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‘Open Boulevard’ series debuts in Logan Square

The “Open Boulevards” series will continue into October, with two additional events — one on Independence and Douglas Boulevards and another on Drexel Boulevard — in the works.

People walk up and down Logan Boulevard in Logan Square Sunday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A popular road in Logan Square was flooded with people — not cars — Sunday for the first of several street festivals along the city’s historic boulevards.

People mingled with friends and neighbors and stopped at various vendors and tents along Logan Boulevard for the debut of “Open Boulevard,” a series of three-day-long street fests that will include pop-up performances, food and other activities hosted by local businesses within the community.

Ira Cox, of Logan Square, brought his two kids to Palmer Square Park where they took turns walking a tightrope that was set up by Aloft Circus Arts, a performance arts school in the neighborhood. But for Cox, who admittedly was having trouble getting his footing, it was good enough to just be outside on a beautiful day.

“Being in the city, it feels like you just have human contact all the time. But when everyone’s kind of avoiding each other, it’s really isolating,” he said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic’s toll. “This is spectacular at this point in history to have good outdoor community stuff coming back.”

Shayna Swanson, Aloft’s owner, noted that she’s been living in Berlin, Germany, where “this type of open streets concept is really common.”

“I’m really into the idea of creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment, especially in Logan Square,” Swanson said. “Because there’s so much great stuff in Logan Square, but I’ve noticed when I come here that no one’s out walking around. I’m like, does anyone live in the city?

“It is really weird because Chicago in the summer is so beautiful. So I think anything like this to encourage people to get out and walk around and be with their neighbors and form community, I’ll get all behind it.”

Bobby and Laura Irons were taking a stroll through their neighborhood before helping their daughter, Edie, set up a lemonade stand. Her past forays into the lemonade business have been so successful they’ve created “an unrealistic expectation of what work is for this child,” her father said jokingly.

As Edie enjoyed a fresh mango from the farmer’s market, her mother said she wishes the city would close off the streets more often.

“This is a cool extension,” she said. “We don’t do a lot of things for obvious reasons. We’re pretty cautious because she’s in school. So being able to be outside and do stuff, I hope they keep it up before the weather turns.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the Open Boulevard series in a news release Thursday with CDOT and DCASE, saying, in part, “... ‘Open Boulevards’ will allow us to take advantage of these wonderful neighborhood assets through several activations, as well as continue the revitalization efforts that came with the launch of our ‘Open Chicago’ and ‘Open Streets’ initiatives.”

The “Open Boulevards” series will continue into October, with two additional events — one on Independence and Douglas Boulevards and another on Drexel Boulevard — in the works. More details on that will be available soon.