By Philip Vidal
I have never thought of Chicago as a party town, like Las Vegas or New Orleans, but summer in Chicago is now one festival after another. Of course, there are festivities to commemorate Independence Day, such as Freedom Fest on July 4 at the Navy Pier Rooftop — the pier will be 100 on July 15 (julyfourth.com). Taste of Chicago is July 6–10 in Grant Park. Not only will there be lots of food, but there will be great performances by Billy Idol, The Isley Brothers and others (tasteofchicago.us). The Pitchfork Music Festival, which is said to be one of the best musical festivals in the U.S. (July 15–17, Union Park, pitchforkmusicfestival.com) and the 25th annual Lollapalooza (July 28–31, Grant Park, lollapalooza.com) will attract large crowds, as will Fiesta del Sol, one of the largest Latino festivals in the Midwest (July 28–30, Cermak and Loomis, fiestadelsol.org).
But there are also smaller festivals around the city to enjoy for all interests. There is even a Chicago Hot Sauce Fest at Brands Park, 3259 N. Elston, July 23–24 (chicagohotsaucefest.com). That same weekend is the Chicago Craft Beer Festival at Sheffield and Webster (craftbeerfestivalchicago.com).
Other musical events are Square Roots Festival produced by the Old Town School of Folk Music (July 8–10, Lincoln and Montrose, squareroots.org), West Fest (July 8–10, Chicago and Damen, westfestchicago.com) and Wicker Park Fest (July 23–24, Milwaukee and North, wickerparkfest.com). If you are looking for a music and arts festival, head to the Southport Art & Music Festival (July 16–17, amdurproductions.com/southport). Most of these festivals are geared for adults, but BenFest (July 15–17, St. Benedict’s, 2125 W. Irving Park, stbenedict.com) is described as a kid-friendly festival.
The 108th Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac is July 23. Spectators can watch the parade of boats from the east end of Navy Pier starting at 10 a.m. If you do not have your own boat, you can tour or sail in one during the Tall Ships Chicago festival, July 27–31, Navy Pier. The Draken Harald Harfagre, the world’s largest Viking ship built in modern times, is one of the ships taking part in the festival (navypier.com/tall-ships-chicago-2016). The Oshkosh Air Show, aka the EAA AirVenture Show, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, promises more than 10,000 aircraft on display or overhead, July 25–31 (eaa.org). Friends tell me that during the show, Oshkosh becomes the busiest airport in the world.
The 20th annual Chicago SummerDance festival continues through September 11 downtown and at various locations around the city (chicagosummerdance.org). The Theater on the Lake at Fullerton is under renovation so the Chicago Park District has transferred programming to the Berger Park Cultural Center, Smith Park and Washington Park through August 14 (312-742-7994 or chicagoparkdistrict.com/events/theater-on-the-lake). What could be better than hot jazz on a cool night, or cool jazz on a hot night? The Museum of Contemporary Art’s summer outdoor jazz series, Tuesdays on the Terrace, is already in full swing. Through September 27, listen to artists from all over Chicago as they perform in the MCA’s Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden from 5:30 to 8 p.m. (mcachicago.org/tuesdays).
Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s Rhythm World 26 is billed as “America’s Oldest and Largest Festival of Tap and Percussive Dance.” It is a three-week tap festival of educational events and performances (July 5–25, chicagotap.org).
Festivities to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death continue. First Folio Theatre performs Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream outdoors at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook from July 6 through August 14 (firstfolio.org). The Oak Park Festival Theatre will perform The Taming of the Shrew, July 23 through August 27 (oakparkfestival.com). The Grant Park Chorus performs a cappella concerts and Shakespeare in the Park at the South Shore Cultural Center and the Columbus Park Refectory on July 24 and 26 (gpmf.org). The Illinois Shakespeare Festival is at the Ewing Manor in Bloomington, July 5 through August 13(illinoisshakes.com).
Most of these festivals are of the outdoor variety, but if you prefer something indoors, the Music Box Theatre is hosting the Chicago French Film Festival (July 22–28, musicboxtheatre.com).
I want to see Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure, which explores vaudeville and race relations in Chicago circa 1908 (through August 14, Lookingglass Theatre, lookingglasstheatre.org).
The penguins at the Lincoln Park Zoo will do a double take on July 15 when guests in black tie arrive for the Women’s Board’s 39th annual “A Romantic Midsummer’s Eve: Zoo Ball 2016, Penguins in Parade.” Lisa Genesen and Christine Tierney are the co-chairs (lpzooball.org). A new polar bear habitat will open this fall or winter, and the lion house is going to be remodeled.
Summer is a time when I like to enjoy a cool glass of rosé wine or a Moscow Mule in a frosty copper cup. It is our good fortune to have many outdoor spaces in Chicago where we can go to imbibe. A few of my favorite locales are the terrace on NoMI in the Park Hyatt, Pelago, GreenRiver, Maple & Ash and Streeterville Social at the Loews Hotel. I also look forward to sipping cocktails on the terrace of a private club on Michigan Avenue overlooking Buckingham Fountain.
Brits enjoy their Bolly — Bollinger Champagne that is. James Bond 007 typically orders a bottle of vintage Bolly when he is about the town. It will be fun to see how much Bolly Edina and Patsy, characters from the British TV comedy Absolutely Fabulous, over-consume when they (along with 60+ celebrity cameos) hit the big screen in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, which will be released in the UK on July 1 and here on July 22.
July is peak time for summer travel. This summer is the 130th season of the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan. Good news for those of us who do not travel light (and I am one of them), American luggage company Ghurka has brought back the hard-sided trunk, which they have not offered for the past 25 years.
If travel is not an option, how about a staycation? What would summer be without a camping trip? And what if you didn’t even have to leave the city? Camp Northerly is “Chicago’s only urban camping experience.” It is an adult overnight camping trip on Northerly Island on August 5. Bring your own tent or use one of the Park District’s pre-set tents. Included in the entry fee are such camping essentials as a cookout, a live fireside concert, and a s’mores station. Tell ghost stories of an airport that used to be on Northerly Island, but disappeared overnight. Register at campnortherly2016.eventbrite.com, and, for more information, contact email@example.com.
Looking ahead, I am among the lucky ones who have tickets to the Chicago run of Hamilton: An American Musical. Apparently, it is just a coincidence that the statue of Alexander Hamilton, which normally stands south of Diversey in Lincoln Park, has been removed, is being restored, and will be back in place in time for the September 27 opening of the musical at PrivateBank Theatre (broadwayinchicago.com).