The undead are at it again.
Elgin’s Zombie Defense Initiative will be on high alert from 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 19 during Nightmare on Chicago Street in the city’s besieged downtown.
“This event is so much more than a typical Halloween event — Nightmare on Chicago Street is an experience unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else,” said Kate O’Leary, special events coordinator for the City of Elgin. “This event transforms the downtown area into an apocalyptic, desolate parallel universe where zombies and other supernatural terrors threaten the living.”
This is not simply a haunted house.
“Nightmare on Chicago Street is truly transformative; when you step through our gates, you enter another realm for the night,” O’Leary said. “We have the elements of an event that people love to attend: excellent music, a gallery of food and drink options, and a great night out with friends.”
It aims to crank Halloween up a notch or two.
“What sets Nightmare apart is that extra effort taken to craft an experience for anyone who is looking for something more,” O’Leary said. “The flipped cars on the street, the actors roaming around ready to entertain you, and the artistry behind every prop and stage are just a few of the elements that put Nightmare on Chicago Street at a different level than anything else.”
Along with the nightmarish scene, the city has established a Safe Zone of eight downtown blocks where event-goers will find plenty of food, drink and entertainment.
“Everywhere you look, you find a new, unique story being told with three stages of musical performers throughout the night, theatrical groups roaming the streets and a special appearance by our beloved Svengoolie,” O’Leary said. “This year Nightmare on Chicago Street features Svengoolie’s B Movie Boulevard on Grove Avenue, a love letter to the era of monster movies that helped shape the culture of horror today and an homage to Svengoolie.”
In addition to dedicating the B Movie Boulevard in his name, Svengoolie is being honored with a key to the city.
“On B Movie Boulevard, you just might find a doomsday prepper or perhaps a swamp thing,” O’Leary said. “Or maybe you’ll find yourself amongst horrendously enlarged spider creatures that have taken over.”
“Aside from the visual feast of all things horror and Halloween, visitors can expect some stellar musical performances throughout the evening,” O’Leary said. “Our DJ stage features three of Chicagoland’s best: DJ Q, DJ Tim Spinnin’ Schommer and DJ Julian Jumpin Perez.”
Meanwhile the mainstage will showcase Sons of Mystro (6:30-8 p.m.) and Modern Day Romeos (8:30-9:30 p.m. and 10-11 p.m.), and the third stage will feature Midnight Special (6:30-8:30 p.m.) and 7th Heaven (9-11 p.m.).
“There will also be street theater performances throughout the Safe Zone, a costume contest, exciting performances on our Thunderdome stage, an immersive walk through B Movie Boulevard, a haunted house and much more,” O’Leary said.
Other attractions include a zombie homecoming parade and pageant, live graffiti artists and a hookah lounge. Plenty of food, retail and specialty drink vendors will be onsite as well.
Nightmare on Chicago Street started in 2010 with about 3,500 attendees. Now in its ninth year, it attracts about 18,000 revelers.
“We have about 300 volunteers at the event, including our actors and artists involved in the street theater, builders involved with Nightmare setup and takedown, and many others who keep our Safe Zone operating,” O’Leary said.
That’s a lot of zombie power for one night of fright.
“The artists behind the scenes begin work on the event in early February,” O’Leary said. “This includes coming up with new concepts, designs and entertainment ideas to introduce in the coming October.”
Actor recruitment and street-theater rehearsals begin in April.
“Prop-building really gets underway in the summer and ramps up as we get closer to the event,” O’Leary said. “All in all, Nightmare on Chicago Street is a nine-month project involving dozens of people putting it together.”
Because of the nature of the event, only adult guests are encouraged to attend. Children 17 and under must be accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian.
“We do have some areas with a high scare factor that may not be suitable for children,” O’Leary said. “Additionally, adults 21+ may purchase alcohol on the streets of the Safe Zone.”
Tickets are available for $19.99 (plus a $3.97 service fee) online at nightmareonchicagostreet.com through Oct. 18. VIP parking passes are available online for $25 (plus a $4.39 service fee). Tickets at the gate are $25 Oct. 19.
Nightmare on Chicago Street
When: 6-11 p.m. Oct. 19
Where: Chicago Street between Douglas Avenue and Villa Street in downtown Elgin. Entry points are at the intersection of Spring Street and Highland Street, Douglas and Highland, South Grove Avenue and Fulton Street, and Spring and Fulton
Jen Banowetz is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.