Black Girls Chill in Shaker?

Disclaimer:  I’m a Shakerite (yes that’s what we are called).  And one of the unique part of being part of the Shaker community is how we gather.  In fact whenever there is a city event I feel obligated to get out and be neighborly.

If you’ve driven down Warrensville Center Road lately, you’ve noticed a lot has changed: from the configuration of what used to be my favorite crazy intersection at Chagrin, to all the new construction in the Van Aken District. The most interesting part of the construction is how the community gathers to celebrate in its shadow.

Van Aken District Black Girl in CLE

Chill and Toast?

“So it’s like Beer Garden in the winter?” My first thought when I saw the Facebook post. The city of Shaker Heights hosted Chill and Toast last Friday night in the Van Aken District and featured fun for the whole family.

I’ll admit I was intrigued when I first saw the event.  My thoughts ranged from, “really we’re just going to stand outside and look at a construction zone?" to “This is going to be SO cool!” Actually, I didn’t begin getting excited until the morning of the event when I caught a glimpse of the event getting set up.

Chill and Toast BlackGirlinCLE

Once I was there, it felt like home. Shaker Height's events always manage to have a small town feel which is something I love about the city. From Saturday afternoon football games to the annual Memorial Day parade, it’s easy to forget that you’re only a few miles from downtown Cleveland.

Chill and Toast was no exception. I parked on one of the sides streets and walked over. It was warm earlier in the day, so I still had on a light jacket and no hat. Big mistake! It was getting cold. After the short walk, I was awestruck. There were 2 stilt performers, that talked to guests and posed for pictures. Shaker food vendors included the Saffron Patch, Swerve Grille, and Brew at Juma Gallery were onsite selling delicious comfort food.

Chill and Toast Black Girl in CLE

Warming lamps and fire pits helped us stay warm. As I continued to walk around, there were kids and families doing crafts at the Kool Kids Zone and dancing to live music playing on the stage. But it was a group of kids standing around a fence who intrigued me. Walking over, I caught a glimpse of the unfinished buildings across the street, looking amazing all lit up. Once I got to the fence I learned they were waiting for the fire jugglers start. Very cool.

I watched the fire jugglers for a few minutes but then decided to keep exploring. Inside a vacant store space, there were more vendors including J. Pistone and Mitchell’s Ice Cream, who is said to be a future tenant of the district. There were renderings and mockups of the upcoming Van Aken District as well as entertainment. I even saw an artist painting with their feet.

Chill and Toast paining Black Girl in CLE

I chatted with neighbors, drank hot chocolate and hung out by the fire pit. As the evening concluded, attendees were given gifts of a S’mores or hot chocolate kit. Nice.

Additional pictures from this great event