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Family Friendly Activities

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From yearly events to special concerts, there is always something going on in Evanston. Mark your calendar for one of the well-known annual festivals, attend a performance at Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium or visit one of several museums in the area—there is more to do in this city than there is free time to do it!

The City of Evanston’s Cultural Arts Division manages two of the most popular events here: the Ethnic Arts Festival and the Lakeshore Arts Festival. The Ethnic Arts Festival began in 1986 and takes place every July in Dawes Park. Live music, dance and art and craft work characterize the festival, and many different cultures are represented. The Lakeshore Arts Festival dates all the way back to 1973 and it takes place the first weekend in August each year. Also held at Dawes Park on the lakefront, the festival includes a silent auction, food, a family activity area and jazz and classical music in addition to the art that is featured. Serious music fans should make time to drop in for a listen at one of the performances during the Starlight Concert Series. The 2007 series featured 15 concerts at four different sites—all at no cost to the public. Musical artists ranged from the Reggae Cowboys to the sounds of Hot 8 Brass Band with their own unique brand of jazz.

Each summer the City of Evanston’s Human Relations Commission co-sponsors a community picnic with the Evanston Police Department. Another fun (and free) seasonal offering is the EVMark Summer Dance Series, where downtown Evanston is turned into a dance hall for a handful of entertaining evenings. The night starts out with a dance lesson, followed by some time for “open dance,” socializing and general fun.

Every October the city holds “Arts Week Evanston,” an event that has a wide variety of offerings for residents and visitors alike. Local arts organizations such as the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, the Evanston Arts Center and the West Side Arts District studios join in with classes, demonstrations and discussions that take place along with music and dance performances. Another long-standing arts fair is the Fountain Square Art Festival, which is held in the downtown area and features a large selection of juried artists.

The arts are also celebrated at the unique “Evanston Arts Depot,” which, as its name implies, is housed in a historic train station building. This venue is home to the Piccolo Theatre Company, in addition to putting on the largest arts and crafts show in the area with over 60,000 attendees. The event is titled “Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts,” but insiders know it simply as the “Custer Fair.”

Theatre is also plentiful in Evanston, and the Noyes Cultural Center is home to Piven Theatre Workshop, Next Theatre Company and Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. The Evanston Children’s Theatre performs at the Levy Senior Center.

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The winter holiday season draws a crowd for the annual production of Nutcracker on Ice at the Robert Crown Community Center & Ice Complex. Many residents also look forward to the annual “First Night Evanston” celebration—in its 15th season of ringing in the New Year in the 2007-08 season with over 70 performances in over 14 venues throughout the city. The event traditionally runs from 4pm to midnight on New Year’s Eve and is open to all ages. First Night features an enormous selection of music and other events and the finale is a brilliant lakefront fireworks display held at midnight.

Evanston is truly remarkable in the amount of culture and entertainment it offers to both its residents and the surrounding area. From summer art fairs to traditional winter shows and celebrations, the city is a great place to experience a wide variety of wonderful things—one can bet on having a great time at any time of year!

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