chicago reopening plan

Windy City Smokeout, New State Street Fest: These Summer Events Are Coming to Chicago

Here's what's on tap for the city so far

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Chicago has announced a lineup of festivals and events set to take place this summer in the city as officials begin further reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm thrilled to announce that we are able to broadly loosen capacity restrictions across industries, starting today, which allows us to welcome back fans to the United Center, reopen Navy Pier and our lakefront beaches, bring back the Windy City Smoke Out, our premiere country music and barbecue festival, as well as a number of summer street festivals and bring back several other loved summer and fall activities, thanks to our new open Chicago initiative," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.

Among the list of changes were the return of several events that were canceled last summer due to the pandemic and a lineup of new festivities in celebration of a step closer to normal.

Here's what's on tap for the city so far:

Windy City Smokeout to Mark City's First Post-Pandemic Street Festival

Windy City Smokeout will be the first street festival since the coronavirus pandemic began, marking the start of a string of summer events.

The annual outdoor festival, which features dozens of local and national BBQ pitmasters and restaurants, is expected to host up to 12,500 people per day, the city said. It is slated to take place in the parking lot of the United Center, with "an impressive musical lineup featuring country superstars and up-and-coming talent."

According to city officials, all vendors, performers, ticketholders, and staff will be required to be fully vaccinated. Non-vaccinated attendees will need to show proof of a negative COVID PCR test from within 72 hours of entry to the event. 

"Windy City Smokeout is an opportunity for us to show off Chicago, the greatest city in the world, to guests from all around the country," R.J. Melman, president of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, said in a statement. "We're thrilled to return this summer and safely welcome everyone back to Chicago outdoor music festivals."

City to Open State Street on Sundays for Street Festival 

"In an effort to bring people safely back to the Loop, the city, in partnership with the Chicago Loop Alliance will transform State Street from Madison to Lake into an open street on Sundays beginning July 11," the city announced. "For up to 12 Sundays, a portion of State Street will be closed to vehicle traffic to give pedestrians a chance to experience arts and culture, active recreation, retail, restaurants and bars against the backdrop of State Street’s iconic architecture."

The street closures will be in place from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the event itself scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Night Out in the Parks

The relaunch of the 9th season of Night Out in the Parks this summer will feature more than 100 of Chicago’s talented artists and organizations performing in over 350 outdoor cultural arts events. This year’s experience will reconnect diverse audiences across all of Chicago’s 77 community areas with the arts and cultural landscape of the City. Movie screenings in 100 parks will kick off on July 6 at Oakdale Park in the Washington Heights community. From hip-hop to folkloric dance, and even Tightrope Fairies, new arts partners M.A.D.D. Rhythms and Open Architecture Chicago’s Poetic Platforms will join returning favorites, like the Midnight Circus, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, and the Chicago Philharmonic Society, on stages in parks citywide. For additional information about Night Out in the Parks, visit www.nightoutintheparks.com

Buckingham Fountain

For the past six years, the Chicago Park District has teamed up with ComEd to celebrate the start of summer by turning on the iconic Buckingham Fountain as part of the annual “Switch on Summer” event. For the first time in over a year, a ComEd contest winner will once again revive Buckingham Fountain with the flip of a switch – bringing back the longstanding Chicago tradition. For details about the event and contest, visit www.ComEd.com/SwitchOnSummer

Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park’s 18-hole, Chicago-themed miniature golf course, and ribbon will be open daily, starting April 30. In the summer, the ribbon is transformed to welcome scooter users, rollerbladers, and roller skaters. Weekend rentals are now available. The park will offer daily rentals starting on May 28. An adventure awaits visitors on the 19,000 square foot climbing wall and bungee, which will open to the public on May 28. Concessions at Maggie Daley Park will also be open. For details about Maggie Daley Park activities, visit www.maggiedaleypark.com

Chicago Lakefront

Chicago’s lakefront parks witnessed a resurgence of activity after their reopening in late February, and soon many more lakeside activities will resume with safety guidelines in place.  

Drive-In Events

Popular drive-in events at Soldier Field will be a welcomed addition to the annual walk/run fundraisers hosted in lots at the sports venue, which celebrated the return of the Chicago Fire FC and their fans earlier this month.  Soldier Field concessions will also be open as part of the Open Chicago efforts. For more information about the Chicago Park District’s summer activities in the parks, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com

"We are ready and eager for the return of summer in Chicago as we know it. From leisure activities, like walking along the lakefront and watching Buckingham Fountain’s nightly light spectacle, to music, theater, dance, and movies in our neighborhood parks, rediscovering the outdoors and reconnecting with the arts in Chicago will be an enriching experience for everyone this summer and fall," said Chicago Park District Chief Administrative Officer, Juliet Azimi. "It is imperative, however, that we collectively continue to follow the safety guidelines that have been instrumental in our progress and will be part of these experiences for the immediate future." 

Shared Streets Program

The city announced new funding for restaurants and the return of its popular "shared streets" program, which will return this season.

The Shared Streets program, which closes local streets to through traffic, will launch in the spring on Leland Avenue in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, aiming to "provide people with more comfortable space to walk, bike and roll." It will be expanded to other streets upon community demand, the city said.

“We learned a lot in the last year about how with imagination and thoughtful planning, much of the outdoor space we took for granted could be transformed into valuable assets, into places for people to congregate safely and into a lifeline for our businesses,” Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi said in a statement. “Working with our city and community partners, we created Shared Streets and Expanded Outdoor dining programs that were great success stories. And this year, we have new resources, and we are going to use those to build on that success.” 

Last month, the city announced its so-called Chicago Alfresco plan, which opened streets for "dining, public life, community, arts, culture, walking, and biking."

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