The 1500 block of Raymond Avenue in LaGrange Park is like your average west suburban residential street — a quaint, tree-lined street of modest-sized mid-century modern homes where the lawns are neatly manicured, kids ride their bikes along the sidewalk and birds chirp throughout the day.
But, for nearly a month now since the statewide stay-in-place quarantine has been in effect, the usually ordinary block has turned into one of the suburb’s most rocking streets, as one family has initiated a socially distant block party of sorts — a daily dose of neighborhood singalongs.
Every night around 7:30, weather permitting, Pasquale Giampietro and his wife, Madonna, roll up their garage door, drag a speaker and microphone to the end of the driveway and summon their neighbors to their doorsteps or front curb to enjoy renditions of pop and rock songs.
Some nights, it’s Bon Jovi or Pink. On other nights, throwback hits from Cher take the stage. But each time, the 30-minute show brings out neighbors who are cooped up in the house all day for a little comic relief and camaraderie.
The Giampietros, who are not singers or musicians, simply started the evening routine as a way to get their neighbors to crack a smile amid the stressful new normal the global pandemic has caused.
“We’re singing to keep the fun on the block going and forget about the coronavirus for a few minutes,” Pasquale Giampietro said.
Some nights, a few neighbors will join in with a favorite song of theirs. But most nights, it’s just the Giampietros crooning and cracking smiles.
Michael Bertacchi, a lifelong resident of the block, says while his neighbors have always been friendly toward one another, he’s never seen the block as animated as it is now.
“The singing has brought life to the whole block,” he said. “We look forward to this every night.”
Fellow neighbor Mel Krejci agrees. Krejci, who has lived on the block for the past 40 years, says no one on the block has never done anything similar to this and that he hasn’t seen such innovation from neighbors in La Grange Park like this for years.
“We’ve had a number of people come out here, and it’s been good for morale,” he said. “It’s become a family affair for neighbors.”
Along with taking song requests from neighbors, the Giampietros also say some words of encouragement and take some time to engage with folks who walk past their house.
Overall, Pasquale Giampietro says the goal is simple — just to bring back a little lightheartedness to people’s lives.
“We’re just having a good time and laughing,” he said. “It’s just a fun thing to make people smile.”