Famine or summer fiesta feast

“Festivals promote diversity, they bring neighbors into dialogue, they increase creativity, they offer opportunities for civic pride, they improve our general psychological well-being. In short, they make cities better places to live.” David Binder

DowntownChidago

Arriving in the third most populous city in the United States on the eve of Chicago’s annual music festival, Lollapalooza, had an unwanted effect – it restricted one’s movement around the windy city.

Combine the road closures to accommodate the three-day event, add the estimated million-plus throng attending and the thousands of families out and about during the northern summer school holidays and yep, you guessed right: total chaos.

Forget the car, or taking a taxi. The best way downtown is by public transport. It takes less than half an hour to train it from Oak Park to State and Lake, allowing a quick getaway via the river’s edge towards Navy Pier to avoid the craziness captured within the closed streets and blocked roads leading to Grant Park.

ChicagoorMelbourne

The twist, turns and bridges look eerily similar to Melbourne’s Yarra.

Chicago is a city of festivals during summer. The fun begins in May, ends in September but hots up between June and August. Downtown is eerily similar to Melbourne. The city’s central shopping hub is within walking distance to Chicago River [think Yarra] and provides numerous twists, turns and bridges for the city’s 2.7 million residents to enjoy. And like most Melburnians, Chicagoans are fun-loving. They know the importance of maintaining a vibrant city by turning up to all events!

In July there were 18 neighbourhood festivals, including Fiesta del Sol, a family friendly street party which attracted more than one million during the four-day event. Hot on its heels in August was Taste of Latin America, which showcased the unique foods of 15 Latin-American countries, including Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and Cuba.

That was just on the city fringes so Lollapalooza aside, last weekend threw up too many challenges: just which festival to attend. The weekend summerfest at Wrigleyville, home to the Chicago Cubs, was huge. Now in it’s 12th year, www.chicagotraveler.com touts it as the top thing to do in August. The promoters spruik it as the grand slam festival of festivals because it also has some of the most sought-after bands plus the added advantage of watching your favourite player practise.

Chicago

Aussie Pink Floyd get into the Chicago summer fest act!

If you’re not too tired after a weekend of festivals and a week of work, more street fun starts all over again from Retro on Roscoe [Village] where more top talent plays on three main stages, as artisans, antique vendors and über cool merchants display their wares across six blocks. Can’t wait! Time to rest, then a week later Chicagoans and visitors of course can sample what Festa Italiana has to offer along Taylor Street.

Pssst, events to follow: Tonight’s Art dans la Rue – Oui oui! Time to get out the beret and enjoy everything French in Oak Park!

  • August 16-17 – Art and Water Show: One of Chicago’s most anticipated events that attracts spectators by the thousands.
  • August 20-23 – Dance Festival: Chassé your way to a seat at this year’s multiple-venue dance festival.
  • August 28-31 Labor Day weekend – Jazz Festival: Boasts the biggest free jazz music fest in all USA, held in Millennium Park.

Of course, if you want to control when and where you go and what you eat, then check out Chicago’s six top ranked food tours: Tastebud, Food Planet, Bikes, Bites & Brews, Food/Beer Samples, Progressive Dining and Historic Bars.

You soon realise that on arrival you’ll be sucked into all kinds of community events. For Chicagoans, there’s so many things to do. It’s the chance to shake off the winter blues because come the cooler winds and snowy weather, the enforced hibernation begins all over again!

Judy Wilkinson is a freelance writer and blogger who has returned to the USA to bring social media stories on the ground that count!

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