Evanston groups host inaugural winter games


Daily file photo by Sean Hong

Northwestern students walk across a snowy Lakefill. The Evanston Winter Games aim to encourage residents to get outside and appreciate the winter weather.

Christina Van Waasbergen, Reporter

Anybody have a torch? The inaugural Evanston Winter Games have come to town.

The City of Evanston, Downtown Evanston, Amita Health, Byline Bank, the Family Institute at Northwestern University, the Main-Dempster Mile and the Central Street Special Service Areas are partnering to put on a series of community-building challenges throughout the month of February.

Participants are assigned a team color and earn points through outdoor activities like hiking and ice skating, at-home challenges, charitable acts and shopping at local businesses. Residents can participate through the free app Eventzee.

Colored lights adorn storefronts throughout Downtown Evanston and along the Main-Dempster Mile and Central Street, with the colors showcasing businesses’ team affiliations. Participants can earn double points by shopping at stores belonging to their teams.

The three highest scorers will win gold, silver and bronze Winter Games medals and get the opportunity to open next year’s Games. Throughout the Games, participants can also win gift cards to Gearhead Outfitters.

Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, said she hopes the Games will help support businesses struggling in the pandemic and also encourage people to embrace the winter.

“I just thought it would be a fun thing for people to enjoy winter in, perhaps, a way they hadn’t before,” Coakley said. “It’s not a time of year just to stay inside. We can go out and support businesses; we can go out and enjoy the snow and have fun in the cold.”

John Kim, a co-owner of participating business Backlot Coffee, said the Games have brought people who aren’t regulars into his coffeehouse.

“I think (the Games are) a great idea,” Kim said. “It’s a fun way of bringing the community together during these crazy times.”

Local artist organization Evanston Made is taking part in the Games by putting together a nature-based Winter Wonderland art exhibition at the Canal Shores Golf Course. Anyone can contribute art to the project, regardless of skill level.

As part of Evanston Made’s exhibition, Kids Create Change, a local organization that uses art to engage children in activism, is turning one of the golf course’s trees into a “Hope Tree” that people can help decorate.

Melissa Raman Molitor, one of the directors of Kids Create Change, said the goal of the tree is to give people hope during a difficult time. She said she hopes the art encourages people to embrace the natural aspect of Canal Shores and see it as more than a golf course.

“It’s been such a brutal (time) — for many (people) four years, and for everyone at least one year,” Raman Molitor said. “We wanted to create some sort of participatory community art-making project that really was centered on hope.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @cvanwaasbergen

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