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Gates open for season at Ravinia Festival north of Chicago, but cicada noise remains a concern

Gates open at Ravinia in Chicago's north suburbs amid cicada noise
Gates open at Ravinia in Chicago's north suburbs amid cicada noise 02:15

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- The gates officially opened at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park on Tuesday – but there are now concerns that the songs and shrieks of 17-year cicadas may disrupt the music.

People will be pouring in for The Return of Flock featuring Jerry Goodman on the Carousel Stage on Friday – and especially for James Taylor & His All-Star Band this Saturday and Sunday.

"Ravinia opening symbolizes summer, I think, in Chicagoland," said Ravinia President Jeff Haydon.

Ravinia was founded as an amusement and entertainment venue in 1904 by Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railway operator A.C. Frost. It developed into a venue for all manner of orchestras and musical acts – opera, classical, and popular alike.

"We are so excited to open the gates," said Haydon. "We work all year round for this moment to be able to open up the gates for the summer for everybody."

This summer's concert series is jam-packed. Robert Plant with Alison Krauss, Roger Daltrey, Norah Jones with Mavis Staples, The Roots, and Crowded House are among the headliners this year.

But some blaring guests have also arrived ahead of time – and they haven't been on the grounds since 2007. The earlier estimate was that they would be gone by the time the season started – but they're still here.

"Ravinia works with nature, and cicadas have long been part of the soundtrack of Ravinia," said Haydon. "This year, they'll be a little bit louder, but they're in tune - so we're all good with it."

And while Ravinia says the summertime insect is no problem, those living near the venue in Highland Park are already sick of their ear-piercing mating calls.

"Oh yeah, we live down the street from Ravinia – and the cicadas are everywhere," said Steve Berkowitz, "and they're really, really loud."

Berkowitz considers himself a Ravinia regular.

"Every year, like probably around 10 times a summer," he said.

Yet this summer may force Berkowitz to sit a few concerts out – not because of who's playing, but because of the bugs he'd have to rock out with.

"Look, they're harmless - but they're a real pain," said Berkowitz, "and it's going to be a problem at Ravinia this summer, unfortunately, because Ravinia is fantastic."

Ravinia said it will turn up the volume to ensure the attention stays on the main stage—and not the cicadas.

"We're expecting hundreds of thousands of people to be able to come through listening to all different kinds of music," Haydon said.

And Ravinia is ready for cicada enthusiasts as well.

"Our hottest selling item at the festival shop is the cicada shirt and cicada pens, and so it's like, if you can't beat them, join them," said Haydon.

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