There was no rain at Friday night's Mane Event in Arlington Heights, but it turned out to be the perfect storm.
The combination of a cool summer evening, with blocked off streets, more than 25 restaurants and the popular cover band, Mike and Joe playing, all added up to a jam packed street festival to kick off Million Week in Arlington Heights.
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Saturday's Taste of Arlington schedule10 a.m. Color Blast 5K. Runners are doused with brightly colored cornstarch, resulting in a tie-dyed finish line celebration.
Noon-11 p.m. Fest open.
2:30 p.m. Top 10 Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists perform, Main Stage.
6:30 p.m. Friction, rock & roll cover band, Main Stage.
8:30 p.m. 7th Heaven, rock cover band, Main Stage.
"You can plan and organize these things, but when you have a perfect night like this, it really helps," said Jon Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, which had 78 vendors participate in a business expo.
Arlington Heights police estimated that 7,000 people were on hand before the band took the stage, and they expected to exceed 10,000 through their two-hour set.
"We had to close the Vail Street garage," said Sgt. Rick Boyle. "That's a lot of people."
Families sampled the restaurant booths early in the night and found a smorgasbord of specialties. They ranged from ribs from Birch River Grill, to meatball sandwiches from Piatti Pronti and pot stickers from Ttowa Korean Bistro.
One restaurant, Circa 57, hasn't opened yet, but it drew interest from prospective patrons with its chicken skewers dipped in waffle batter and grilled and then topped with a maple bourbon syrup.
"That's what so cool about this, is the diversity of the restaurants," said Lynn Ward of Arlington Heights.
The Mane Event now is in its 14th year, having launched in 2000 as a way to build excitement for the Arlington Million.
Originally, it was held the day before the horse race, but this year, the two-day festival -- including the Mane Event and the Taste of Arlington on Saturday -- kicks off a week of community events.
Tony Petrillo, general manager of Arlington Park, encouraged the crowd to support the community events, including the 85 Bears Blood Drive, happening Sunday at the track, but to be sure and come out for the Million itself.
"It's the largest contingent of international horses other than the Breeders' Cup," Petrillo said.
Residents who came out for Friday's event said they get to see their neighbors and friends.
"It's great, seeing the togetherness of the community," said Fred Roland of Arlington Heights, with his 7-year old granddaughter, Brenna.
Mike and Sue Abramson of Arlington Heights added that they had come back early from their vacation just to attend.
"You see everybody you know," added Nancy Mueller of Arlington Heights.
Organizers promise just as much fun on Saturday, though with a slightly different layout. The Taste takes place from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, at the intersection of Campbell Street and Vail Avenue, where large tents with tables will allow patrons to enjoy their restaurant samplings while sitting.
A full day of music accompanies the food selections, starting with the Top 10 finalists from this year's Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition performing, and the winner to be announced live, and 7th Heaven headlining the stage that night.