beautiful and architecturally distinguished houses built by affluent residents, many of whom were moving from the congested neighborhoods of Chicago.