For the fifth year in a row, the Mainstreet Redevelopment Association will be hosting a Progressive Dinner on Madison Street on July 17, beginning at 4 p.m.
As in years past, the dinner will feature a plethora of food choices from the best restaurants in town. This year, however, the dinner has been combined with Arts al Fresco, featuring groups of visual and musical artists.
“We have approximately 20 artists who will be doing chalk art on the street during the event,” explained coordinator Dorothy Gillian. “They will start by 2 p.m., work[ing] on the sidewalk and creat[ing] some form of art as participants show up for registration at 4 p.m. and dinner at 5 p.m. As [participants are] milling around and walking from restaurant to restaurant, they will have a chance to view the art.”
Thus far, six street entertainers will also be featured at the event, including the Three Penny Opera, which will be the first act, starting at 7:30 p.m. and the Summer Kwai Trio, a jazz group that will be the featured performers of the evening, beginning at 8 p.m.
As for the dinner itself, Gillian explains that it is based on the traditional neighborhood progressive dinner concept.
“You would come to my house for appetizers and then go to the next neighbor’s house for soup [and so forth],” Gillian explained. “As Forest Park was getting more and more wonderful restaurants, we thought we could adapt this idea to our downtown. Each year the event has grown a little bit; we started with 300 people and six restaurants the first year.”
This year, participants will be receiving appetizers, soups and salads, and main course options from 15 restaurants along Madison Street. Of these, 11 will be providing full dinners.
A participant in the dinner will begin on one end of the street, starting with the appetizer portion, Gillian explained.
“I believe we have 40 minutes set up for our appetizer portion and 20 minutes to move down the street where they will receive soup and salad. That is 40 minutes and then they have 20 minutes in between and go to their next selection for dinner,” she said.
Once the dinner portion is complete, all participants will join up at the Forest Park National Bank parking lot, where they will be served dessert.
“We have at least five varieties of dessert. Plus Famous Liquors comes down for a selection of dessert wines,” Gillian said.
Not all participants will visit every restaurant and, while the participants get to choose their appetizer and soup and salad selections, their dinner selections will be assigned.
The event is a fundraiser for the Mainstreet Redevelopment Association, but also functions as an advertising tool for the restaurants and retailers on Madison Street, Gillian said.
“Participants are only going to sample three of 11 restaurants, but when we bring that whole group together that gives the people a chance to talk about the restaurants,” she said. “[Each restaurant] should potentially have 120 people through their restaurant in the evening with the idea that 460 people could possibly hear about it from participants.”
In order to bring out the maximum number of participants, Gillian said, this year Mainstreet has looked beyond the traditional tri-town area, advertising in Chicago periodicals, as well as in town.
Currently there are 50-75 participants signed up, Gillian said, but the capacity is 460. The cost for the Progressive Dinner is $35 for a Mainstreet member and $40 for a non-member.
Anyone interested in signing up for the event or joining the association can go to website, www.forestparkmainstreet.org.