Pinney Street in downtown, Aurora had the ambiance of a lively block party with good food and live entertainment Saturday.
The second-annual Octo Street Fest, reserved for the second Saturday of October for folks who appreciate the outdoors in the autumn season and enjoy all that the downtown has to offer, featured menu specialties from eateries on “Restaurant Row” one block over on West New York Street.
Stephanie Motenko coincidentally met up with two of her friends.
“I came with my kids to check it out and happened to meet up with friends,” Motenko said.
The threesome said they tend to run into each other a lot at events of this kind.
“It is downtown Aurora, so seeing friends happens all of the time,” Kris Ducharme said. “It’s a lovely afternoon, and I am always looking for ways to support my community.”
Kate Purl likened these types of downtown events to the television sitcom “Cheers,” where a group of locals met to drink, relax and socialize.
“Downtown Aurora events are a good time so a lot of the same people tend to show up,” Purl said.
Marissa Amoni is the event coordinator for Aurora Downtown, a nonprofit group of downtown business and property owners that partners with the city to create venues out of some of the unique places downtown.
String lights were strung on the north side of the street and there were tables for diners, but mostly people strolled through trying different food offerings and taking in the live musical entertainment.
There were lots of activities to entertain kids, a strolling magician and mini-pumpkin decorating that appealed to families.
“We have these pockets in the downtown that are lovely welcoming areas,” Amoni said.
“Pinney Street is an introduction to the Fox River trail and there are great restaurants that back up to it,” she said.
Restaurateurs had menu items known for pleasing the palate. Ballydoyle Irish Pub featured its homemade seasoned Irish chips served with warm blue cheese sauce, and Irish Rover whiskey shakeups to warm the soul.
U Samba? is a family-owned Brazilian restaurant that served its coxinha, a pastry-dough chicken appetizer.
Restaurateur Rafael Baglioli said the name of the restaurant honors the samba Brazilian dance.
“We think this event is awesome,” he said. “It’s something that ought to be held once a month to encourage people to the downtown.”
Peter and Rose Albrecht came from St. Louis to see their daughter perform in a belly dance troupe.
“We are pleasantly surprised by how interesting downtown Aurora is,” Rose Albrecht said. The couple had the brisket chilly and pulled pork sandwich from Gillerson’s Grubbery.
This year’s Octo Street Fest was graced with sunshine and seasonal temperatures, a contrast to last year when the region was hit with torrential rain which forced the event indoors.
This year’s block party showcased a new city mural tucked under the New York Street Bridge along the Riverwalk, around the corner from the Endiro Coffee Shop and Restaurant.
Aurora Public Art commissioned Los Angeles-based artist Bunnie Reiss, who finished her work the day before.
Reiss transformed a drab concrete wall downtown into a colorful nature scene with a blue heron as its centerpiece.
For those interested in the history of Pinney Street, there’s not a whole lot on record other than someone decided to dedicate the street to a local, Amoni said.
The Octo Street Fest is not to be confused with the usual October festivals that tout beer chugging, she said.
“We don’t do any stein holding or anything like that. This is a welcoming fall community block party for all ages,” the event organizer said.
Aurora residents Craig and Stephanie Wheatley were with their daughter and son, River, 8 and Lucas, 5.
“We’re just enjoying the community. We like to come out to see what the city has to offer, especially when there are activities for the kids,” Craig Wheatley said.
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