Nightmare on Chicago Street turns Elgin into an apocalyptic scenario
Ask Andrew Ross of Carpentersville what he was doing Saturday night, and he'll tell you he was in downtown Elgin, following people with a demented, mad smile on his face while clutching a metal chain, ready to strangle his victims.
All in good fun, of course.
Ross was among more than 200 volunteers cast as street entertainment during Nightmare on Chicago Street, Elgin's staple festival and biggest attraction of the year. The event turned several downtown blocks into an apocalyptic scenario -- overturned burned out cars, army medics carrying a screaming zombie strapped to gurneys, plastic barrels overflowing with human guts, quarantined mad doctors drinking blood out of human hearts.
"This is a lot of fun. I love scaring people." Ross said. "But I don't like to scare little kids."
Nightmare, now in its seventh year, offered live music, food and bazaar vendors as thousands dressed in all manner of Halloween ghoulishness roamed the streets. The first event drew about 3,500 people; over the years the festival has swelled to more than 15,000 attendees, and Saturday's promised to be just as large, with lines around the block when gates opened at 6 p.m.
People's outfits ranged from simple to head-turning elaborate.
Rich Kenney of Streamwood made his own "plastic Army man" costume by dyeing an Army outfit bright green and completing the look with unmistakable "pod feet" and real -- but unloaded -- hand grenades hanging from his belt.
Marisol Torres of Elgin put together leggings and a black corset, dyed her hair and did her own spiderweb make up to come with her own version of a zombie. Her husband, Jose, wore his own regular clothes, joking he'd dressed up as a "middle-aged drunk guy."
Coleen Nelson of Elgin came with her husband, daughter and two friends, and all were dressed up like "creatures of the forest" dripping with moss, branches and leaves. They started making their costumes two months ago and used fabric including lace from a wedding dress, Nelson said.
"The rule is, we have to make everything ourselves," she said.
Her friend Andy Melchior of Geneva said they would never miss their yearly nightmarish appointment in Elgin. "We're always telling every year more and more people about it," he said. "This is the best $15 you will ever spend."
The event is a boon for local business owners like Patricia Jamin, who created a "zombie bar" inside Al's Café and Creamery with offerings like "toxic tea," "flesh eater" and "the corpse."
"It's such an amazing event for downtown Elgin," she said. "The city does an amazing job. It's a colossal undertaking. We still don't know how they do it, but we really appreciate it."