Marion Street was bustling for our second Thursday Night Out of the season.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Downtown Oak Park (DTOP) will not be hosting its usual summer and fall events for safety reasons. 

“It’s just not in the best interest of the community to have large events,” said DTOP Executive Director Shanon Williams. “And there’s really no way for us to monitor how many people are coming and going.”

DTOP’s events, including its French art fair in August and its wine festival in June, draw huge crowds of people, providing an ideal breeding ground for the COVID-19 virus, which continues to be very much a problem even as vaccination has become more widely available.

“We have to be very, very careful,” said Williams. “First and foremost is keeping the community safe and being cautious as we move forward.” 

Being careful means no Oktoberfest celebration this September, so don’t plan on breaking out the lederhosen and dirndl. DTOP’s Oktoberfest takes anywhere from six to nine months to plan, according to Williams.

Cancelation of the summer and fall events may not come as a surprise, considering that none of DTOP’s spring events went forward this year, such as March’s popular jazz festival. Called “Jazz Thaw,” participants are treated to live jazz performances inside 13 Oak Park restaurants. 

“Hopefully in 2022, we can do a two-day jazz fest in March,” said Williams.

There is a silver lining to the situation though. DTOP is working on a scaled down version for its summer Thursday Night Out program, a popular dining series that runs June through August.

“I just talked to the village and we’re looking good to go ahead with it, but it’ll be very scaled down,” said Williams. 

Williams expects Thursday Night Out to begin June 10 this year. In the past, 500 to 800 people showed up on each Thursday, according to Williams.

“There is no way we can do it again like that,” she said.

How the event will look this year in comparison to previous years hasn’t quite been determined yet. Don’t expect live music though.

“I think we probably will not have entertainment, right off the bat,” said Williams. “People like to crowd around when we have a band or music.”

At least not any stationary entertainment. Williams told Wednesday Journal she plans to look into opportunities for roving musical performances, which could present a nice opportunity for solo acts or buskers.

Williams thinks it unlikely that there will be tents selling alcoholic beverages during this year’s Thursday Night Out series either. Marion Street will still be closed to allow for outdoor dining.

Despite imposing restrictions to keep the event safe, Williams believes people will be glad that it’s going forward.

“I think the community will be really excited to have it back, even in a limited capacity.”

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