BY PHILIP VIDAL
Hosting out-of-town guests is a great way to appreciate Chicago even more, and get up-to-date on what’s happening. My German cousin Stefanie and her Austrian boyfriend Julian will visit Chicago this month. Both are in their 20s. It’s neither’s first visit so I was thinking about all the changes that have recently occurred in Chicago.
Offshore, Navy Pier’s rooftop bar and restaurant. Photo by Navy Pier.
We have a new mayor. I’ve been watching the new 101-story Vista Tower rise over the Chicago River. The Tribune Tower is being converted to condos. The renovation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Robie House is complete. Navy Pier now has Offshore, the nation’s largest (36,000-square-foot) rooftop bar and restaurant. The old main post office that was vacant for so many years finally has new tenants who will start moving into the enormous building in the fall. Some of the first tenants are Walgreens Boots Alliance, Home Chef, and the Ferrara Candy Company.
Ferrara Candy Company has a soft spot in my heart, and is probably one of the sources of my sweet tooth, because there was a little kiosk just outside the lunchroom in my grammar school, Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Belmont, that exclusively sold Ferrara Pan Candy Company’s confections. I fondly remember Lemonheads, Boston Baked Beans, and Red Hots. I was hooked at an early age.
“Shelf Life: The Story of Lanzi Candy” will play at the Gene Siskel Film Center, July 12, 13 and 17. Photo by Gene Siskel Film Center.
Chicago was the ‘candy capital of the world’… Wrigley, Mars, Brachs. Even today, if the wind is right, you can be hit with the smell of chocolate wafting down Kinzie from the Blommer Chocolate Company, North America’s largest cocoa processor. There were many smaller candy companies, too. The Gene Siskel Film Center is screening “Shelf Life: The Story of Lanzi Candy,” on July 12, 13 and 17, about one of those small candy companies. Director Michael Lahey tells the story of how his grandfather, Enzo Lanzi, started the company and developed their most popular item, Lanzi’s Cashew Nut Crunch.
After a damp, dreary and cool spring, I’m looking forward to Stefanie and Julian’s visit, and I am hopeful and optimistic for a sunny and fun summer.
Teatro ZinZanni presents “Love, Chaos and Dinner” at the Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop-Theater District, July 18 – September 29. Photo by Teatro ZinZanni.
“Love, Chaos and Dinner” sounds like a lot going on, and could be the sub-theme for some of the dinner parties I have hosted, but it’s actually the title of Teatro ZinZanni’s new interactive production (part cabaret, circus and comedy) that includes dinner in the Spiegeltent ZaZou on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop-Theater District on Randolph, July 18 – September 29.
Summer means lighter clothes and lighter, fun fare at the theater. “Head over Heels – The Musical,” from the creators of such hits as “Avenue Q,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Spring Awakening,” features the infectiously upbeat music of 80s all-female band the Go-Go’s, Kokandy Productions at Theater Wit, July 1-August 25. It’s hard not to love a musical with a song dedicated to Gary, Indiana. Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” directed by Mary Zimmerman, Goodman Theatre, has been extended through August 11. “The Drag Seed,” David Cerda’s unauthorized parody of the 1956 movie “The Bad Seed,” runs July 5-August 25 at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville. “The Wizard of Oz” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier would make a fun, family outing, July 6-August 25.
Diana Ross performs at The Chicago Theatre for “Diamond Diana – Diana Ross 75th Birthday: A Year of Celebration,” July 10.
The film “The Wizard of Oz” with the Grant Park Orchestra providing the live soundtrack will be shown on Classic Movie Night, part of the Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Parks, on July 10. That same evening, Diana Ross, who starred as Dorothy in “The Wiz” brings her “Diamond Diana – Diana Ross 75th Birthday: A Year of Celebration” to The Chicago Theatre.
Chicago-native Jennifer Hudson won the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Dreamgirls,” inspired by the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes. The Grammy® award-winner performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Women’s Board Gala on July 14.
On the heels of the hit movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” vocalist Brody Dolyniuk and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra bring “The Music of Queen” to Ravinia on July 7. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian who wrote and sang “Summer in the City” performs at City Winery Chicago on July 8. The song “Dancing Queen” will most likely be on the playlist at “ABBA – The Concert – A Tribute to ABBA” July 30 at Ravinia.
The 16th annual Silver Room Sound System Block Party takes place on Harper in Hyde Park, July 20. Photo by the Silver Room.
Ravinia is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. So are block parties. The 16th annual Silver Room Sound System Block Party is July 20, on Harper in Hyde Park. The Woman’s Board of the Art Institute of Chicago’s 2nd annual Block Party throughout the museum is July 21. Join the Poetry Foundation in Pilsen for a different kind of block party, the Chicago Poetry Block Party, at the National Museum of Mexican Art, July 27. Also in Pilsen that weekend is a really big block party of sorts, the 47th annual Fiesta del Sol, the Midwest’s largest Latino festival, at Cermak between Morgan and Ashland, July 25-28.
Windy City Smokeout takes place in the United Center’s parking lot, July 12-14. Photo by Windy City Smokeout.
Summer in Chicago means outdoor food festivals are here! Of course, there’s the daddy of all Chicago food festivals, Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, July 10-14, but there are also other food festivals this month. The Windy City Smokeout in the United Center’s Parking Lot features some of the best barbeque pit masters from across the country, July 12-14. Local talent will be showcased at this year’s Green City Market Chef BBQ, Lincoln Park, on July 18. Naperville Ribfest moves to Romeoville next year, but this year enjoy it over the holiday weekend, July 3-6, in Knoch Park. Billy Idol (July 3) and Bad Company (July 6) are just two of the concerts on the lineup. The Roscoe Village Burger Fest is July 13-14 at Belmont and Damen. The Tacos y Tamales Festival is July 19-21 at 16th and Peoria in Pilsen. The 25th annual Pierogi Fest® is just over the border in Whiting, Indiana, July 26-28.
I had LEGO® bricks as a child, and loved playing with them. I asked my good friend if her 9 and 5-year old nephews like LEGOs, and she said that every kid likes LEGOs, so I suggested she might want to take them to one or both of the two outdoor LEGO® exhibitions this summer. “Brick Safari,” featuring forty life-size animal sculptures made from LEGOs, continues at the Brookfield Zoo through September 29. At the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, giant LEGO® insect and animal sculptures, “Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks,” can be seen through September 15.
Lisle also is hosting the Eyes to the Skies Festival over the Fourth of July holiday, July 4-6. Check out the hot-air balloons in the morning and the fireworks at night.
Bughouse Square Debates takes place at Washington Square Park, July 27. Photo by the Newberry Library.
Speaking of hot air, Washington Square Park, across from the Newberry Library, has had a history going back to the 1880s of people literally getting up on soapboxes – just like a noted corner in Hyde Park, London. The tradition continues on July 27 with this year’s Bughouse Square Debates.
The 35th annual Newberry Book Fair is July 25-28 at the Newberry Library. It’s a great place to stock up on books for a summer beach read, or for when the weather turns cold once again, all too soon.
“South Side,” set and filmed in Chicago’s South Side premieres July 24 on Comedy Central. Photo by Comedy Central.
Besides all of the outdoor events I have mentioned, I plan to stay in on July 24 to see the premiere of “South Side,” the new sitcom series on Comedy Central, which is set and filmed on Chicago’s South Side.
Dates, times, location, and availability are subject to change.