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Aldermen back more special events

An aldermen put a portable stage on his wish list Monday night as the Evanston City Council contemplated increasing the number of special events held each year in the city.

An aldermen put a portable stage on his wish list Monday night as the Evanston City Council contemplated increasing the number of special events held each year in the city.

A Wenger Corporation Showmobile stage.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said the stage would improve the view for people attending the city’s Starlight Concerts — which now are staged on a set of low risers.

And Jean-Baptiste envisioned using it for big concerts at James Park, as well as at existing festivals for which the city now rents a portable stage.

He suggested there’s probably enough demand for it to recover the purchase cost quickly, and noted that neighboring Skokie already has one.

Parks chief Doug Gaynor said that when he priced the Wenger Corporation units a few years ago, they cost about $85,000. He said the rental fee for the stage the city uses for the Ethnic Arts and Lakeshore Arts festivals is about $5,000 for each event.

But Gaynor was doubtful about Jean-Baptiste’s idea for large-scale concerts in James Park — saying there’s not enough parking, and that cars and people attending a concert would damage the sprinkler system used to keep the park’s playing fields in shape for the amateur sports teams that use them regularly.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested that the parking problem could be solved by partnering with the high school to let concert-goers park at the school and then take shuttle buses to the concert at the park.setting up shuttle buses. "We have to learn how to be creative about parking," she said.

And Jean-Baptiste said he doubted that people walking on the grass would do any more damage than athletes playing games wearing cleats.

The aldermen also brainstormed about other new events and changes to existing ones including:

  • Encouraging Northwestern University to move its homecoming parade from Sheridan Road to downtown Evanston to draw a bigger community audience.
  • Working with the university to hold more summer entertainment events that would draw community residents to the campus.
  • Working with the Ridgeville Park district to add more events.
  • Developing a special event in the Howard Street area in south Evanston.
  • Considering new events at Lovelace Park in northwest Evanston and additional events in parks along the North Shore Channel.
  • Creating more "in motion" events like races and bike rides that would promote exercise.

The push for more special events is driven in part by a desire among aldermen to use them to stimulate more economic activity in the community by generating more traffic for local businesses and persuading more visitors that Evanston’s a good place for them to live, work and shop.

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