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Blues Festival, Andersonville Midsommarfest, Old Town Art Fair among events kicking off summer in Chicago

Summer festival season kicks off in Chicago
Summer festival season kicks off in Chicago 02:45

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Friday night marked the first night of the 2024 Chicago Blues Festival at Millennium Park.

Blues musicians Corey Harris and "The Mississippi Blues Child" Mr. Sipp each took the stage at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, along with a h host of musicians who honored what would have been the 100th birthday of Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player Jimmy Rogers. On Sunday night, Buddy Guy will be the headliner in what will be one of his final performances.

The Blues Festival is just one of the big events happening in the city this weekend that amounts to an unofficial kickoff to summer in Chicago. Midsommarfest in Andersonville is another – with live bands and their famous flower crowns.

"Midsommar is the Swedish celebration of summer. It's the beginning of summer," said Charlie Wein of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce. "So we do this - we've been doing this for 58 years."

Midsommarfest is underway through Sunday on Clark Street from Foster Avenue north to Gregory Street. About four and a half miles to the south, the Old Town Art Fair is also back again for the 74th time in the historic Old Town Triangle District.

"It started out many years ago with some neighbors encouraging artists to hang some of their artwork on a fence to sell it, help them out," said Phillip Graff of the Old Town Art Fair, "and it became a thing."

More than 200 artists from all over the world will showcase their work at the Old Town Art Fair. The art fair—which also features a garden walk, live music, a food court, and a children's corner—is on through Sunday at 6 p.m. around the area of Lincoln Avenue, Lincoln Park West, and Wisconsin Street.

Summer events kick off in Chicago 01:54

In the park of Humboldt Park, in the neighborhood of the same name, the Puerto Rican Festival, or Fiestas Patronales Puertorriqueñas, features vendors, a parade, and carnival rides this weekend through Sunday.

The festivities are also spilling into the suburbs. Up a country road – well, really more of a picturesque suburban one – James Taylor & His All-Star Band will take the main stage at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park both Saturday and Sunday night.

The mating calls of the 17-year cicada are expected to add their tune to the music performances at Ravinia this year – though the cicadas are relatively scarce back in much of the city of Chicago.

And back at Millennium Park, the Blues Festival carries on a tradition that has continued for all but two of the last 40 years.

The first-ever blues festival in Grant Park was held in 1969 and featured Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Willie Dixon, and Bo Diddley, among others. The Blues Festival in its current incarnation has been held annually at the beginning of June since 1984, and John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry by himself and with Keith Richards, and B.B. King were among the many superstars to take the stage at the Petrillo Band Shell over the years.

The Blues Festival moved from Grant Park to Millennium Park in 2017. It took two years off in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has been back in full swing ever since.

And Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, B.B. King? All have died. But Buddy Guy is still going at the age of 87, and throngs of people are thrilled at the opportunity to see him.

"I guess if you're looking forward to somebody, you know, that's the legend man, there himself!" said Dennis Jackson.

In all, over 200 musicians are playing at the stages of the Blues Festival this year.

"It's really exciting," said Maria Trakas. "People are all together – music brings people together. I don't know, I like it. I come every year."

The city is advising people to expect street closures, crowds, and bad traffic all weekend long and to check the weather before heading out.

Of course, safety is also top of mind, so the city is asking people to report any suspicious activity.

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