About the Town in July



By Philip Vidal




Thinking of summer brings to mind the end of school and the excitement of summer vacations.  I clearly remember my parents packing me, my two sisters and the luggage into our station wagon and heading to places familiar or new to us.  Either way, it was always an adventure.  But if you can’t get away this month, you can experience the world right here in Chicago by visiting neighborhoods, festivals and events.  It’s armchair travel, of sorts, or call it a “staycation.”


The Alliance Française de Chicago will host a Bastille Day celebration with a family-friendly afternoon event and adults evening event on July 13. Photo by Alliance Française de Chicago.


If you can’t make it to France for the Summer Olympics, consider the Bastille Day (National Day of France, July 14) celebrations at the Alliance Française de Chicago for a taste of France on Saturday, July 13, which include a family-friendly afternoon event and an evening event for adults.  The Committee of French Societies in the Midwest sponsors a Bastille Day celebration in Polk Bros. Park at Navy Pier on July 13.  If you care to ponder the differences and similarities between Paris and Chicago, “Opening Passages: Photographers Respond to Chicago and Paris” is an exhibition featuring the work of ten up-and-coming photographers that continues through August 25 at the Chicago Cultural Center, and which includes installations in Edgewater, Austin and Woodlawn.


Enjoy delicious tacos and tamales from various Latin American regions during the 3 day Tacos y Tamales Festival in Pilsen, July 19-21. Photo by Tacos y Tamales Festival.


Coinciding with Columbian Independence Day on July 20, the Columbian Fest Chicago/El Gran Festival Colombiano, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, runs July 19-21 on the grounds of Northeastern Illinois University. That same weekend is the Tacos y Tamales Festival at 16th and Peoria in Pilsen.


Enjoy pierogis? Visit Pierogi Fest® in Whiting, Indiana for 3 days of pierogi related events and live entertainment! Photo by Pierogi Fest®.


Billed as the largest Latino festival in the country, the 52nd anniversary Fiesta del Sol runs July 25-28 on Cermak Road between Morgan and Ashland.  The annual Chinatown Summer Fair on Cermak is a great way to enjoy a Lion Dance procession and Chinatown’s restaurants, also July 27-28.   One of the largest food festivals in the Chicago area is Pierogi Fest® in nearby Whiting, Indiana, July 26-28. The fest includes food vendors, a pierogi toss, and a pierogi-eating competition.  The food is so authentic at these festivals, and served with such pride, that you could well be at its source, without the expense or time commitment of traveling there.


Celebrating 40 years! The Taste of Lincoln Avenue will feature food & drinks, arts & crafts, live music and kid-friendly activities. Photo by Taste of Lincoln Avenue.


There are also options this month to sample different cuisines all in one place   Foods from more than 30 countries, including Brazil, Ghana, Haiti, and Senegal, can be had at the 8th annual Bantu Fest on the Midway Plaisance, July 27-28.  Neighborhood festivals such as the Taste of River North, on Wells Street between Ontario and Chicago, July 19-21, and the 40th anniversary Taste of Lincoln Avenue at Lincoln Avenue and Fullerton, July 26-28, also feature cuisines from around the world.


Try a variety of food from restaurants from Chicago and beyond at EEEEEATSCON at The Salt Shed, July 13-14. Photo by EEEEEATSCON.


It’s billed as ‘a different kind of food festival.’ The 2nd annual Eeeeeatscon at The Salt Shed runs July 13-14 and features restaurants offering Afghan, Nepalese, Thai and Mexican cuisine, as well as conversations with two Chicago natives: Grammy Award-winning artist and activist Chance the Rapper, and Academy, Emmy, Golden Globe and Grammy Award-winning actor, activist and rapper Common.  The 11th season of the Chicago Food Truck Festival at 2300 South Indiana, July 20-21, features the most diverse line-up of food trucks in Chicago.


For the best of the best across several cuisines, head to the Chicago Magazine Chicago’s Best Restaurants event at Galleria Marchetti on July 24, benefitting Chicago Chefs Cook.   Likewise, you don’t need to travel to the South, Southwest or West to have great barbecue and to hear great country music.  Just head to the Windy City Smokeout at the United Center Parking Lot C, July 11-14.


Featuring brewers and distillers of Malt Row, one of the most prolific craft brewing communities in the country located right in Ravenswood! Visit Ravenswood on Tap, July 20-21. Photo by Ravenswood on Tap.


You can also imagine yourself in a beer garden in Europe at one of the craft beer festivals around Chicago this month.  The Square Roots Festival, aka ‘a real nice music and craft beer fest’, is on Lincoln Avenue between Montrose and Wilson, July 12-14.  The Naperville Ale Fest is on July 13, and  Ravenswood on Tap is on Ravenswood and Berteau, July 20-21.


When I think of hibiscus, I think of the Caribbean or the tropics. I didn’t know that the Lincoln Park Zoo is also an arboretum, with the only accredited hibiscus collection in the country.   Late July is when hibiscus usually bloom, so it’s perfect timing for the Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual Summer Wine Fest on July 26.


When I was in high school in the 70s, I had an after-school, part-time job making deliveries for Stevens-Maloney, an office supply and stationery store at 19 South LaSalle Street.  On my rounds in the Loop, I was intrigued by a bar/restaurant at 207 West Madison with a large sign with a lighthouse advertising Cohasset Punch.  Since the sign had a lighthouse, I assumed Cohasset Punch had some connection to Cohasset, Massachusetts.  I was mistaken.  Cohasset Punch is a liqueur invented in Chicago in 1899.  Like Jeppson’s Malört, another medicinal-tasting classic Chicago liqueur, it seems Cohasset Punch fell out of fashion, but both have been revived.  I now have my chance to try Cohasset Punch, but probably not how it was traditionally served, chilled over a peach half.  And I now know it won’t transport me to Cohasset, Massachusetts.


I’ve never been to the Monaco Grand Prix, but the 2nd NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend is coming to Downtown Chicago on July 6-7.  We don’t have a corniche, but Lake Michigan could stand in for the Mediterranean.  In addition to the race, the event offers entertainment throughout the weekend in Grant Park, including performances by Keith Urban, local blues legend Buddy Guy, and a special House Music 40th Anniversary Showcase.


Get a taste of Tour de France from home! Chicago Grit makes its way through Chicago’s suburbs in 10 races in 10 days. Photo by Chicago Grit.


Our own freshwater America’s Cup is the 115th edition of the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac, which starts on July 12.  I’ve always wanted to attend the Henley Regatta in England.  The 44th annual Chicago Sprints Regatta in the Lincoln Park Lagoon is July 12-14.  Our smaller version of the Tour de France cycling race,  Chicago Grit, winds its way through the Chicago’s suburbs July 19-28.   No need to travel to Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro to see serious volleyball, the Midwest’s largest beach volleyball tournament, Volleywood, is July 20 at North Avenue Beach.


Since 1958, Venetian Night has brought a bit of Italy to Chicago’s lakefront with a nighttime parade of decorated boats.  Fireworks follow the boat parade on July 20 at Monroe Harbor.


Be transported to Verona, Italy, at Oak Park Festival Theatre’s performances of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” at Austin Gardens, July 5-August 17, or Midsommer Flight’s performances of  “Romeo and Juliet” at six Chicago Park District parks through August 4.   Porchlight Music Theatre takes you to New York City’s Great White Way with performances of “Broadway in your Backyard” in Chicago Park District parks through August 6.


Catch the world-premiere of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,”  a musical based on the non-fiction book by John Berendt, now through August 11. Photo courtesy of the Goodman Theatre.


The Goodman Theatre’s new musical “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” will take you to Savannah, Georgia.  Based on John Berendt’s novel of the same name, it runs through August 11.  The cover of Berendt’s New York Times best-selling book features a photo of “Bird Girl” sculpted by artist Sylvia Shaw Judson in 1936 at Ragdale, her family’s country estate in Lake Forest, designed by her father, famed architect Howard Van Doren Shaw.  When I visited Ragdale for the first time last year on a Know Your Chicago tour, I was delighted to discover one of Judson’s “Bird Girl” statues serenely standing in a courtyard.  I also met some of the artists in residence at what is now the Ragdale Foundation.


There is plenty to do and see right here.  Enjoy your July staycation in Chicago!


Dates, times, locations and availability are subject to change.