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Summer in the City


Frank Brichetto

Celebrate Chicago with me.  There are 234 square MILES of land within the city limits, it will take our entire lives to properly explore all of them, so we had better get started.  What better time is there than the long days and wonderful evenings of summer to begin?


Let’s start up in Lincoln Square, from Thursday evening, June 1st, through Sunday afternoon June 4th, we’ll join the fun at Maifest. Here we’ll find “Food, Dancing, and as Always, German Gemȕtlichkeit…” We’ll tour the DANK Haus German-American Cultural Center, enjoy some fat sausages with sauerkraut and other German favorites, enjoy live traditional music as well as local artists: on Friday evening we can join in the “Traditional Keg Tapping,” (German bier, it’s always a good thing.) and watch the crowning of the Mai Queen.  As you’ve likely guessed, Maifest is Germany’s Spring edition of Oktoberfest, and quite the celebration it is.


On Saturday June 2nd and Sunday 3rd we’ll catch the Gospel Music Festival at Millennium Park and the ever beautiful Cultural Center.  Gospel has deep roots in Chicago; here’s our chance to enjoy the full spectrum that Gospel offers, from traditional choirs through current urban.  It’s thrilling, exciting, reverent, and joyous, all at the same time, which helps to explain the popularity of Gospel music across the world. Visit https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_gospel_musicfestival.html for more information.


We’re just getting started.  For those who work downtown, Millennium Park‘s Summer Music Series will again put on free concerts every Monday and Thursday, starting June 12th and going on until August 21st.  The opening night concert looks to be a big winner – the incomparable Otis Taylor, whose Blues music is instrumentally diverse and whose lyrics ring of personal truth.  www.otistaylor.com. Also on stage will be Kentucky born cellist and songwriter, Ben Sollee, www.bensollee.com another talented and unusual musician.  https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park9.html


Not every outing has to be a festival.  Many of Chicago’s museums are always free.  The DePaul Art Museum, 935 W Fullerton, is an exemplary, yet overlooked, space that shows unique, interesting and thought provoking displays, yet is always free. http://museums.depaul.edu/  The Chicago Design Museum is another.  Currently showing is Dan Friedman: Radical Modernist, this show will definitely get you thinking about life’s work, purpose, and ways those can be positively expressed. CDM is at 108 N. State St., Chicago, with free admission, from 12:00 to 7:00PM Tuesday through Saturday. https://chidm.com/


The world’s largest free Blues Music Festival is, of course, in Chicago, June 9th – 11th. Forget Lollapalooza, that’s ridiculously overpriced and madly overcrowded.  The Blues Fest has multiple stages with world renown artists, friendly people, open spaces, great food, and it’s easy to walk from stage to stage as time and your interests allow.  The Blues Disciples, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer, and a huge assembly of magnificent Blues artists will be playing throughout the weekend, but the show I most want to see is Friday night’s Celebrating 40 Years: Billy Branch & The Son of Blues with special guests Lurrie Bell, Freddie Dixon, J.W.S. Williams, Carlos Johnson, Carl Weathersby, Bill McFarland and Chicago Fire Horns and Mae Koen & The Lights. Millennium Park, Michigan Ave. & Columbus Ave. https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_blues_festival8.html


Whew, that’s a lot to take in and it’s only mid-month.  Let’s take it easy, up in Lincoln Park, and see the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo.  It’s ALWAYS free, and it’s a great space for us to walk slowly, read the signs, learn about the animals and their habitats, and get, perhaps, a fresh perspective on how we relate to the natural world around us.  It seems to disappear in the city, surrounded by buildings and lights, roads, traffic and so many people (2.77 million reside in Chicago) and we forget our  absolutely necessary connection to the open and wild spaces and their inhabitants. It’s at 2001 N. Clark St. between Lake Shore Dr and Fullerton Pkwy, http://www.lpzoo.org/


Last, but never least, Steppenwolf Theatre will present a new play, Pass Over, by playwright Antoinette Nwandu, which shows the lives of two young, black and poor men disrupted when someone with a different agenda is suddenly inserted into their lives.  It’s also a metaphor for Exodus and a modern, street-corner riff on Waiting For Godot, so all in all it promises to be a great show.  It will be showing all through June and July, so you’ll have ample chance to catch it.  Don’t forget.  Steppenwolf Theatre Company 1650 N. Halsted St., (312) 335-1650, https://www.steppenwolf.org/

There are so many more things to do in Chicago, now and all year long.  We’ve touched upon a few, to see how exciting and vibrant this city is when we get out there and enjoy it.  I hope to see you soon!