CHICAGO (CBS) -- After weeks of speculation, officials have canceled Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago, and the Air and Water Show, along with all of the city's other special events scheduled through Labor Day, due to ongoing concerns from the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said COVID-19 is still a threat to public health, and will remain so until there is a viable vaccine, so it doesn't make sense to go forward with huge summer festivals that bring thousands of people together.
"The reality is, bringing 100,000 people in mass, in close quarters, which is what the daily headcount is every single day at Lollapzlooza, bringing that many people from all over the country downtown in Grant Park every single day, we might as well just light ourselves on fire," Mayor Lightfoot said. "It makes no sense given what we know about how this disease spreads, which is close intimate contact extended over 10 minutes."
Lightfoot said the city is not receiving any payment from Lollapalooza organizers C3 Presents this year, nor is the city canceling the Lollapalooza contract. Officials are simply putting off the massive music festival until next summer. She said the city considered moving Lollapalooza to a later date this year, but said that "probably wasn't going to get us out of the woods" when it came to the risk of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The mayor's office said, instead of the summer's traditional summer festivals, the city will produce a slate of more than 150 "reimagined summer events" this year, such as at-home dance parties, drive-in movies, and virtual concerts.
"We must provide ways for people to enjoy the spirit of a Chicago summer while prioritizing health and safety," Lightfoot said in a statement. "As difficult as it is to remove these in-person events from our calendar, we are pulling out all the stops for an inventive, engaging and fun festival season this summer."
Among the summer festivals being canceled: Chicago SummerDance, Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, the Chicago Air and Water Show, Chicago Jazz Festival, the city's Jumping Jack Program, and the majority of programming at the Chicago Riverwalk, the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. The Maxwell Street Market also is canceled through Labor Day, along with all other festivals and parades through Labor Day.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, the losses to the local economy will be staggering. The economic impact is easily into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the virtual options that the city is offering in place of these events will not come close to making that up.
This summer's events would have attracted millions to the city, and contributed hundreds of millions to the local economy.
The 61-year-old Air and Water Show brings in about 1.5 million people a year and contributes an about $78 million in total business activity.
The Taste of the Chicago sends another million and a half visitors our way, and about $106 million.
But the biggest blow, according researchers at Angelou Economics, is Lollapalooza.
"Based on last year's figures, we're looking at $250 million of economic output due to the festival, and beyond that we're looking at just over 2,400 jobs impacted by the cancellation of the festival," said Matt Patton of Angelou Economics.
And that is just one year, Patton said.
Patton said before COVID-19, Angelou had been expecting the benefit to Chicago to grow in 2020 - and about half of the attendees to the four-day music festival are out-of-owners.
"They're specifically coming to in this case to Chicago and spending that money that could have been spent elsewhere in Chicago," Patton said.
The spending amounts to over $31 million in accommodations and over $20 million at restaurants and bars.
Instead of the traditional series of summer concerts, festivals, and other special events, city officials are planning more than 150 music, culinary, film, and other events on TV and online:
Instead of filling Grant Park with hundreds of thousands of fans, Lollapalooza will host weekend-long livestream event from July 30-Aug. 2. The city said details will be announced next month.
Taste of Chicago will be replaced with a to-go version featuring an expanded "Community Eats" program from July 8-12, including 25 restaurants and food trucks providing free meals to nonprofits serving healthcare staff and other frontline workers. The city also will organize a food truck procession on July 8, and online cooking demonstrations from July 8-12.
The city's annual farmers markets will begin reopening later this month to increase neighborhood access to fresh and healthy food, according to the mayor's office.
2020 Chicago City Markets Schedule:
- Division Street City Market (30 W. Division St.), June–October
- West Humboldt Park City Market (3601 W. Chicago Ave.), June–October
- Austin Town Hall City Market (5610 W. Lake St.), July–September
- Bronzeville City Market (4700 S. King Dr.), July–September
- Englewood City Market (1219 W. 76th St.), July–September
- LaFollette Park City Market (1333 N. Laramie Ave.), July–September
- Printers Row City Market (700 S. Dearborn St.), July–October
- Pullman Market City Market (11100 S. Cottage Grove Ave.), July–October
- Roseland City Market (139 W. 109th St., Lavizzo Elem.), August–October
- TENTATIVE: Daley Plaza City Market (50 W. Washington St.)
- TENTATIVE: Federal Plaza City Market (50 W. Adams St.)
Millennium Park also will open later this month with limited in-person events.
"Millennium Park at Home," an online music series announced last month, will continue with performances in June, July, and August by artists like Jon Langford, The Braided Janes, Melody Angel, John Primer, and others.
The city also is launching an at-home version of Chicago SummerDance, inviting Chicago residents to host socially-distant dance parties for up to 10 people at their homes, back yards, porches, balconies, or sidewalks. Live music broadcasts will be available every Wednesday evening in July.
Instead of the annual Millennium Park Summer Film Series, the city is planning six drive-in movie nights across the city. Details will be announced soon, but each event will be limited to 50 cars, and people must pre-register to attend.
The city also will host a series of 20 live music events in June, featuring Chicago musicians performing at neighborhood clubs for limited in-person audiences. Each event will be broadcast to larger audiences. Concerts will include Jazz music in August and September, in lieu of the Jazz Festival.
The Chicago Park District, Grant Park Music Festival, and other cultural groups also plan virtual summer events, or other smaller alternatives this summer.
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