A helicopter will fly over James Park in Evanston around 11 a.m. on Friday and drop thousands of marshmallows that kids will be invited to collect and turn in for prizes.

What city officials hope will become an Easter weekend holiday tradition here is an idea that Evanston Parks Director Lawrence Hemingway brought with him from his former job as head of parks for Wayne County, Michigan.

The helicopter dropping marshmallows at an Oakland County, Michigan, event in 2010.

The marshmallow drop concept has become a popular one in the Detroit metro area and has also been tried in communities in Florida.

Hemingway provided details of the plans in a video produced by the city.

YouTube video

Dropping anything from a helicopter, though, can’t help but bring to mind a classic tale of holiday hoopla gone horribly wrong — the Thanksgiving Turkey Drop in the 1970s TV series WKRP in Cincinnati.

YouTube video

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why?
    Why does the City of Evanston feel it necessary to waste whatever the cost is for doing this? I don’t care if it is a couple of hundred dollars, or thousands of dollars, or tens of thousands. It’s a waste of money, and another example of the city manager wasting tax payer dollars. We don’t need a “NEW” Easter tradition, especially one as lame as this. What’s the relationship between the company hired to fly in the marshmallows and Mr. Hemmingway?

  2. Such a waste
    This seems like a massive waste of tax money. The money could be better spent cleaning up the litter that is all over James Park all the time, or cleaning the bathrooms with enough frequency so that they aren’t disgusting most of the time. The state of our parks and facilities indicates to me that the money spent on this, from staff time to putting fuel in a helicopter, would have been better spent elsewhere. I guess this is an Easter based “bah humbug”, but my family and I spend a lot of time at James Park and I find this particularly frustrating.

  3. Money?
    And they are spending how many thousands of $$ to have a helicopter drop marshmallows? And the city budget shortfall is how many MILLIONS of $$? This is a good use of tax payer money?? I don’t think so! Cut the shortfall first.

  4. Is this for real?
    This is one of the most absurd things I have ever read. It’s so absurd it’s borderline offensive to anyone with a rational mind.

    This not only seems dangerous (to both kids and pets alike), but also seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better spent on something more essential. I’m shocked this is allowed to happen given Evanston’s precarious budget situation.

    Huge thumbs down to Evanston Parks Director James Hemingway and whoever else allowed this.

    1. Marshmallow drop budget

      Hi Honest,,

      Hemingway tells me the budget for the marshmallow drop (not including staff time) is $4,420.

      That includes $1,000 for the helicopter and around $500 for the marshmallows and cornstarch, with most of the rest for prizes and gifts for participating kids.

      Won’t know how much that works out to per child until after the event is over.

      — Bill

      1. Thanks Bill
        Thanks for the budget info. Staff time is a big component of why this is particularly wasteful. The time spent planning, coordinating logistics, having staff on-site for the event, staff cleaning up the marshmallows is a significant cost and should be included in the budget.

    1. This is a great idea!
      Events like this, which are free and held out in our beautiful park space, which are celebratory and fun, which are inclusive, are what make Evanston the awesome, vibrant, diverse city we all should be happy to call home. Thanks go to Mr. Hemingway and all who worked hard to plan this event. I know my kids and I are excited to participate. We happily invited friends of various faiths and cultural backgrounds to participate.

      1. It is not free.
        This is not free as Bill reported. We are all paying for it, because Mr. Hemingway personally decided that. The city council did not vote on this expenditure. I would be perfectly happy if Hemingway would pay for it out of his own pocket. Maybe you can split the cost with him. You have $2,500 to kick in?

        1. Actually

          Since the expense was under $20,000 it didn’t require City Council approval as a contract. But it was approved as a special event by the Human Services Committee on March 5 and reviewed and approved by the full City Council on March 12. And it was also discussed at the March 19 City Council meeting. The helicopter rental was approved by the Council on the Feb. 26 bills list.

          — Bill

          1. Helicopter

            Did you just say that the helicopter expense was approved before the event was approved?


          2. Yep
            Perhaps there was a need to reserve the chopper well ahead of time?
            — Bill

      2. Not Proud Taxpayer
        Proud taxpayer, this event isn’t truly ‘free’, but I’m sure you believe it is ‘equitable’

        No wonder homeowners continue to strongly consider leaving Evanston.

      3. I don’t have children, I didn

        I don’t have children, I didn’t attend the marshmallow drop, and guess what? I’m still glad it happened, I’m still glad the city supported it, and I’m glad it was well attended. Sorry, I just don’t want to live in the cold loner Libertarian fantasy that so many of the other commenters seem to crave. 

      1. Les
        That’s good that he didn’t show up…he probably would have thought that marshmalllows could fly!!!!! LOL

    1. One of two funniest TV episodes
      That and ‘Chuckles the Clown’ on Mary Tyler Moore were probably the two funniest on TV.

  5. Lovely idea for Easter
    This is such a wonderful idea for an Easter celebration that everyone in Evanston can participate in for free! It’s so great to have an inclusive public event to celebrate the spring holiday! Things like this are why I love Evanston.

    1. No reports

      I didn’t encounter any goose poop walking around the park during the event. Apparently pre-event clean-up efforts had been successful.

      Also didn’t see any kids eating the marshmallows … although there were too many kids there to know about that for sure.

      — Bill

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