Chicago is for fun and, especially in the Summer, for festivals. You will all undoubtedly be familiar with the big festivals – The Air & Water Show, Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, and others. But Chicago and the suburbs are home to hundreds of festivals; at these places you’ll find friendly people, lots of good music, local food vendors, small crafts and other gifts and souvenirs that are made by folks in the neighborhood. They have a very warm and happy feel about them which I find easier to enjoy.
Here are a few of my favorites, in chronological order, scattered about town and the suburbs, too. You’ll see that they are different, some are more about cultural heritage, others about local music, and there is an excellent art fair thrown in for good measure. Please let yourself take in the wonderful experiences to be had at each of these gatherings, and at many of the others, too numerous to include here. This is great way to get out and explore the city from a different perspective, so don’t pass it up.
Let’s start with the Tour de Fat, coming up right away, Saturday, July 9, in Palmer Square, Palmer St. at Kedzie Blvd. It’s a fun and beer filled celebration, sponsored by the New Belgium Brewing company, honoring their Fat Tire Amber Ale, and includes a costume bicycle parade, lots of beer, naturally, and a park full of games, fun, and music. Register early for the parade at http://www.newbelgium.com/Events/tour-de-fat/Chicago Enjoy.
Next up is the Chinatown Summer Fair, July 17, in Chinatown, at Cermak and Wentworth. There are activities for families and children, so feel free to bring the kids! This is the 38th year of celebrating Far East culture. You will want to catch the Dragon & Lion Dance Procession, stroll through the area and check out the artisans who have work on display. Bring your appetite as there is plenty of great cuisine.
Festa Italiana, August 18-21, will fill your senses with la dolce vita, “the sweet life,” Italian culture, and, of course, some of the best food in the world. The 10th annual Festa Italiana stretches along Taylor Street between Ashland Avenue and Racine Street. An Italian dance ensemble will perform and teach the tarantella, a well-loved Italian folk dance performed at Italian weddings.
You can learn to play Italian card games, or perhaps compete in contests to see who can consume the most meatballs or cannoli, then board a trolley for a tour of Chicago’s oldest Italian neighborhood, a gateway for thousands of immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century. You may want to visit this on Sunday morning, and join in a procession from the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii. A traditional Italian marching band will lead flag-bearers and worshipers from the 11 a.m. mass up Taylor Street to the Rosebud Stage for a short enactment of centuries-old Italian songs.
The Port Clinton Arts Festival, up in Highland Park, is a highly rated fine art and design show, that runs concurrently with Taste of Highland Park, August 27 & 28, Stroll through the casual downtown streets, where several hundred celebrated artists come together to showcase their work. The creativity, skill, brilliant use of color, texture and material will amaze you. You will also appreciate the talents of young artists, ages 18 and under, while you take in the exhibits in the Youth Division. Interactive art demonstrations by master artists will lure you into participating, and exploring your own creative urges and skills.
Naturally, we will finish up our feast of festivals with a visit to Chicago’s own Ukrainian Village. Ukrainian Village Fest, September 10-11, Oakley and Superior, is not to be missed. Held in the historic Ukrainian Village neighborhood this very unique festival was created to offer a world-class celebration for the Chicago community. This European style festival centers around live music, so please don’t miss it. You’ll especially want to see the dance ensembles showing off the many different styles of dress and forms of dancing and celebrating; these are wonderful, wild, beautiful presentations. Of course there’s a beer garden offering imported and domestic beer, ethnic arts & crafts, restaurants offering traditional and continental cuisine, games and children’s activities in a special kids area.
These are just FIVE of the hundreds of festivals you can easily visit this summer; enjoy these and many others. Look around, look them up, talk to your friends and neighbors about which events they like, and then get out and really, truly enjoy Chicago. God Speed, my friends