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On a recent Friday night, media attention was riveted on a potential new "event" in Bloomington-Normal. Would the Fool's Fest draw thousands of visitors for a weekend of boisterous activity? Would the community survive the onslaught?

Of course, Fool's Fest was a non-event. But as the media focused on the attendance at the bars, they missed another story. Linda and I were downtown that evening, and I'll tell you what really happened.

Yes, late-night bar activity was up slightly. But it also was the "First Friday" of the month downtown. Earlier that evening, shops and galleries hosted artist viewings and receptions. Some shops had entertainment and special sales. One wine bar/shop, was so crowded, we turned away and walked to the next party.

There were two shows at the Laugh Comedy Club. At the Castle Theatre, a name band was performing. Six Strings had a popular country band, and was sold out. Downtown restaurants were busy, possibly because 4,000 people were expected at U.S. Cellular Coliseum for a Bloomington Extreme game. We gave away our tickets so we could see Paula Poundstone's act at the Center for the Performing Arts.

The result of all those thousands of people coming downtown was not chaos, traffic jams or parking shortages. Rather, they were walking on sidewalks, headed for a night of good food and drink, and a lot of fun.

I tell that story because it illustrates the many activities available to us. We no longer complain there is nothing to do, but instead, complain about having to choose between competing events.

With the warmer weather, more activities will re-appear downtown. The Saturday morning Farmers Market has begun. A series of weekend concerts will be held at Lincoln Park outside the BCPA, and even bigger concerts will be indoors at the Coliseum. The Lincoln Festival, Pub Crawl and Bruegala International Beer Festival will draw thousands. The 9th annual Tour de Metro is scheduled for June 3.

To be fair, there's a lot to do elsewhere in the city. The Shakespeare Festival begins June 23 at Ewing Manor. Soon, the McLean County Fair will open and you'll be able to see plays at Community Players Theatre and at the Miller Park bandstand.

All four city golf courses (counting mini-golf) will be busy, and baseball, softball, cricket and soccer will be played all around town. To cool off, go ice skating at the Pepsi Ice Center. Swimming pools open Saturday at O'Neil and Holiday parks, and Constitution Trail will be crowded with riders, walkers and joggers.

Bloomington Parks and Recreation will host dozens of programs, including a new summer theater camp. There are too many to list here, but visit to browse and enroll. And don't miss the Independence Day celebration at Miller Park.

All of this is just in Bloomington. There's a lot to do in nearby communities, too. If I haven't mentioned everything, that's because I rely on The Pantagraph and other media to remind me. Be sure to keep watching for new events, as some haven't even been announced yet.

Something for everyone is one reason we have a great quality of life, and we should all take advantage of it -- especially while the sun warmly shines. See you there!

Stockton is mayor of Bloomington.


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