It's one of the biggest block parties of the summer -- drawing more than 10,000 people -- but local residents found more than picnic fare Friday night at the Mane Event in Arlington Heights.
"It's all about the food," said Andrea McDonnell of Arlington Heights after polishing off a pulled pork sandwich from the Rack House Kitchen and Tavern.
A total of 24 local restaurants set up booths that lined Vail Avenue and Campbell Street in downtown Arlington Heights to provide the thousands of people on hand with an eclectic array of choices.
Entrees ranged from signature sushi rolls from Bistro Chin to steak tacos from Salsa 17 to jambalaya from Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant, all in Arlington Heights. Gourmet cupcakes from Sweet T's Bakery and Cake Studio completed the feast.
Chris and Maureen Durack of Arlington Heights were thrilled to sample menu items from Ditka's Restaurant, which opened in April at Arlington Trackside. They ultimately settled on a "locker room cheeseburger" and a martini from Elegant Cuisine.
"Where else can you eat like this -- in the street," Maureen Durack said.
In all, there were more than 80 booths that filled the streets, offering giveaways and information about businesses alongside balloon artists, face painting and pony rides for children.
"It's a wonderful night, when people get to see their neighbors and just enjoy being with the community," said Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes. "A night like this really reflects the quality of life we enjoy here."
While family activities drew much of the early crowd, the event's main stage entertainment catered to adult visitors. Pamela Rose and Windy City Country opened before Mike & Joe, a regional cover band, took the stage.
The party continues from noon to 11 p.m. today, when the same restaurants return for the Taste of Arlington Heights.
Both parties serve as a kickoff to the International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park and the Arlington Million on Aug. 16.
New to the Taste this year is a classic car show this morning in the open lot on Campbell Street across from Runners High 'n' Tri. Members of the nonprofit organization Arlington Cares are sponsoring the event.
A highlight today will be performances from the 10 finalists of this summer's Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition. They will begin taking the stage at 3:30 p.m., leading up to the winner and Fan Favorite being named.
This evening, the main stage will feature a pair of party bands: Exit 147, which plays hits from the 1960s through today, and Centerfold, which plays covers from Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi and Carrie Underwood, to name a few.