Nightmare on Chicago Street draws hundreds, boosts business
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News October 28, 2012 8:02PM
Andrew Ross, of Carpenterville, takes his zombie role seriously as works his way downtown at the Nightmare on Chicago Street Festival on October 27, 2012. The annual Elgin event draws vendors, bands and plenty of zombies. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 30, 2012 6:16AM
Downtown Elgin looked something like a full-scale movie set Saturday night, as the Nightmare on Chicago Street tradition drew hundreds of costumed visitors for a few hours of Halloween-themed entertainment. The occasion also gave downtown businesses like Ravenheart Coffee a boost, said the shop’s owner.
“The city organized this very well,” said Ramos, who attended planning meetings where business owners learned what was in the works. “They talked about the clean up plan, the decoration committee, and invited us to have (an event) here.”
From 6-11 p.m., participating businesses between Douglas and Villa on Chicago Street offered zombie-related activities.
Mainstage entertainment featured the “Hairbangers Ball,” and Zombie Pageant Talent Competition, while Ravenheart Coffee hosted a storyteller from Gail Borden Library and a comedy show. Villa Verone’s entertainment featured Black Bear Combo Band, with the restaurant’s owner Pietro Verone dressed up as a zombie greeting guests from his sidewalk winery.
The City of Elgin decorated some storefronts with “Infected Area” signage and wood window barricades to create a zombie-damaged presence in the downtown, and Artie’s Towing provided a fake accident scene with three vehicles toppled at the intersection of East Chicago and Spring Streets. Admission was $10 per person.
Ramos, an Elgin resident, said there were no fees involved for Ravenheart to host the storyteller, and that the event is beneficial for marketing.
Her sister, Angie Tellez, helped out Saturday night at the store because their 2011 experience with Nightmare on Chicago Street found them understaffed and ill-prepared, Tellez said. With Ravenheart a new business at the time, and then-owned by Tellez’ and Ramos’ late brother, Victor Gonalez, who was hospitalized with cancer, the family business learned how supportive the City of Elgin and Downtown Neighborhood Association were, they said.
“We’re a very family oriented situation and that’s how Elgin is ... they have helped us pull through,” Tellez said, describing the challenges of keeping the small business alive when their brother died.
“Elgin is such a well-run, close-knit community that none of the business owners even have to worry about vandalism with all these people out there,” said Tellez, an Elgin resident.
With a line of patrons, most in costume, stretching from the service counter to the entrance Saturday night, Ramos said the staff was prepared with drink ingredients and manpower this year.
Guests included Briana Flanagan of Crystal Lake who works as a receptionist at Salon Couture, next to Ravenheart. Dressed as Jessie from the movie “Toy Story” in a costume she sewed herself, Flanagan, with friend James Baruffi, dressed as “Woody,” said the event was great for drawing the downtown businesses together.
Tellez agreed and said she took advantage of the increased foot traffic for “grass rooting , to hand out stuff and greet people as they walk by.”
The event sponsors include City of Elgin, ArtSpace, and Grand Victoria Casino.