Eileen Madden was a little embarrassed that I dropped in.
“We’re sort of like deer in the headlights here,” she said, swiping her red tendrils off her face as she hung signs in the window. “This event keeps evolving. We didn’t know it would get this big.”
I felt a little guilty just dropping in as I did, but I couldn’t help it. I was doing my usual drop-the-kids-at-Washington-then-head-to-the-Dunkin’ Donuts-drive-thru at Evanston Plaza last week when the colorful signage caught my eye. I pulled my car into one of hundreds of empty spaces and walked into the building formerly known as China Buffet. Inside, I found Madden (co-owner of Evanston Print and Paper) hanging signs meant to attract residents to the Makin’ It Happen In The West Village Festival scheduled for May 20 and 21 at the corner of Dodge and Dempster.
Madden was happy to answer my questions. She explained the signs were painted by teenage children of event organizers, and that she’s gained quite an education on community organization.
“This has become so much bigger than what we originally expected,” she said with a smile. And then she said two words I’d never heard in Evanston: Fire performers.
“What?!” I asked.
“And,” she smiled, smoothing the butcher paper, “the fire performers are neighborhood residents.”
Seriously? Of course they are. This is Evanston. And, that’s just awesome.
THIS is what I love about Evanston: when something needs to happen, residents act. While the West Village neighborhood struggles as a result of economic woes and violence, residents and business owners rally. They embrace the good. They celebrate the positive and try to move forward in a productive, meaningful way. That, to me, is Evanston. Let the complainers complain, and let the true Evanstonians take action.
Jill King-Wynn of Artists Seeds (A Studio Workshop at 1402-1/2 Greenleaf) says, “There are several wonderful little gems/businesses around town that are serving our community in very creative and thoughtful ways. Come see what the West Village Arts community has to offer at the Makin’ It Festival May 20 and 21.”
I’m looking forward to the celebration, and I’m hoping for good weather and a great turnout for this grassroots effort.