The neighbors on Champaign’s Elm Boulevard are a close-knit bunch, with traditions dating back decades.
A couple of younger residents started a new tradition a few years ago: hopscotch art.
There’s hopscotch, and there’s HOPSCOTCH.
This particular version winds up and down the block, past 20 homes or more, educating young and old along the way.
At some point each summer, the drawings pop up on one side of Elm and eventually cover both sides of the block.
There are the usual squares with numbers that you can hop through (up to 1,500 or higher). But there are also games, like beach yoga or "Time to go camping," complete with their own challenges and fun facts.
It’s all the creation of Cadi Hu and Marie Kinderman, two soon-to-be high school freshmen who live on the block just south of John Street.
Cadi can’t remember exactly how they got started back in 2013, when they were 9.
"We were little kids, and hopscotch was fun for us. We drew one in the driveway and we were kind of like, ‘Wow, this could be cool if we did a huge one all the way around the neighborhood,’" she said.
Marie’s older sister Anna was a big part of it the first year, suggesting they incorporate the story about neighbors banding together to stop a tree on the boulevard from being chopped down.
"She’s very artistic. She wanted to put more meaning into the hopscotch," Cadi said.
Each year they come up with different themes, sometimes planning it as they go.
This year, one section featured a garden theme. Players could hop from a watering can to a flower, then follow the color of that flower as they made their way down one of three paths without stepping on weeds.
Another section focused on plastics and how much they contribute to pollution, especially in the world’s oceans.
"I’ve been interested in that," Cadi said. "I thought more people should know about it."
The final section featured a Champaign-Urbana theme, including Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and State Farm Center.
"If the city wasn’t as friendly and open, we wouldn’t have been able to do the hopscotch without someone complaining," Cadi said. "It’s just the place for us to live in and grow up in. We’re thankful for it."
So far, no one’s complained.
"People just thank us for making the sidewalks pretty," Cadi said.
The first hopscotch was the longest to date, covering both sides of two blocks along the boulevard. Since then it’s varied, depending on how long the weather holds out.
"We’d start it and then the rain came and we never got to finish it," Cadi said.
This year’s hopscotch — the second-longest to date — started in late July. On a recent Sunday morning, Cadi and Marie Kinderman worked steadfastly to finish it even as a gentle rain washed away their earlier efforts.
The oldest, 8-year-old Claire Evans, got up one morning and ran through the whole thing, then offered suggestions to the artists.
"It was so much fun," Karen Pickard said.
When the girls woke up that Sunday and saw the rain, they dashed outside and stood by as Cadi and Marie finished it up.
The Pickards and neighbor Ellen Harms said it reminds them of when their kids were young and were outside constantly, catching lightning bugs or chasing each other around the block.
"I love to see the kids out doing stuff," Harms said. "When my kids were little, they just played outside all the time. Now you just don’t see kids out as much."
Scott Pickard posted a video of the first hopscotch effort in 2013 after coming home from work and seeing their creation. He entitled it "Hopscotchium: largest hopscotch in the world on a boulevard."
"The first thought that came into my mind was this could be in Ripley’s or something like that," he said. "I was just fascinated that the three of them came up with the idea.
"We feel lucky that our kids were still in a generation where they could grow up and that Elm Boulevard was their playground," he said. "They could just go out the door and feel safe. When I saw these three young girls outside, playing a very traditional game and doing it in such a creative way, it just made my heart feel good."
Actually, it wasn’t a record (the girls had already checked). In 2013, the longest sidewalk hopscotch was in Detroit, at 3.75 miles long — since broken by a group in China, according to Guinness Book of World Records.
The girls plan to continue the sidewalk art in their high school years.
"I think it’s nice to do something different and help keep the tradition," Marie said.
"The best part of doing it is to see people actually using what we made," Cadi said.
1. Cadi Hu, left, and Marie Kinderman finish up their block-long hopscotch game on Elm Boulevard in Champaign on Sunday, July 29, 2018.
2. Part of the 'beach yoga' section of the Elm Boulevard hopscotch game.
3. Instructions for the camping section of the hopscotch game.
4. Cadi Yu works on a drawing for the hopscotch game.
Photos by Julie Wurth/News-Gazette