Hello again, fellow roadies! Instead of the ghastly Chicago summer humidity of the last two weeks, we had a nice, dry sunny day on Friday. Excellent weather for starting a weekend road trip! But there is one good thing about warm weather, even with a bit of humidity: eating and listening to music al fresco, whether it’s at your favorite grill or tavern, neighborhood street fest/art fair, or a downtown extravaganza like the gargantuan music fest descending upon Chicago this weekend.
I mean Lolla, of course – short for Lollapalooza, the event that will be monopolizing a good chunk of Grant Park, starting immediately south of Jackson Drive/Route 66 and centering on Congress Plaza and Buckingham Fountain (with all the stages, scaffolding and speakers, you’ll be lucky if you get so much as a teensy glimpse of that fountain before next Monday or Tuesday).
We recommend that route-roadies heading for Chicago this weekend bunk down north of the river or perhaps further down the route (like on Jackson or Adams in the financial district, or in the West Loop/IMD – there’s a Marriott on the medical campus, for example), or even in suburban Countryside or Willowbrook (it might be worth it just this once to sleep outside the Loop, if you want to get any sleep at all: those Lolla folks party hearty, no matter where they’re staying). On the other hand, if you don’t intend to sleep, by all means: hang around. But expect to pay for the privilege – all too many hotels, restaurants and bars downtown will be capitalizing on the event and charging up the wazoo for whatever. Don’t even dream about street parking.
If you’re under 30, you may head over to Lolla yourself and may even need one of those special Lollapalooza hangover brunches that have been advertised in town this week (no, we’re not discussing them and enabling you; sorry). If you’re over 40, you may well have kids who will be begging/demanding/whining to attend (good luck with that). One supposes that how you feel about Lolla depends on your age and your sanity, given that 1) based on past performance, there definitely will be preventable cases of heat stroke, sunburn, underage indulgence in booze and drugs, and public barfing, no matter who tells you differently (the ERs are expecting it; it may as well be a rave); and 2) it’ll monopolize a big part of downtown for a week or so, messing up the area for other events and clogging traffic (they have to set up in the park days in advance, then tear everything down after, and the hotels will be flooded with thousands of young people who won’t keep in touch with their parents or do anything else they promised in order to be allowed to attend).
Lurie Children’s Hospital figured out that Lollapalooza is the worst weekend all year for underage drinking in Chicago – next to Lolla, St. Patrick’s Day boozing is a walk in the park (hey, don’t blame us: they did a study; be sure to check out the impressive infographic). There were five times as many ER visits related to underage drinking during Lolla last year as there were on St. Paddy’s and seven times as many as on the average weekend in Chicago. Bear in mind that most underage substance abusers at Lolla don’t show up at the ERs in town, but they’re still impaired and (mostly) ambulatory. Bottom line: if you’re in downtown Chicago this weekend, you’ll have to watch out for wayward overindulging teens, on the sidewalks and on the street.
There actually will be some very good music, too, in case anyone’s listening. This year, the ‘name’ acts will be Paul McCartney, Florence + The Machine, and Metallica (Yay, Cool and Ouch, in that order. Don’t argue). But you’d better have bought your tickets in advance, or you’re out of luck: tickets for the ‘name’ events sold out weeks ago. And don’t expect to park anywhere downtown unless you’ve already made arrangements and/or are prepared to pay through the nose. We’re talking big money. Park outside the Loop and take public transit into downtown.
Lolla is certainly a memorable experience. Then again, it’s really meant for those still young enough (or silly enough) to think going deaf and getting drunk/stoned in public is cool. Oh, well; what did people expect once more than 50,000 students a day began not only attending college in the Loop but often living there, too? Sigh … and to think this is what’s replaced Venetian Night on the lake as the late-July Chicago spectacle.
Go, or don’t go; it’s up to you, but be prepared. One thing is clear: Lolla attracts a LOT of youth, some of whom may also discover and/or travel down Route 66 in the metro area while they’re here. They need encouragement to do so. Yet another reason we wish there were a plaque, a monument, or an Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway infohub/wayside marker on the SE (Grant Park) corner of the Gateway to Route 66, i.e., Jackson Drive/Boulevard at Michigan Avenue (you listening, Mr. Mayor?). More on that in another post. But I digress.
Here’s your updated calendar of events. Read carefully because we’ve added to the list with new events, like the Farm Aid concert in September. Meanwhile, this weekend I’ll be safe elsewhere, sucking down margaritas and staying shady and chill until the next car show. Hope to see you on the route soon. Cheers!
Your Route 66 calendar girl,
2015 Route 66 calendar
July 31-August 2 – Lollapalooza in Grant Park, between Jackson Drive and Balbo Drive; the headliners this year include Paul McCartney, Florence + The Machine, and Metallica. Lolla’s usually a zoo, but it’s one of a kind, too – and you can’t beat the venue near the lake and Route 66. Hours daily: 6am-11pm. Do yourself a favor and take public transportation to get there. For details and tickets, visit http://www.lollapalooza.com/. The full music lineup is here.
August 8 – Willowbrook Cruisin’ 66 Fest Car & Bike Show, Harvester Park, 15W400 Harvester Drive, Burr Ridge; sponsored by the Willowbrook/Burr Ridge Chamber of Commerce. Festivities will include live music and other entertainment, food, and children’s activities in addition to the custom and classic cars and motorcycles. Harvester Park is barely two blocks north of Route 66/Joliet Road/North Frontage Road and about four blocks northwest of Schustek Pond. For details, contact the C of C at 630-654-0909.
August 7-9 – 2015 Chicago Hot Dog Fest, Clark Street at LaSalle Drive; presented by the Chicago History Museum, which is located on Clark just south of the festival site. This is the third annual wienerfest; as the Chicago dog is part of the city’s history, it’s only natural for the history museum to be involved. The main sponsor (no surprise here) is Vienna Beef, of course, which got its start when two gents who had immigrated to Chicago from Vienna, Austria decided to present their favorite hand-held sausage at the 1893 Columbian Exposition – where it was an immediate hit. No, the history museum isn’t on Route 66, but if you’re going to make excuses to see Navy Pier, which also isn’t anywhere near the route, you can find one for this, too – it’s less than a mile from the pier, and it’s a family-type event. So there. Admission is free, but you get a slight discount on food tickets (Dog Dollars) if you buy them ahead of time online. For details and to buy food tickets in advance, visit http://www.chicagohotdogfest.com/.
August 15-16 – Chicago Air and Water Show, North Avenue Beach; no admission fee. For those who love air shows and stunt flying, the free annual Air & Water Show is like fireworks in the day time. Besides the big music festivals, this is one of the most popular events of the year in Chicago. It’s also the largest aviation event of its kind and has a long and proud history. Although the grandstand will be east of Lake Shore Drive at North Avenue Beach (about two miles north of Route 66), you’ll still be able to see the jets zipping by downtown if you’re anywhere near the bike path east of the drive and across from Grant Park. Reason: those planes fly so fast that they often go right past the pier before pulling up and around. You’ll get a better view, however, from Oak Street Beach, Olive Park/Ohio Street Beach, and the north side of Navy Pier than you will downtown. The best view, though, will probably be from the condo/apartment buildings along the Inner Drive between North Avenue and Oak Street (having an air-conditioned view there is the trade-off for not being able to hear the announcers – but the event will be broadcast live on WBBM Newsradio, so you can get around that). For a close-up compromise location (those grandstands fill up EARLY!!), try south of the chess pavilion along Oak Street Beach … but get there at least two hours before the show starts, and DON’T expect to be able to park within half a mile of the grandstands (even the Lincoln Park parking lots will be full; take public transportation or walk there, dudes). You have been warned. Details at http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_air_and_watershow.html
August 16 – Route 66 Association of Illinois annual picnic, Sugar Grove Nature Center near Funks Grove, IL; 4532 N 725 East Road, McLean, IL 61254. It’s free, roadies, but it’s only good manners to bring something to share, like dessert or chips. For more info, see http://il66assoc.org/event/association-picnic-2015
August 29 – NEW DATE: annual Berwyn Route 66 Car Show, 10am-4pm on Ogden Avenue/Route 66 between Ridgeland Avenue and Oak Park Avenue, Berwyn, IL; this is the one many of us in these parts wait for! Last year’s show was the most successful ever and featured more than 600 cars with 50,000+ people in attendance. The evening before the event, there’s also a pre-car-show pizza party at Paisan’s Pizzeria, 6226 W. Ogden Ave. in Berwyn. For details or to register your vehicle for the show, see the website at http://www.berwynrt66.com/.
September 3-6 – 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival, the largest free jazz festival in the world (and it’s FREE! Did we mention that??); Millennium Park/Grant Park, with Sept. 3 events at the Chicago Cultural Center across the street on Michigan Avenue. Who doesn’t like jazz on Route 66? They go together like red beans and rice. For a full schedule and other details, including special parking packages (you’ll want those if you’re driving, but it’s really better to park outside the Loop and/or use public transit), visit http://bit.ly/RH6umU.
September 5 – Hodgkins Quarry Days, Hodgkins, IL; it’s a local fest on the route. No details yet, but keep checking the website at http://www.villageofhodgkins.org/wp/events/.
September 6 – Chicago Historic Route 66 Classic Car Show, on Ogden Avenue/Route 66 between Ridgeway Avenue and Springfield Avenue (east of Pulaski Road, about 3800S) in historic Lawndale, Chicago; for more information, contact Drew Goldsmith at: firstname.lastname@example.org or see website at: http://www.carsonroute66.com/.
September 12 – Chicago’s Venetian Night, about 8pm at Navy Pier; free admission. For decades, the Chicago Yachting Association organized Venetian Night on the lakefront during the height of summer in July. An annual event since 1958, the floating parade of garlanded and dressed-up boats and yachts (and costumed yacht captains/owners, crew, and hangers-on) was centered at the Queen’s Landing across from Buckingham Fountain … until the city’s cultural affairs mogul sank it in 2009. The city hated the inconvenience: imagine half a million people along the lakefront, fouling traffic on Lake Shore Drive for hours, until well after the boat parade had ended. No more would we see twinkling lights on the water from Lake Shore Drive and weekend sailors dressed as pirates, gondoliers, etc., drifting by. Drat! But wait: the cancellation caused such a furor that the city’s residents wouldn’t let go of the issue (remember, this is a town where we still call Big Willie the Sears Tower and will never, ever forgive Macy’s and Federated Department Stores for gutting Marshall Field’s; are you really surprised that we refused to give up Venetian Night?). However, the city had already bumped the Air & Water Show, which used to be in July, back to August, scheduled Taste of Chicago and Lolla for July, and therefore claimed that it absolutely had to push a reborn Venetian Night back into September. When the weather might suddenly cool down a lot, or the event could get rained out, thus discouraging attendance (which is what the city was probably hoping). Nevertheless, the citizenry and the yachtsmen/yachtswomen (yachtspersons??) stuck to their guns, and Venetian Night survives, daring the weather to ruin it. Which is why it’s been relocated to Navy Pier now: the Powers That Be finally may have realized that 1) the event isn’t going away after all, and 2) it’s a tourist attraction, which means money (aha!), and are dealing with it. Also, there are already fireworks displays regularly at the pier, so that kind of works. Besides, wouldn’t you kind of miss those ersatz swashbucklers in their gaudy get-ups sailing past with all those twinkle-lights and multicolored lanterns on the decks? Sigh … It’s not Monroe Harbor, that’s for sure, but one can always hope the bedecked boats outclass the crass commercialism on the pier. More details as we get them; but you can always check for info here. To register your boat/yacht for the parade, look here.
September 19 – 30th annual Farm Aid concert, Northerly Island/Museum Campus, Chicago; no, Northerly Island doesn’t have any museums on it (yet; who knows about the future), but it is on the extension of the peninsula that contains the Museum Campus: Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium & Oceanarium, and the Field Museum. That’s how you find the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, where the concert will be held (about a mile SE of Jackson and Michigan as the peregrine falcon flies; yeah, we have those up in the skyscrapers). Think the former Meigs Field, if you’re a metro resident. Farm Aid is by now a venerable institution. This year’s headliner will be Willie Nelson, who will be joined by other country music stars as well as Mavis Staples, the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, and other artists. Find the lineup here. The annual benefit concert for family farms – spearheaded by Nelson and fellow musicians John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews, who will all be there – is like Lollapalooza for the agrarian crowd, except that it’s raising money for a good cause. Accordingly, tickets won’t be cheap: from $49.50 to a whopping $189.50 each. It’s the fifth time the concert will be held in Illinois. Tickets go on sale Monday, Aug. 3 via livenation.com.
September 25-27 – International Mother Road Festival and Car Show, Springfield, IL, probably the largest car show along Route 66 in the state; more than 1,000 classic, custom, souped-up and vintage cars on display, including the Monet of Cars collection, plus live music all weekend at the Hot Rod Stage. Friday night is the Route 66 City Nights Cruise, with a $5 donation to benefit Crime Stoppers. Hours: 6-10pm Friday, 11am-10pm Saturday, 11am-2pm Sunday. Free admission; convenient parking near the convention center. For details, see the fest’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Route66Fest or visit http://www.familyevents.com/event/296.