What is your favorite Chicago summer festival?
My absolute favorite Chicago festival is Maifest because: beer. I also love Maifest because I’m German. Like super German. It’s the one time of year I listen to polka music and actually find it charming (probably due to beer), and I especially adore watching all the little kids who go out on the dance floor and boogey to it with reckless abandon. It always reminds me of the joy that comes from just being free and un-self-conscious, and that I should remember to have a little bit more of that in my boring adult life. Adding to the adorable factor are the plethora of dogs that are always in attendance. I spend most of my time at Maifest accosting unsuspecting owners so I can pet their dogs. I generally dislike big festivals because I loathe crowds, but Maifest is always very manageable crowd-wise, at least during the day. I don’t eat pork, so I can’t vouch for the food, but go for the beer and the polka kids and, of course, the sweet, sweet doggies.
Karen wrote about this last year, but I have to say, I loved attending the Square Roots Festival. The Lincoln Square neighborhood is perfect for the wannabe-yuppie-hipster in
some all of us, and the fact that much of the proceeds of the festival go to help support the Old Town School of Folk Music makes it all the better. Most festivals blur together for me – what sets this apart is the wide range of amazing music being put on. There’s great jam sessions, main stage performances, and eclectic side performances – and this is one festival that isn’t swarmed with enough people to sink the Titanic. (*cough*RIBFEST*cough*). The vendor stalls are there in all their tacky omnipresent glory, but there aren’t as many as there could be. Plus the food and beer are great. Seriously, just go.
I don’t always get to attend because Labor Day Weekends sometimes present me with parties and deadlines, but the Chicago Jazz Festival is always a wonderful way to end the summer. The weather is often superb, there’s plenty of room on the great lawns at Millennium and Grant Parks for wine and cheese picnics. and the performances are free AND often stellar. I’ve been privileged to see and hear Ramsey Lewis groove out in his 70s on fifty year-old hits, Joe Lovano and Charles Lloyd perform 45-minute jams on John Coltrane compositions with Coltrane’s son Ravi, and Brad Mehldau lead the greatest piano trio in the jazz world through inventive interpretations of Alice in Chains and Sufjan Stevens tunes. This year’s festival will include such legends as Muhal Richard Abrams and Bobby Hutcherson and will assuredly not disappoint.
It may be more crowded than it used to be. It may seem like the vendors run out of food quicker than they used to. Despite all that, my favorite summer festival is still Ribfest. This hallowed hallmark of the Northcenter neighborhood was one of my first Chicago festivals, and it’s still my favorite. June is not complete without some short ribs, pulled pork, a bit of brisket, and a couple helpings of Guiness ice cream. Few things compare to eating quintessential American foodstuffs while watching local bands like Archie Powell & the Exports, Mucca Pazza, or The Wanton Looks.
In fact, I feel the need to dig up an old Wanton Looks video and throw some barbecued pork in my mac & cheese right now.
I know it’s had its controversies over the years, but there’s nothing like the Taste of Chicago. It’s huge, it’s crowded, it’s overpriced, but it’s so much fun. Plus, they get decent acts for the live performances, and a show at the Taste was once the least I’ve ever paid for a Death cab for cutie ticket. And where else can you hope for the chance of seeing Rahm Emanuel awkwardly dancing to “Blurred Lines”? The Taste is July 8-12 this year. That weekend I’ll be busy enjoying a brand-new music fest, Mamby on the Beach, but I’ll definitely try to see Weezer play the Taste on Wednesday, July 8. Come with me! We’ll gorge ourselves on pizza puffs like real Chicagoans, and finish up with a giant slice of cheesecake on a stick (!!).