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"No Mega Fests": Douglass Park neighbors want music festivals to stop taking over their park

Douglass Park neighbors fed up with "Mega Fests," want them gone
Douglass Park neighbors fed up with "Mega Fests," want them gone 02:51

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Fed up with large festivals, neighbors want the city to call it quits on mega festivals in Douglass Park, such as Riot Fest, set for September.

Local aldermen have supported the events for years, but residents say the festivals damage the park, and close it to neighbors for weeks each summer.

Some neighbors are even reaching out to artists themselves, telling them, "Please don't come here."

Earlier this month, neighbors gathered in Douglass Park to physically send a message: "no mega fests."

"It's not just five neighbors, or ten, it's literally hundreds of us," said Ana Solano, a community organizer with Únete La Villita.

They don't want Riot Fest to go forward in September. The festival, which moved to Douglass Park in 2015 after backlash from angry residents in its previous home in Humboldt Park, brings a crowd of thousands over a 3-day period.

"The biggest fear is how much they destroy our park," Solano said.

Solano shared pictures of the trash left behind on the park grounds from two other festivals in Douglass Park earlier this summer – Summer Smash in June and Heatwave in July. Cans, wires, and even a syringe littered the ground, and grass in the park still hadn't grown back weeks after the latest festival.

Neighbors worry the post festival damage to the park will become permanent, and call the commotion that comes with it an intrusion

The days the park is closed to the public, kids' soccer practices normally held in Douglass Park are forced to move elsewhere

"We just want to breathe clean air, have access to green spaces, and we want to be heard," Solano said.

Solano said, for years, organizers have tried to connect with local aldermen over their concerns; to no avail.

So now they're focusing their attention directly to the artists themselves – including My Chemical Romance, Nine Inch Nails, and Misfits – asking them not to show up.

"On social media, we've been tagging them, and asking them to step down from the concert," Solano said.

Private fences rope off the park for several days before each festival for set up, and for days afterward for takedown and cleanup.

That means, from June through September, neighbors won't have access to the park for up to 47 days; or nearly 40% of the total days in those months.

The Riot Fest website shares its ties to engage with the local community, and says the music festival brings economic opportunity to the neighborhood, pointing to hosting a local job fair, which over the years has employed more than 1,000 neighbors at the festival, resulting in more than $300,000 of economic impact to Douglass Park.

Solano said that's not enough to make the festival worth it.

"You give jobs to teens for like, what, two days? I don't think that's much of an impact," she said.

She's hoping to shut out the noise and give the space back to the neighborhood for good.

The Chicago Park District oversees the application and permit process for the festival, and started requiring organizers to submit a "community engagement plan" that includes one public meeting before the festival.

There will be a community listening session on the issue next week, on Aug. 24, at the Douglass Park fieldhouse.

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