The first annual Yea! Festival was held in 1987. The inspiration came from Harvey Pranian, an art and antiques dealer on Chicago Avenue at Dempster in Evanston.
In light of his awareness of making a living from the community around him, Harvey decided that the businesses in the area should be giving something back to the community. Gathering a few of the business owners together, he got the green light and set up a meeting with the District 65 art teachers. The response was overwhelming and enthusiastic, and the seeds were planted for what has become YEA! Day.
From the beginning it was important that the event touch every sector of the community. Today it still does! Children, their friends, families and extended families, the business community, the City, the Chamber of Commerce, teachers, schools and principals, and Evanston residents all enjoy YEA! Day.
The first years were a struggle and required hundreds of hours of phone calling, letters, and meetings to get support and volunteers. But little by little things came together and the event was blessed over the years with near perfect weather. In fact, many medicine men and crones believe that YEA! has a special spirit looking after the weather on YEA! Day. In the 24 years the event has been rained out once when YEA! Day was held inside at Chiaravalle Montessori school on Hinman and Dempster. Even the experience at Chiaravalle Montessori School was a blessing in disguise, because we were able to keep tabs on the number of people who came through the door. Even back then, over 4000 people came to enjoy the magic of YEA!
Within the first four years, it was decided to celebrate the performing arts as well as the visual arts and a performing arts stage was added to the venue. At first the City of Evanston provided YEA! with a stage, which was quite rickety, and towed over on a trailer hitch. It looked much like an old hay wagon. For a number of years it held up well, but now a special, secure stage is set up to serve the needs of an expanded performing arts program.
In the last seven or eight years a Silent Auction has been added to YEA! Day, which helps to fund the event and promote Evanston businesses. We currently receive gift certificates from many Evanston restaurants, hotels, plus arts and service organizations. Please go to the Silent Auction, to make a contribution.
Young Evanston Artists/YEA! has come a long way since those early days and today is recognized throughout the North Shore as the most inclusive and comprehensive arts event for children. As people become aware of our mission, support and volunteer help is increasing. Please join us!