By Michael Heinley | Community Contributor
By now everybody has had the opportunity to see the South Loop transform rapidly into the epicenter of Chicago’s festivals and spe- cial events culture. For many, this rightfully brings the excitement of unparalleled access to some of the city’s biggest events.
Those events include Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago, Grateful Dead’s “Fare Thee Well Tour,” American Beer Classic, the NFL Draft, Spring Awakening, and many more.
The economic benefits of these events are undeniable for local business owners with hotels being full at premium rates, and conve- nience-store items becoming necessities for thousands of people.
But to South Loop residents, festival season can fatigue even the most enthusiastic person.
Festivals bring along issues that are inevitable for such affairs: traffic, long restaurant lines, litter, and overall gridlock. People dressed in everything from tank tops, flip- flops and shorts to pretzel necklaces and football jerseys, fill nearly every public crevice for blocks and blocks. Detours abound and numerous street closures; pedestrians consume sidewalks, and commuters crowd buses and trains.
Columbus Drive is closed for nearly every one of these events, diverting traffic from Lakeshore Drive into neighborhood streets. Michigan Avenue and East Roosevelt Road generally bear the brunt of these diversions for blocks. In one of
the more egregious examples, the Taste of Chicago setup was in place during three Grateful Dead perfor- mances.
Much less amusing than daily in- conveniences are crime at festivals. There were three arrests for mari- juana during the Grateful Dead con- certs, and 34 arrests during Lollapa- looza, according to Chicago police.
As we approach Labor Day, things don’t seem to ease up with Chicago Bears fans swaggering down streets as football season gets into full swing. And let’s not forget about the megastar British boy band, One Direction, and the associated tsuna- mi of female fans invading the area in August.
So is festival fatigue a real thing or is it the lamentations of a few curmudgeonly people who want to throw a wet blanket over any good time? An informal poll suggested that many South Loop neighbors feel the same animosity from time to time as summer wears on.
But as anyone who has lived in more mundane locations can attest to, what the South Loop has in terms of access to summer entertainment and events are an anomaly that very few places in the country, and maybe the world, get to truly enjoy.
Isn’t that worth a few extra minutes at a stoplight?
Are the festivals fantastic or fatiguing? Share your thoughts on the summer festival season at info@ southloopnews.com