Windy City Smokeout

Crowds Flock to Chicago's First Major Concert Since Pandemic

Country music star and Illinois native Brett Eldredge wowed a massive throng of fans in the parking lot of the United Center late Thursday during Chicago's first major concert since the pandemic.

The four-day Windy City Smokeout features more than a dozen country music artists, barbecue from states all across the country and all different kinds of craft beer.

The event has been a long time coming for organizers and festival-goers, who are celebrating a rite of summer returning after a year off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"...It's so nice to back in the crowd and have a good time with everyone," said concertgoer Liam Reilly.

That celebration comes with a unique set of rules, as the city of Chicago plans to implement a more rigorous list of requirements for festivals. To attend, festival-goers must download the Clear app and fill out a daily health screenings. Residents will also need to prove their vaccination status, and those who aren’t vaccinated will need to upload a negative COVID test within 72 hours of attending the festival.

“We have a lot of options for rapid testing to get through….We’re complying with city regulations,” RJ Melman, president of Lettuce Entertain You, said.

While not everyone is thrilled about the new strict protocols, Melman says that they are a must to ensure a safe viewing experience for everyone.

“We’re excited to be here and have thousands of attendees coming, and we think we are doing it in the safest way possible,” he said.

More than 15,000 attendees are expected over the weekend. Shows on Friday and Saturday are sold out, but tickets remain available for Sunday, according to organizers.

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