Pedestrianizing Southport for Trick-or-Treaters Is a Frightfully Good Idea

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This year, cars won’t be draggin’ down the Halloween fun on Southport. Photo: Tag Buzzard via Flickr

Tired of cars gobblin’ up all the right-of-way when there should be more space for pedestrians? Take your little witches and werewolves down to the annual Trick or Treat on Southport, organized by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce.

This free, annual community event takes place this Sunday, October 26, from 1-4 p.m. on Southport, from Belmont to Irving Park. Big turnouts in recent years had crowds overflowing the sidewalks. In response, this year’s candy-fest will include a few blocks of street closures, create a safer environment for the throngs of costumed kids.

For the last few years, the chamber has pedestrianized a block of Southport between Grace and Byron to hold a Pumpkin Party during the trick or treating event, with a bouncy house and other activities. “It was a place where kids could go after trick or treating to run off the sugar,” explained Heather Way Kitzes, director of the chamber.

This year, the car-free area will be expanded to include sections of Southport from Roscoe to Addison, and from Waveland to Grace. That’s three out of the four blocks between the Southport Brown Line station and Grace. “The number-one comment we’ve gotten year after year is that the sidewalk congestion was creating an unsafe condition for pedestrians, so we decided to try this out,” Kitzes said. She expects that between 3,000 and 5,000 families will participate.

The permits and barricades for pedestrianizing the street will cost the chamber $3,000. However, the city is sending police officers to direct traffic at no additional charge, and is not requiring the chamber to pay for traffic aides. While a few merchants have grumbled about these blocks being made car-free, Kitzes said the vast majority of businesses supported the idea. The change will affect deliveries to a bakery, and a car wash will close for the afternoon.

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Crowds overflowing the sidewalk during Southport trick-or-treating. Photo: Lee Crandell

“But, honestly, there was so much congestion because of large numbers of pedestrians crossing the street, no one was getting anywhere anyway, and people were at risk,” Kitzes said. She noted that it’s especially tricky for kids to safely navigate in costumes and masks.

Due to the extra expenses, the chamber won’t be holding the Pumpkin Party this year, but there are a gaggle of other activities to keep your little monsters out of trouble. There will be two Smile Booth stations for taking family portraits with a pumpkin patch background. Merry Music Makers is holding a kids’ drum circle.

Performers from A Spoonful of Magic will be there, dressed as characters from the hit children’s movie “Frozen.” Local yoga instructor Cindy Houston will be leading kids in a hula-hooping circle, and students from the Little Gym will be doing a gymnastics demo.

Kitzes said the decision to make these blocks car-free for trick or treating was not influenced by the chamber’s successful Sunday Play Spot series, since the two programs were planned around the same time. The Play Spot events pedestrianized Lincoln between School and Roscoe on four Sundays in September for active games, crafts, picnicking, an art installation, bike riding, and live performances.

Kitzes estimates three or four thousand people participated in the Play Spot program, with attendance building each week. Some 500 families showed up for a “Frozen”-themed parade alone. Does the chamber plan to do the Play Spot series next year? “Oh yeah!” she said.

  • Alicia

    1-4 PM only? Half the fun of Halloween is being out at night.

  • what_eva

    It’s not on Halloween, it’s Sunday the 26th. The Southport businesses always do this even the weekend before Halloween

  • Compared to the number of “trunk and treat” events out here in the suburbs where everyone drives to a parking lot so kids can exchange candy… I’d rather do this.

  • David Altenburg

    Trunk-or-treating is, for a community, the equivalent of a 103º fever.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    But do you understand that it is the Lakeview Chamber businesses, many not located on Southport and the Southport businesses themselves that pay for this event?

    Yes, there is promotion value, but businesses do things thoughout the year and budget for it.

    Its easy to armchair quarterback, but not all communities are the same and for some people who want a Halloween exprience for their kids the trunk or treat meets their needs.

    By the way, I was passing thru the area on Addison yesterday and there were people parking and taking kids out of their cars in costume. So whats the difference.

    Not all “communities” have the resouces or the support of a chamber willing to do an event like the one on Southport. So what you you would really rather have depends upon businesses willing to pitch in and pick up the tab.

  • David Altenburg

    What are you talking about? Since when does trick-or-treating require a Chamber of Commerce? All that’s required is neighbors who want to see each other’s kids having a good time and who are willing and able to create a safe environment for that. I understand that not all communities have that. I’m stating that when they don’t, it’s a symptom that the community is not a healthy one.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I would respectfully disagree. Communities take people willing to organize and pay for events like this. For everyone else, they still have tricks and treats, however it is not formulated into an organized event. Business areas that are rich in resources and willing members committed to putting on these events may be more “healthy” but ones that don’t aren’t necessarily less healthy. They just do things differently.

    To look down your nose and pronounce other communities as not healthy for not having the resources other communities do is very sad.

    As someone who has done block club work and sat on various committees in my neighborhood, the people who volunteer and spend their time making things better takes a lot of personal time and resources. And most people enjoying these events have great times but little understanding how these events even come to happen. And when you do outreach to your neighbors asking them to come help or volunteer there is often few people willing to step up.

    The community benefits, but behind the scenes there are many people doing a hundred thankless tasks.

  • David Altenburg

    I really have no idea what you are talking about. Trunk-or-treating requires *more* resources and organization than trick-or-treating and is far more exclusionary (I think that exclusion is kind of the point of trunk-or-treating). You really seem to think I’m saying something I’m not.

    I’m certainly not saying every neighborhood should have some organized thing like on Southport. Mine certainly does not, and I think old-fashioned go-to-the-neighbors trick-or-treating is the best kind!

  • Alicia

    True. Saying “trick-or-treating” would have been more precise.

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