August 21, 2008

August Nights Getting Hotter

By Dan Craft

BLOOMINGTON - Until a year ago, hot August nights were just a sultry fact of Central Illinois summer life - something to be endured rather than anticipated.

Now the phrase has taken on a whole new spin courtesy the August 2007 advent of a new downtown Bloomington summer fete, christened Hot August Nights but packed into a single night.

This year's event actually kicks off at high noon, fast on the heels of the downtown Bloomington Farmers Market.

Presented by The Pantagraph, Hot August Nights was developed by the Downtown Bloomington Association and attracted around 10,000 visitors a year ago.

This year, the association is partnering with OSF Home Care Services, which has upped the ante in several areas.

Most noticeable is bringing in a nationally known music act to headline the entertainment stage: folk-blues singer Michelle Malone, who earned high marks for her performance with the Indigo Girls earlier this year at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Malone, who performs from 6 to 8 p.m., is renowned for her prowess on bottleneck slide guitar and harmonica, and her no-holds- barred vocals. Also on the roster for the free entertainment are local favorites, including acoustic act Kevin Stearns (who'll perform a special children's set from noon to 12:30 p.m., followed by his regular set, from 12:30 to 2 p.m.); jazz masters Kevin Hart & The Vibe Tribe (2 to 4 p.m.); classic rockers Jury's Out (4 to 6 p.m.); and ISU-begat rock mainstays Bottle of Justus (8 to 10 p.m.).

Also upped this year is the number of restaurants participating in the Taste of Bloomington food fair, from 13 to 16. Tempting us with their culinary wares will be:

Aleta Jane's Cafe (chicken salad and barbecue pork sliders), Bandanas (wet Bandana meat sandwiches, pulled pork, potato salad), Carl's Ice Cream (ice cream, frozen yogurt, shake, sundaes), Central Station Cafe (sweet potato crab cakes, shrimp bruschetta), Coffee Hound (chocolate chip cookies, Mediterranean pita pockets, pork won- tons), Flinger's Pizza (breadsticks, pizza slices, finger rolls), Grand Caf (egg rolls, crab Rangoon, wings, sada steak, fried rice) and Kelly's Bakery & Cafe (cookies, fruit cups, wraps).

Also: Lancaster's (bread pudding with caramel sauce, ratatouille with goat cheese & pita points, duck rolls with honey balsamic, beef & scallion skewers with Asian glaze), Linden Street Grille (coconut tart/peach cobbler, beans & rice, sausages and shrimp boil with rice, beef brisket sliders) and Maggie Miley's (Irish stew, Bailey's cheesecake, mini-shepherd's pie).

And: Michael's (Italian beef with hot giardinara, chicken marsala over penne, spicy chicken over white rice), Ozark House (cole slaw, barbecue pork loin, smoked chicken legs, baby back ribs), Rhino's (snow cones), Rosie's (homemade chips, bacon-wrapped shrimp, corn chowder) and Swingers Grille (amaretto-stuffed strawberries, herb- stuffed cherry tomatoes with bacon chips, cold gazpacho soup with parmesan chips).

Food will be available until 9 p.m., though the entertainment will continue until around 10:30 p.m.

And a Kids' Alley of family-oriented activities and entertainment will be open throughout the day.

A beverage tent will feature beer and frozen cocktails.

New this year, per the OSF Home Car Services involvement, will be a "Light the Road 5K Race and Walk," beginning at 8 a.m. at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts and benefiting OSF's Hospice Division. Sign-up information is available at

A luminary-lighting ceremony to honor loved ones will be at 9 p.m. in the Cultural District's Festival Park, and include a mass choir performance and moment of silence.

Though uptown Normal's Sweet Blues Corn Festival is sharing the day with Hot August Nights, not to mention the adjoining Festival of India, Jennifer Mullinix, Downtown Bloomington Association events and outreach assistant, sees no competition.

"They all complement each other brilliantly," she says.

(c) 2008 Pantagraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.