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City Council Approves Full Calendar Of Summer Festivals, Hoping For Possible Return Of Taste Of Chicago, Air & Water Show

CHICAGO (CBS) -- While the fate of the Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Air & Water Show, and other popular summer festivals remains uncertain this year due to a lack of funding, as well as the ongoing pandemic, the City Council on Wednesday approved the city's traditional slate of summer events.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the city to cut the budget for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) by 49%, due to plummeting hotel tax revenue the agency relies on, the city's 2021 spending plan does not include money for the Taste of Chicago or the Air & Water Show.

Nonetheless, the City Council on Wednesday authorized the city's full calendar of summer festivals, cultural programs, and other special events. Aldermen have said they hope the COVID-19 stimulus plan recently approved by Congress will allow the city to pay for some popular summer gatherings.

The Taste of Chicago, the Air & Water Show, and other popular summer festivals were canceled last year as part of the city's efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly told aldermen earlier this month a final decision has yet to be made on whether Taste of Chicago or the Air & Water Show will return in some form or another this summer, with an announcement expected in the "next several weeks."

City officials are working to determine whether any federal relief funds available through the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan approved by Congress will be available to use to pay for festivals and other cultural events this year.

While the ordinance approved by the City Council on Wednesday authorizes the city's full calendar of events for 2021, city officials said that could change, depending on whether the city can use any federal funding to pay for them, and whether there's another surge in virus cases.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she's "cautiously optimistic" that at least some summer festivals can return this year.

Earlier this month, the mayor said, regardless of how the city decides to move forward in terms of hosting summer festivals, people need to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while state and city officials continue ramping up vaccination efforts.

"I believe that the summer of 2021 is going to look more like 2019 and less like 2020, but we've still got to be driven by and led by what the science and public health guidance tells us. We're in one of the best positions that we've been in through this years-long pandemic … but that progress could easily slip away if we don't continue to be diligent," she said two weeks ago.

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