Return of the Living Dead: Elgin bringing back Nightmare on Chicago Street

  • The annual Nightmare on Chicago Street festival in Elgin isn't dead this year after all.

      The annual Nightmare on Chicago Street festival in Elgin isn't dead this year after all. John Starks | Staff Photographer, 2019

Updated 4/28/2022 5:57 AM

Two weeks after being killed by the Elgin City Council, the zombie-fest Nightmare on Chicago Street is back from the dead for 2022.

Following public outcry on social media and many calls and emails to council members from an angry community after canceling the popular Halloween happening, the city decided to put the issue in front of the council for a second time.


Two council members, Corey Dixon and Steve Thoren, expressed a change of heart, and a motion to hold the event this year passed 6-2. The vote was met by applause from a large crowd in the council chamber.

Council members Rose Martinez and Toby Shaw cast the two no votes. Mayor David Kaptain was out again this week as he recovers from knee surgery.

"We gotta be willing to take some risks," said council member Tish Powell. "I know that we can put on an event that will make us proud and will keep people coming back here."

Those risks include a shortened planning timeline, uncertainty about the pandemic, a general shortage of volunteers and an estimated cost of $512,000, a 51% increase over the last time they held the event in 2019.

Elgin Special Events Coordinator Kate O'Leary, who recommended canceling the event for this year at the last meeting, said nothing has changed to mitigate any of that risk, but that she and the committee responsible for the event are up to the challenge.

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"I do think that a lot of the passion (for the event) is what's driving the vote tonight, which is very exciting," she said. "It's a really, really good and accurate representation of Elgin that even in the face of all these risks we do have, there's still so much love and excitement behind this that enough people showed up tonight to want to go forward with it."

A parade of local business owners reinforced that passion, voicing their support during public comment. The owners of Elgin Public House, Red Poppy Bistro, the Martini Room, Vern's Tavern and Cook's Sweet Boutique were among those who expressed their support, and need, for the event.

"The economic impact for that day is phenomenal, but it's not only that day," said Greg Shannon of EPH. "It's that week, that month, it's the people you meet downstate who say 'Oh Elgin, that's the place that does that Halloween thing.

"That's the kind of impact that we need for this city."

An initial motion to reconsider the event with a hard budget of $500,000 was quickly amended to remove the cap after O'Leary said last minute expenses would make capping the event difficult.


"I will do everything in my power to keep it under the budget," she said.

Council member Dustin Good, who voted for the event both times, said he didn't discount the concerns of the people who were opposed to holding the event this year and acknowledged the financial risks. But he said he was gambling on the people who produce Nightmare to come through.

"The downtown needs it, the businesses need it, the people need it," Good said.


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