Chicago festivals reimagined

 

Yes, the City of Chicago has reopened. However, look for your favorite festivals at different times in different formats and at different places. There are more events and new celebrations across the city’s many neighborhoods in 2021.

Music fests will return but at different times. (City of Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events photo)
Music fests will return but at different times. (City of Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events photo)

Don’t be Blue

Because some noted annual fests as Blues, Jazz and Gospel are arranged way ahead of performance dates but COVID interfered, plan on attending each of them in a three-hour, early-evening version this fall. As part of the city’s new “In Tune” program, they all will be free and run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion in September 2021.

Gospel is Sept. 3.  Hosted by Jonathan McReynolds and Inspiration 1390’s Sonya Blakely and Deandre Paterson, it will include La Shon Brown, the Carson Sisters, Nicole Harris, Illiana Torres and the Tommies Reunion Choir.

Jazz is Sept. 4. Presented by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, it features Ari Brown, Marquis Hill and Lizz Wright.

House celebration is Sept. 11 featuring “Sanitize Your Soul,” a debut Gospel House Choir collaboration between Mark Hubbard and DJ Terry Hunter.

Blues is Sept. 18. The evening will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Alligator Records with Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials and the Nick Moss Band . Also hear Dennis Gruenling, Cash Box Kings,  Shemekia Copeland, Billy Branch and Wayne Baker Brooks.

Taste of Chicago To Go is July 7 to July 11 in different parts of the city. (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events photo)
Taste of Chicago To Go is July 7 to July 11 in different parts of the city. (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events photo)

Don’t Diet

Work off the Taste of Chicago treats after July 11. The celebration of Chicago dishes and restaurants starts July 7 but instead of everything happening in Grant Park  it will be a week of pop-up food from nearly 40 eateries and take place in neighborhood markets. Plus there are cooking demos, music and community meals with local nonprofit organizations.

Pop ups are July 7, 2 -7 p.m. at Pullman City Market, July 8 from 1-7 p.m. at Austin Town Hall City Market, July 9, at 4-8 p.m. at iWEPA Mercado del Pueblo, and also at 5 -8 p.m. for Taste on Tap at Goose Island Brewery.

They continue July 10 from 10 a.m. -2 p.m. at The Hatchery, and from 10 a.m. -4 p.m. at Eli’s Cheesecake Company and from 1-8 p.m. on 63rd street in the West Englewood neighborhood.

The event culminates July 11 from noon to 3 p.m. with women restaurateurs in Millennium Park.

For more information and addresses visit Taste of Chicago To-Go/Schedule

Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (J Jacobs photo)
Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (J Jacobs photo)

Wait, there’s more (as tv announcers say)

The city’s new programs include  “Chicago Presents” community events; a nine-part House City  series in the neighborhoods that helped create the music genre; two Latinx and World Music celebrations; two  films  and more just-announced special events at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion; and a mash-up of public art and dance at Lurie Garden in Millennium Park.

Enjoy summer in Chicago

Jodie Jacobs

Chicago celebrates Saint Patrick differently this year

COVID canceled parades and green Chicago River but look for green lights on downtown buildings (City of Chicago photo)
COVID canceled parades and green Chicago River but look for green lights on downtown buildings (City of Chicago photo)

Céad míle fáilte, a hundred thousand welcomes, may greet customers of Chicago area eateries and bars in March. And expect the city’s skyline to be filled with green lights from March 11 through March 17.

Even though the city’s famed downtown and the two neighborhood parades, Southside Irish and Northwest Side Irish, have been canceled for 2021 and the plumbers union that turns the Chicago River green shows no sign of doing so this year, the easing of restrictions by Governor J B Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot means many restaurants and bars will be happily welcoming customers in time for March’s St. Paddyh’s Day celebrations.

Expect them to ask guests to mask when entering and when their server is present. And check on reservations because they will be operating at 50 percent capacity and shortened stay time.

“The City of Chicago is encouraging St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that follow current city and state health guidelines,” noted a Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events statement.

In addition, the statement said, “The Chicago Loop Alliance is asking downtown buildings to light up green for ShamROCk Chicago, and other neighborhoods are hosting socially distance scavenger hunts and other reimagined programs.”

As an example, Southside Irish Parade committee is hosting a Shamrock our Blocks celebration with signs and decorations. The South Side Irish Parade

“Each year, the South Side Irish Parade draws thousands of people to our community and to our neighborhood businesses.  The parade committee’s goal is to create a plan that gives back to local businesses as well as offer a family-friendly festive way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year,” said 2021 Committee Chair Tim McSweeney

Northwest Side Irish are in the planning process. Visit Northwestsideirish.

As to a few places to hoist a Guinness or chow down on something supposed to be Irish or green, check out the following businesses:


STAN’S DONUTS

From now until March 17th, Stan’s Donuts (all locations0 is offering all things green. Guests can get Emerald-dipped donuts, Green River Glazed donuts, Green Mint Hot Chocolate, Irish Cream Cold Brew and Mint Cream Cold Brew topped with Cold Foam, Mint Oreo Shakes, and more.

PB&J 

West Loop hotspot PB&J offers a St. Patrick’s Day experience for up to six guests. Starting at 8 a.m. March 13, guests can book these pre-paid packages:

St. Patrick’s Brunch Kit –  1 bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, Carafes of Green Orange Juice,Green Beer, and guests choice of 2 Brunch Pizzas at $50 per person.

Leprechaun Package – 1 bottle of Jameson, Don Julio Blanco or Ketel One, Green beer, 2 Pizzas, and St. Patrick’s Day party swag at $75 per person.

Dealers Choice –  Guests can order any food or beverage item off PB&J’s menu a la carte with a $75 minimum per person.

In addition to these pre-paid packages, PB&J will also have a “Pot O Gold” pop up bar outside. Guests can purchase Green beer, Guinness, Red Bull Cocktail, Slane shots, and more. As a proud sponsor of the 2021 St. Paddy’s Day 5k and 8K Run/Walk, participants will receive a free Dogfish Head beer, while supplies last.

THE DEARBORN

For two Ireland-born sisters, the reopening of The Dearborn this month comes in time for their home country’s celebrated holiday. Besides iconic Irish dishes like Fish & Chips (which Chef Aaron Cuschieri made and won with on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay) and a Corned Beef Reuben, The Dearborn will offer specials such as Seafood Chowder, Beef & Lamb Shepherd’s Pie and a Strawberry & Crème Roulade cake. Also  available Guinness on draft, Irish Whiskeys and Irish Coffee.

The Dearborn is also partnering with Vanille Patisserie for those who can’t make it to the Loop but still want to celebrate with Irish fare. Throughout St. Patrick’s week, order a three-course family meal featuring the Seafood Chowder, Shepherd’s Pie and a special Irish Apple Cake with Shamrock Cookies from Vanille for dessert. Available through TOCK from March 10-17 for pick-up at Vanille’s Lincoln Park location or at The Dearborn.

Erin go bragh

Jodie Jacobs

 

Classes to take now: think art or cooking or even science

 

 

If tired of friends asking what are you doing with more time at home, put yourself into one of those cartoon frames with a lightbulb in the overhead cloud.

What would the next frame show? Learn how to make a holiday dessert or favorite ethnic dish? Learn to draw? Paint a portrait of your pet? Work with clay?  And what if the frame has another figure such as a young son or daughter/ So what about a fun science or comic-book or kids cooking class.?

Chicago Theater and Arts CTAA) checked out several resources in the Chicago area to come up with three suggestions for now. (More later in January to combat winter and Covid doldrums).

 

 

An Art Center of Highland class is on painting your pet. (TAC photo) Park the
An Art Center of Highland class is on painting your pet. (TAC photo)

The Art Center

TAC, as highland Park’s art exhibition and class space is called, has in person and online classes. A good website to know, TAC has online mini classes for adults and youngsters such as one for ages 15-100 to learn how to do a pet’s portrait, work with colored pencils or portray a winter scene.

Classes are online between Nov. 30 and Dec. 20, 2020 with most starting Dec. 1 and going on for two weeks using zoom. Youth classes, for drawing, cartooning, painting and clay,  are typically are  for age 9-13 but some begin at age 8.

Visit TheArtCenterhighlandpark for for information.

 

 

Chef Gale Gand (photo courtesy of Gale Gand)
Chef Gale Gand (photo courtesy of Gale Gand)

Kitchen Sisters Cooking School

Get dinner ideas. Cook and learn from famed chefs. Have the kids take a class.  Those are just some of the perks of going to Chefs Gale Gand and Jessica Dawson’s online Kitchen Sisters Cooking School.

Gand, an award winning pastry chef, cookbook author, Michelin star and James Beard restaurateur and cooking teacher works out of the Chicago area. Dawson is a traveling chef, teacher who was the youngest traveling America’s Test Kitchen host and has taught people around the world the science of cooking (when she stops long enough to teach in one place).

 

 

Forensics Chromatography (MSI Photo)
Forensics Chromatography (MSI Photo)

Museum of Science and Industry Resources Lab

MSI has a new, online spot for tomorrow’s scientists. Some of the topics are Mission to Mars: what to pack, Forensics Chromatography, and Engineers: building bridges. For more information visit MSIChicagoResources.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Better than a blood pressure pill to forget Covid and political strife

 

Even the pundits don’t know when the full election results will be known or get through the courts. So, folks who welcomed the spirit of Halloween for personal and family feel-good time, now need another good-ole’ standby, holiday shopping, to raise spirits.

Christkindlmarket and the One of a Kind Show Chicago will both go virtual in this pandemic year of 2020.

Christkindlemarket in Daley Plaza (J Jacobs photo)
Christkindlemarket in Daley Plaza (J Jacobs photo)

Christkindlemarket

A European-style holiday event sponsored by the German Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, Christkindlemarket moved online from downtown Chicago, Wrigleyville and Milwaukee on Nov. 1.

Shoppers can visit the fun market for its signature mug, mulled wine, holiday ornaments and activities through Dec. 31, 2020.

For more information visit Christkindlemarket.

 

One of a Kind Show Chicago (J Jacobs photo)
One of a Kind Show Chicago (J Jacobs photo)

One of a Kind Show Chicago

A popular event that features art and food items upstairs at theMart (that huge building formerly known as Merchandise Mart on the Chicago River), the One of a Kind Show opens online Nov. 12.

Shoppers can browse and buy jewelry, wearable art, paintings, photos, yummy treats and a slew of other gift items through Dec. 6, 2020.

To view participating artists visit Artists.

.For more event information visit OneofaKindShow.

 

A different Chicago summer finds some farmers markets opening and some programs online

 

Unfortunately, most Chicago summer events have been canceled, including the Air and Water Show .(City of Chicago photo)
Unfortunately, most Chicago summer events have been canceled, including the Air and Water Show .(City of Chicago photo)

Most of the events that bring thousands of residents and tourists downtown Chicago such as Lollapalooza and the Air and Water Show have been canceled for what will be remembered as the summer of COVID-19.

But with summer there also comes farmers markets, a different way to enjoy Taste of Chicago and where to find entertainment options.

 

Concert Week Special

The Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra is playing this week with the last concert Friday, June 12. Tune in at 6 p.m. to hear this talented group. Find them on facebook at FacebookCYSO even if you don’t have an account.  Or watch and find more information at Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra/week.

 

 

Green City Market (Chris Cassidy photo)
Green City Market (Chris Cassidy photo)

Farmers Markets

Some outdoor markets have opened in the suburbs under strict guidelines including the Evanston Farmers Market.

In Chicago, a few are expected to open in June and July. However, most have curb-side or other pickup arrangements through a What’sGood app. For farmers market news visit Chicago City Markets.

Green City Market opens its Lincoln Park location June 13 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market will only be open on Saturdays. The 7-8 a.m. time is for COVID vulnerable populations. GCM in the West Loop opens in Mary Bartelme Park on June 20 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

See Shopper guidelines because they will ensure the markets can stay open. They include how to move swiftly through the market, wearing face coverings, keeping social distances and not touching items.

For more information on the market you usually use visit and how and where to find its goods visit Chicago farmers market collective.

 

Taste of Chicago is in to-go mode July-8-12, 2020. How to support the restaurants and how to find chef demonstrations  online visit Taste of Chicago To-Go

 

Online arts programs

Under the title Do Stuff at Home, the Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events suggests watching local online programs that range from “The Quarantine Concerts that can be seen today, June 11 through June 30 and First Folio’s “Cymbeline: A Folk Musical” available through June 14 to “Keeping Pride Alive” on June 28. To see the schedule go to DO312.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Celebrating Saint Paddy

Chicago turns its river green in honor of St. Patrick's Day and the Irish. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
Chicago turns its river green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, claim a little Irish blood. Wear something green. Say Sláinte for cheers and toast Éire go Brách! (Ireland forever). But you don’t have to wait until March 17, the commemorative date of St. Patrick’s death to celebrate his feast day.

Chicago celebrates this patron saint of Ireland with parades, multiple pub toasts, Irish dancing, music, special boat cruises and of course, the famed turning of the Chicago River green several days before the official date.

The festival, concert and river scene

Siamsa Na Ngael celebration at Symphony Center, 220 S.. Michigan Ave. brings Celtic music, dance and stories to the Chicago symphony’s home, March 11.

House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, features the famed Gaelic Storm on March 13-14.

March 13-15 Cruises take off from Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue docks to the sounds of Irish music and tour the Chicago River or watch it turn green. For March 14’s river dyeing event check with Wendella for a 21 and older cruise and a kids cruise.  Or visit Shoreline Sightseeing’s Architecture River Cruises that celebrate Saint Paddy’s weekend by also learning about Chicago’s buildings. Other cruise choices are to see what the Spirit of Chicago Lunch Cruise has on the menu for March 14 or consider the inaugural St. Patrick’s Day Clover Cruise to watch the river change color, March 14.

Irish American Heritage Festival  is the annual popular place to head for food, drinks, good Irish dancers and good bands when the City of Chicago parade is over on Saturday. The Heritage Center is at 4626 N Knox Ave. Tickets are needed for the festival which goes from 1 to 11:59 p.m.

Shamrock on the Block is another popular post Saturday parade spot for food, drinks and entertainment. It’s like a large block party outside Old St. Pats Church at 700 W. Adams St.

River Dyeing happens at 9 a.m. March 14 along Wacker Drive between Columbus Drive and State Street. To watch from the Michigan Avenue Bridge or the walkways, get there early because the event normally attracts crowds.

The parades

City of Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is considered the largest of its kind in the U.S. Beginning at noon, politicians, floats, bagpipers, dancers and bands take three hours to go north on Columbus Drive from Balbo to Monroe Drives.

Southside Irish Parade on March 15 is a neighborhood, family-friendly parade that draws from other areas. Once canceled because of drinking there is a strictly enforced no drinking policy in the neighborhood and along the parade route which  goes along Western Avenue from 103 rd  St. to 115th.St. The parade steps off at noon.

Northwest Side Irish Parade starts at noon at the William J. Onahan School then goes south on Neola Avenue to Northwest Highway then north to Harlem Avenue. Parade watchers often go to a post parade party at St. Thecla Falcon Hall, 6725 W. Devon Ave,. for food, drinks and entertainment from 1 to 5 p.m.

Sláinte

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

How to sample great dishes and where to make a reservation

 

First Bites Bash at the Field Museum is a fun, yummy way to sample Chicago restaurants' fare. (Choose Chicago photo)
First Bites Bash at the Field Museum is a fun, yummy way to sample Chicago restaurants’ fare. (Choose Chicago photo)

Foodies, listen up. First Bites Bash, the yummy event that annually kicks off Chicago Restaurant Week. will be at the Field Museum Jan. 23, the night before Restaurant Week begins.

The event is a chance to sample dishes that will be on more than 60 Chicago Restaurant Week menus. Plus there are always wine tastings from different countries and restaurants’ specialty cocktails.

Several ticket levels are already sold out so to snag a ticket go now to  firstbitesbash.com

A portion of the proceeds from First Bites Bash will go to the James Beard Foundation’s Chicago EATS Week Scholarship Fund that provides financial assistance to a Chicagoland student seeking a culinary arts career.

Celebrity chef/director/owners this year are Thai and Danielle Dang of the award winning HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen and Cà Phê Dá in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

“First Bites Bash is an amazing opportunity for Chicagoans to meet many of the most celebrated chefs in the city and to preview a range of exciting flavors that will only be found during everyone’s favorite culinary moment of the year, Chicago Restaurant Week,” said Chef Dang. “We are also very passionate about the cause it supports, which bolsters opportunities for our next generation of culinary leaders.”

Visit First Bites Bash for list of participants.

Co-organizing agency Choose Chicago’s President and CEO David Whitaker pointed out that First Bites Bash celebrates Chicago as a “culinary destination.”

“The breadth of both neighborhoods and cuisines represented at this event and throughout Restaurant Week provide an unparalleled opportunity to make memorable dining a part of an amazing Chicago experience,” said Whitaker.

Chicago Restaurant Week, showcasing more than 400 restaurants actually takes place for well over a week. Going from Jan. 24 through Feb. 9, it features restaurants across Chicago neighborhoods and culinary styles.

Operating with prix fixe menus, it’s a chance to dine at upper-end restaurants for $24 at brunch or lunch and $36 or $48 for dinner. Reservations can be made at eatitupchicago.com

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Three fun festivals and shows start 2020

 

Enough of looking back at 2019. Instead, start putting some of the great shows, exhibitions and festivals of 2020 that you’ll want to see on the calendar. To start with, here are two biggies at McCormick Place (2301 S .King Drive) and a festival that takes place all across the city.

Dream and have fun at the Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show at McCormick Place. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Boat RV and Sail Show)
Dream and have fun at the Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show at McCormick Place. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Boat RV and Sail Show)

Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show

The Chicago Boat, RV and Sail show celebrates 90 year anniversary at McCormick Place, Jan. 8-12. Sponsored by Progressive® Insurance, the show features more than 700 of the newest power and sailboats and 100 RVs.

Along with oohing and dreaming while meandering the aisle, there are fun activities including learning to sail with the Chicago  Sailing’s Sail Simulator, fishing in the Huck Finn Trout Pond, remote control sailboat racing and a chance to build a boat with aluminum foil (see if your design can hold golf balls and not sink). For more information visit www.ChicagoBoatShow.com

 

Larey sets the table for Chicago Restaurant Week. (Photo courtesy of Lawry's)
Larey sets the table for Chicago Restaurant Week. (Photo courtesy of Lawry’s)

Chicago Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week, Jan. 24 through Feb. 9, is a chance to experience a restaurant at a favorable price. For example, The Signature Room with great views from the 95th floor of what used to be called the Hancock Building (875 N. Michigan Ave), will offer a special three course dinner (includes coffee or tea) for $48 and Lowry’s Prime Rib in the historic McCormick Mansion (100 E. Ontario), will have also have a dinner for $48.

Actually going for 17 days one week really isn’t enough to visit even a few of the 400 participating restaurants. After all, Chicago really is a foodie town with new restaurants constantly coming on the dining scene. For more information visit and restaurant choices visit  Choose Chicago Restaurant Week. For participating restaurants visit Chicago Restaurant Week restaurants.

 

Subaru press conference at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show. (CAS photo)
Subaru press conference at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show. (CAS photo)

Chicago Auto Show

The Chicago Auto Show, the country’s largest display of what’s coming in design and technology, is at McCormick Place Feb. 8-17. First staged at the Chicago Coliseum in 1901, the show features everything from what was, what is, what will be and what may be categorized as science fiction in some minds.

In 2020 look for concept cars, super cars, sedans, sport utilities, hybrids, crossovers, electric vehicles, minivans, luxury cars,, sports cars, convertibles, pickups, minivans, economy vehicles, hatchbacks, sporty coupes, vans diesel vehicles and wagons. Of course there will be interactive displays, test drive opportunities and simulators.

For a fun look back visit Chicago Auto Show history. For interactive displays, see Chicago Auto Show Interactive.  For tickets and general information go to  Chicago Auto Show.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Where to find unusual gifts

One of a Kind gift show at theMart includes a good gourmet food and candy section. (J Jacobs photo)
One of a Kind gift show at theMart includes a good gourmet food and candy section. (J Jacobs photo)

 

Shopping the old fashioned way, leisurely browsing in person without worrying that the items will be gone by 8 a.m. or that the internet will be overloaded, can be a treat at museums and annual gift shows.

Listed here are two examples of excellent gift shows and really good, large  museum shops. They are likely to take a while to explore and are fun excursions while filling the gift list. Continue reading “Where to find unusual gifts”

Holiday Happenings Part Three

 

Skating is fun at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink where you move to music, grab a hot chocolate and skate against a backdrop of the Chicago skyline. (City of Chicago photo)
Skating is fun at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink where you move to music, grab a hot chocolate and skate against a backdrop of the
Chicago skyline. (City of Chicago photo)

 

Around Chicago it’s that time of year to see such holiday shows as those listed in Holiday Happenings Part One and walk paths of twinkling, colored lights highlighted in Part Two.

Holiday Happening Part III brings you places for fun holiday shopping, ice skating and traditional events. Continue reading “Holiday Happenings Part Three”