Patch Portrait: Volunteer Throws One of Evanston's Biggest Parties

This week's Patch Portraits also features a farewell from Highland Park's mayor.

This week's Patch Portraits also features a farewell from Highland Park's mayor.

John Szostek has been putting on the Custer Fair for 30 of the 40 years it has existed.

"I used to be an entertainer in the fair. I did mask and comedia dell'arte. Out of that experience it was offered to me to manage the event," Szostek said.

During one of his early stunts, Szostek badly injured himself. After healing, he called the previous owner and asked if he could preform a new act, only to discover that the fair was slated to be canceled. But by the end of the phone call, Szostek was asked to take over the event.

"I said, 'I've never done anything like that before, give me a day to think about it'." he said, "I called her back and in the meantime I thought, 'how hard could it be?'  Little did I know."

Roughly 30 years later Szostek has turned the fair into a not-for-profit foundation,  Evanston Festival Theater, Inc., which is housed in the historic Main Street Station, as the Evanston Arts Depot.

Roughly 70,000 attendees enjoy live theater performances, hundreds of vendor stalls selling all kinds of artworks, food from dozens of local restaurants, live music and more.

"It is a huge Evanston party. When people find out that I'm the coordinator of it, they thank me. There is a lot of heart for the Custer Fair in Evanston."

Who should be featured next on Patch Portraits? 


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