Twenty-five years ago, a dedicated volunteer had a vision to draw the lunchtime crowd into the heart of the town she knew and loved. Having already seen a program flourish on Friday afternoons in another part of the country—Missoula, Montana, to be exact—Libertyville resident Sue Brock Montgomery thought it would be great for Libertyville, too. In a leap of faith, she proposed the same idea to the MainStreet Libertyville board, and with the community’s support, three dates were set for Out to Lunch Libertyville in the summer of 1992.
What began as a bit of a gamble is now one of Libertyville’s most successful summer programs, drawing several hundred families and workers from all over the area to downtown Libertyville on Friday afternoons. If you ask to meet anyone local for a casual lunch during the summer, they are likely to reply, “let’s do Out to Lunch Libertyville.”
Montgomery recognized the similarities between the two towns in terms of having a central downtown, historic buildings and a business district. “Missoula, Montana—like Libertyville—has a downtown heart. It is vibrant and lined with historic buildings, and is the hub of the community for gatherings. It is also the center of community events,” according to Montgomery.
The first event kicked off in July of 1992, with a handful of vendors and a bluegrass band. And the people came. “Each day was sunny, the park was filled with people, music, vendors, and downtown Libertyville businesses thrived,” says Montgomery. A Caribbean band and a country-style musical act finished out the season in August and September. Based up the success of the 1992 program, event organizers planned Out to Lunch Libertyville as a weekly event in 1993.
The program’s early success led to a few difficulties—a lack of table space, adequate parking, and making sure the music would carry throughout the park—but the MainStreet Libertyville board saw the opportunities Out to Lunch afforded downtown and pressed on. “We went to local organizations and asked for sponsorship, talked to local businesses to determine their level of support, looked for good bands to plan fun music and relied on the many, amazing volunteers of MainStreet Libertyville,” according to Montgomery.
Montgomery’s fondest memories over the years involve seeing the delight in those attending the event, and realizing the community bonds that the event fostered. She enjoyed seeing her Dad sitting at a picnic table, enjoying himself at the event, as well as watching volunteers hold her infant daughter while she volunteered, “knowing that she was surrounded by loving people,” according to Montgomery.
Community connections in Libertyville run deep for Montgomery. Born and raised in Libertyville, she attended Libertyville High School, studied at the University of Montana and lived in Montana for 10 years, and returned to Libertyville to be with family. She chose Libertyville as the place to raised her own family, and was the co-owner of a business in downtown Libertyville with her mother, and served on the promotions committee of MainStreet Libertyville. Today, and for the past 12 years, Sue is the parish administrator at St. Lawrence Episcopalian Church. But she still holds her community connections tight.
“St. Lawrence has the perfect location in downtown Libertyville and is an active participant in community happenings. The church opens its doors to Car Fun on 21, the Farmers Market, Touch the Trucks, and sponsors the Church Street Market in October, an indie craft faire that features food and music,” says Montgomery.
“We love Libertyville—the community, schools, our church and the opportunities this area offers, such as the forest preserves and the open lands,” says Montgomery. When asked about how her connections to MainStreet Libertyville have impacted her life, Montgomery replied, “MainStreet Libertyville is a great organization that protects our historic downtown, creates community, and brings families together. Volunteering is a great was to find friends, explore your interests and passions and reach out to the community, especially if you are new to the area.”
Be sure to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Out of Lunch Libertyville in 2017. In fact, you won’t want to miss any of the exciting summer opportunities in from MainStreet Libertyville. The 2017 summer events in begin on Thursday, June 1, with the first Farmers Market, open from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Church Street. Out to Lunch Libertyville begins on Friday, June 23 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. in Cook Park.
Jennifer Johnson is a Libertyville resident who also writes for Little Lake County.