Just weeks ago, the parking lots at the United Center were home to a mass COVID vaccination site, but beginning Thursday, it will be home to Chicago’s first major music festival in two years, as the Windy City Smokeout will kick off for a weekend full of festivities.
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 is beyond exciting and thrilling to be the first event for the city of Chicago,” RJ Melman, president of Lettuce Entertain You, said.
The group is spearheading the Smokeout, a showcase for more than a dozen country artists and barbecue options from several states. A long list of craft beer vendors caps off the offerings, giving residents a reason to celebrate in style.
That celebration will come 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,” Melman 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 Thursday and Sunday, according to organizers.