Despite the snow, neighbors and other friends on the 700 block of N. Grove Ave. in Oak Park continued an annual tradition of playing a game of football in the middle of their street during halftime of the Super Bowl, Sunday, February 6, 2011. Photo by J.Geil.

Did you happen to catch the bright lights of the halftime show last night? No, not that halftime show. The one I’m referring to popped up along the 700 block of N. Grove Ave. While folks at other parties huddled up indoors, revelers of the big game on Grove were enjoying what has become an annual outdoor tradition. A game of their own, illuminated by headlights from a few cars they pull around.

I met Steve Bankes and his neighbors last summer while working on a story about a front patio they commonly meet at. They have forged great friendships while spending time together there. I was immediately charmed by the group. They are good natured, fun people to be around. Each of them interesting in their own ways. And I was inspired by the uncomplicated, yet somehow still unique notion that simply coming outdoors and sitting down can work wonders for becoming a united neighborhood.

Why does it feel like people don’t talk to one another as much these days? Well, this group does and it’s no wonder they have become such a great group of friends and supportive neighbors.

So while working on that story, Bankes mentioned to me how they don’t let a silly thing like winter (or the aftermath of a blizzard) get in the way of staying connected and having fun. He told me about their tradition to play a football game in their street during halftime of the Super Bowl. It caught my attention and I made a note in my calendar. I wasn’t suprised at all to hear Bankes’ response when I called him yesterday.

“Absoultely, we’re playing. The snow will make it even better! Come on by,” he said.

He was even nice enough to find a ladder for me to use so I could get the angle I was looking for.

I have to admit I made one of the ultimate sins of a photojournalist by pre-invisioning what it might look like. I pictured several cars circled around and a game of eight-on-eight or something like that. Instead, it was more like a moshpit of youngsters and adults that didn’t resemble anything you would describe as football. So the images I came up with don’t really make it clear what exactly is going on. I don’t mind that, though. For me, the picture is perfectly Oak Park. Friends and neighbors coming together and having fun.

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