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updated: 8/11/2012 12:42 PM

Arlington Heights Mane Event off to a busy start

Arlington Heights Mane Event off to busy start

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  • Thousands of people attend Arlington Heights celebration of the Arlington Million on Friday.

      Thousands of people attend Arlington Heights celebration of the Arlington Million on Friday.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald Correspondent

Is there such thing as cabin fever -- in the summer?

Arlington Heights residents sure thought so, as thousands turned out for the Mane Event on Friday, the traditional block party that celebrates the end of summer and the upcoming Arlington Million.

"I like being outside -- and not sweating," said Jim Szymczak of Arlington Heights.

Within the first few hours, about 10,000 people had flooded the downtown intersection at Vail Avenue and Campbell Street, where police had blocked off four streets, Arlington Heights Fire Department officials estimated.

"I love being able to be outside and seeing your neighbors," Kathy Supplitt of Arlington Heights said.

"You can't walk two steps without knowing someone. It's great."

Families in attendance perused the business expo, sponsored by the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. In all, 81 booths lined the streets, including local businesses and 23 restaurants offering entrees that went beyond picnic fare.

Giveaways, balloon art, inflatables and small trains entertained the kids

Adult patrons waited in lines for frozen margaritas from Salsa 17, as well as spinach cappelacci or shrimp scampi from Francesca's Tavola or pad thai from Bangkok Cafe.

More traditional offerings also hit the spot, including beef sandwiches from Fausto's Italian Kitchen, hamburgers from Harry's and grilled corn on the cob from the Arlington Heights Lions Club.

The opening band, Billy Elton, played a mix of Billy Joel and Elton John cover songs -- from "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" to "Piano Man" -- ramping up the party atmosphere of the evening.

By the time the featured band came on, 16 Candles, the crowd had changed from families to adults. They traveled back to the 1980s, playing popular standards, starting with "I Ran," the 1982 hit by A Flock of Seagulls.

Officials from one of the event's sponsors, Arlington Park, came on to plug the Arlington Million. The 30th annual International Festival of Racing, and the nation's first million-dollar horse race, takes place Aug. 18.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful week, and the whole world is watching"said Richard Duchossois, chairman of Arlington Park.

The party continues from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, when the same 23 restaurants return for the Taste of Arlington Heights, offering the chance to sample a variety of food styles and cultures from around the village.

A highlight of the day will be live music and performances from the Final Five acts competing in Suburban Chicago's Got Talent. The winner will be named at 6 p.m., before the bands He Said, She Said and 7th Heaven take the party into the night.

The celebration moves to Arlington Park on Sunday for Community Appreciation Day. Residents can get four free tickets for Sunday's events at Arlington Park by going to the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce website,

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