First Friday Nights: drive-in movie kicks off spooky season

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A boy sits on the roof of a car to watch the movie projected on the screen. (A. Panier)

Abby Panier

On the evening of Oct. 1, the classic Halloween song, “I Put a Spell on You,” cuts through the thick, warm air in the Sew Hop’d and Union Special parking lot. Viewers in lawn chairs and in truck beds face the setting sun as they watch the large, blown-up screen, eagerly awaiting the movie that would soon be starting at 7 p.m.: “Hocus Pocus.”

After a COVID delay, First Friday Nights hosted by the Village of Huntley has gained tremendous popularity throughout the community. Originally scheduled to debut in 2020, the get-togethers hosted on the first Friday of every month finally began in July of 2021. 

“We have a lot of things for families and kids and older people, but we didn’t have anything particularly planned just for the 20-40 [age] group as a night out,” said Barb Read, Management Assistant and Special Events Manager of Huntley. 

The initial First Friday Night was a hit: a ‘90s dance party complete with a boy band in the square and over 1,000 people attending. The dance party, along with the cornhole tournament held on the first Friday of August and the giant game night in September, attracted all ages. 

The drive-in movie sponsored by Huntley Realty was no less successful; dozens of cars grappled for parking spots, friends made lawn chair circles, and kids chased each other in games of tag. The Stix and Noodles food truck had its own share of the crowd, serving delicious Filipino cuisine long into the night. 

Additionally, many people  took advantage of the sales Sew Hop’d offered on their signature beverages. Couple Melissa and Ryan Mallegni initially came because Sew Hop’d was hosting the event, but now plan on attending more First Friday Nights in the future.

“It makes the town really inclusive; you get to know a lot of people that you live with in the neighborhood,” Ryan said. “You can kind of see what commonalities you have with people. Whether you like horror movies or if you just like movies in general, you can meet up and make new friends.”

Both old and new friends assembled in the unlit parking lot, even helping strangers find the best spot to park in proximity to the screen. Employees in neon yellow from Public Works walked around handing out long glow stick necklaces and plastic hard hats to kids.

“[It’s important] just to get everyone together and have a good time, versus being at home; we’ve been cooped up for so long,” Melissa said.

Excited for the next First Friday Night, the couple would love to see more 5k and charity events to bring the town together. According to Read, events like this help make the 30,000 population feel like a small town, whether it is congregating for a night out or chipping in at a charity event

“Our motto is ‘The Friendly Village with Country Charm’ and I always think of that when I think of [ideas] because I want it to be friendly,” Read said. “It’s that feeling you have of being a part of a close-knit community.”