It’s a family affair: Hundreds attend event at city library

Diana Xin

Although it may surprise college students, children and parents do exist in Evanston. About 400 of them flooded the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Friday evening for its eleventh annual Family Night, a free event where adults and children enjoyed performances by a storyteller, a magician, and the Evanston Dance Ensemble.

At the entrance, families were given a schedule. Children could drop their names in a raffle for free books, and their parents were encouraged to apply for membership to the Evanston Library Friends.

Kim Hoopingarner, president of the Friends, said Family Night is one of the biggest annual Friends-sponsored events.

“It’s a way to get people into the library and to build awareness for the Friends of the Library,” she said as she manned the membership desk.

In the Children’s Room, storyteller Chris Fascione gave an interactive reading of the picture book “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub,” allowing children to make sound effects and act out characters.

Upstairs, magician Dennis DeBondt served up a dish of comedic magic that appealed to all ages.

“The kids are laughing at one thing, and the adults at something else,” the Second City employee said of his show.

The Evanston Dance Ensemble gave a preview of their upcoming show, a ballet based on “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Children gaped at the elaborate props and the costumes ranging from schoolboy sweater vests to cotton-tufted wolf suits.

According the company’s director, Bea Rashid, the production is an original attempt at interpreting C.S. Lewis’ popular novel through dance. The full performance will be staged in December to coincide with Hollywood’s new movie adaptation.

Rashid, Communication ’78, also expects to hold recitals at Northwestern’s Louis Theater.

All three of the Family Night programs advertised books that could be found in the library or promoted reading.

The event also brought families and the Evanston community together, said Neal Ney, director of the library.

“We’re a family place,” he said. “We’re just trying to give a chance for children and parents to use the library together.”

Elizabeth Rayse, who has lived in Evanston for five years, said it was nice to see people from all over the city, not only her children’s school district.

The event also helped change some children’s conception of libraries.

“I think it lets them see the library as a place where you can have fun, and a place where you can be loud and laugh,” Andy Hollinger said of his two children. “It just makes the library seem more accessible.”

He commended the group who organized it.

“It’s amazing the volunteers put it together,” he said. “I don’t remember this kind of thing growing up. It seems like an innovative program.”

Reach Diana Xin at [email protected]