The 2020 summer festival season was a bust, thanks to COVID-19, but local organizers say they’re feeling hopeful about the return of neighborhood street festivals and art shows this year.
City officials seem optimistic as well.
“While we are not formally planning nor permitting events at this time, our COVID-19 indicators continue to trend in the right direction and we are hopeful that some events that align with health guidelines may be possible later this year,” a city spokesperson said in an emailed statement to WTTW News. “As such, Mayor Lightfoot has directed City departments to prepare for the possibility of events this summer and ensure any resources that could be necessary are available.”
On Wednesday, city officials said a final decision about the Taste of Chicago and the Air and Water Show — two massive annual attractions that were among the hundreds canceled last year — will be announced in the next few weeks.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was “very optimistic” about the return of summer activities.
“We know so much more about this virus, how it spreads then we did a year ago. We know in particular about outside events that we can manage these in a safe way that’s consistent with public health guidance,” Lightfoot said Wednesday. “I believe the summer of 2021 is going to look more like 2019 and less like 2020, but we’ve still got to be driven and led by (what) the public health guidance tells us.”
Earlier this week the mayor announced that a limited number of fans can return to Chicago’s baseball stadiums starting in April. Relaxed restrictions at bars and restaurants are also a good sign of what’s to come, organizers of summer events say.
“We’re very optimistic, with the way the vaccine distribution is going and from what we’re hearing from our sources at the city of Chicago, that summer fests will happen again at some point this summer,” said Jessie Burdett, events manager at StarEvents, which has more than a dozen events slated for this summer.
Organizers aren’t the only ones hoping for a return to summer fun.
“It’s been a cold, dark winter and we want to bring light and color through art back to people and help them reconnect and feel a sense of optimism and happiness in their lives again,” said Amy Amdur, president and CEO of Amdur Productions, which organizes 20 art fairs in the Chicago area and produced several modified art walks last year.
If and when festivals do return, they’ll look a little different. Forget shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, lining up in front of music stages and hands-on art activities. Instead, expect social distance markers, spaced out vendor booths and lots of hand sanitizer stations.
And don’t forget to wear your mask.