Spread out the blanket, bring a chair or find a good viewing spot at Nay Pier, the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds are performing this weekend over North Avenue Beach. The Chicago Air and Water Show Chicago Air and Water Show is officially Aug. 19 and 20, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in 2023. But people in the know like to go down there on Friday when they practice because the crowd, which has numbered over one million, is smaller.
What to expect: Incredible maneuvers by the Thunderbirds’ F-16 Fighting Falcon, other military planes including the US Army’s Golden Knights, such popular private air-show pilots as Susan Dacy in “Big Red.
How you know: It’s all narrated by Herb Hunter who has been the “Voice of the Air and Water Show” for more than three decades.
The Chicago Air and Water Show, the country’s largest, free exhibition of precision flying, is at the city’s North Avenue Beach, 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. Aug. 20-21. But several performers practice on Aug. 19, which means Friday is also a good day to visit the beach area from Oak Street north.
Begun as the Lakeshore Park and Water Show in 1959 featuring a Coast Guard Air Sea Rescue demo and water events, it soon added the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds that have since appeared alternate years with the U. S. Navy’s Blue Angels – a 2022 show headliner.
Stationed at Forrest Sherman Field Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL. during its show season, the Blue Angels’ team was started by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Chester Nimitz in 1946 to raise awareness and interest in naval aviation.
The squadron spends January through March training at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, CA. For more Blue Angels history visit U.S. Navy Blue Angels History.
The U.S. Army Golden Knights, the show’s other featured group, first got together in 1959 when 19 Airborne Soldiers from different units formed the Strategic Army Command Parachute Team (STRAC) under Brigadier General Joseph Stilwell Jr. to participate in skydiving competitions.
The STRAC team would become the United States Army Parachute Team. By 1962 the team was called “Golden Knights” for the medals won.
Where to watch
From the ground
You can hear long-time Air and Water show announcer and former military and commercial pilot Herb Hunter on the PA system at North Avenue Beach in Lincoln Part at 1600 N. Lake Shore Dr.
But you can pretty much see the show along the Lake Michigan shoreline from the Oak Street Beach north to Fullerton Avenue.
The U.S. Navy/Marine Corps Blue Angels C-130 “Fat Albert”, the US NavyF35C Lightening II demo Team and US Navy Legacy Flight with FG 1 D Corsiar and A-4B Skyhawk
Chicago show will be the first time, the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight and U.S. Navy Legacy Flights will be performing in the same Air and Water Show. There will be an additional F-35C Legacy II to incorporate a “Missing Man” dedication to the late Rudy Malnati Jr. who was the Chicago Air and Water Show Director for 30 years.
Other military performers include the US Air Force F-22 Raptor demo team, US Coast Guard Ari/Sea Rescue, Maryland Air National Guard A-10C Thunderbolt II, IL National Guard 183rd Security Forces, US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey and US Air Force Red Horse Mobile Aircraft Arresting Gear Team.
Civilian performers include Susan Dacy of Barnstorming America with Big Red, Bill Stein, Kevin Coleman, Rob Holland, Triple Time Team, and from the city, the Chicago Fire Dept Air/Sea Rescue Team and the Chicago Police Dept. helicopter.
As the weather has already let us know, summer events still have a month to go. Some of the Chicago area’s big events are in the weekends to come. Most are free. Think, Air & Water Show and Port Clinton Art Festival. Then, get out the calendar.
Aug 4-7 Windy City Smokeout West Loop at the United Center Cost: $50 and up
Combine country music stars such as Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert with pit master food bites from Kentucky and other famed smoke-it regions and you have Chicago’s annual Smokeout. More info at Home Page – Windy City Smokeout
Aug. 13 is Chicago’s famed Bud Billikin Parade and Festival, 10:30 a.m. to noon.
It’s in Bronzeville along Dr. Martin Luther King Drive from Oakwood Boulevard to 51st Street and continues Ellsworth Drive through Washington Park to 55th St. The event has floats, dance teams and bands plus food and other booths. It started in 1929 as a way to generate excitement about back to school shopping and activities. For more information visit Bud Billikin event.
Aug. 20-21 Chicago Air and Water Show 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at North Avenue Beach.
The 2022 show features U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Amy Golden Knights Parachute Team. However, some of the show can be seen on Friday when the participants have practice run-throughs. For more information visit Chicago Air and Water Show.
Aug 26 4-10, Aug. 27-28, noon to 10 p.m. Taste of Greek Town
The food fest is on Halsted Street from Van Buren to Adams St. For more information visit Taste of Greektown.
Aug. 13-14 Printer’s Row Art Festival 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sponsored by the Greater South Loop Association and South Loop Neighbors, the fest includes local restaurant booths. Booths line Dearborn Street from Harrison to Polk. A parking garage is at 75 W. Harrison St. For more info visit Printer’s Row Art Festival.
Aug 19 noon to 5 p.m. Aug 20 and 21 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evanston Art and Big Fork Fest. Booths are downtown Evanston along Church Street. For more information visit Evanston Art and Big Fork.
Aug. 27-28 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Port Clinton Art Festival. Considered among the top art fairs in the country, the Port Clinton event showcases more than 260 juried-in artists who do sculpture, glass, painting, photography, wearable art and furniture. The art festival is downtown Highland Park on Central Avenue. For more information visit Port Clinton Art Festival.
Aug. 27-28 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Bucktown Arts Fest. An annual celebration of art, craft, food and music in Chicago’s Bucktown Neighborhood. For more information visit Bucktown Arts Fest.
Hopefully the full Chicago Air and Water show will return in 2022. But at least the show’s star, the U. S. Navy’s Blue Angels, will brighten the city’s skyline midday Friday in a practice run and Saturday and Sunday as the scheduled show’s solo attraction.
Watch from the North Avenue Beach as suggested by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Events. The beach, ground zero in past years, typically isn’t as crowded for the Friday practice.
North Avenue Beach is at the beach at 1600 N. Lake Shore Dr. Admission is free, however, the planes can also be seen between Oak Street and Fullerton Ave. A new show feature is audio accessibility.
The practice run is Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The aerial demonstrations are Aug. 21 and 22 from noon to 1 p.m.
Or watch from the water. Several local cruises have scheduled the event. Among them is the new City Experiences’ City Cruises Chicago
But an alternate to going the day before or milling with the crowds during the show is to watch from somewhere between Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue such as the places listed below where you can eat lunch or brunch during the show.
Look up! The best time to watch Chicago’s annual Air and Water Show is actually Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, when the North Beach crowds are low and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are high over the city’s waterfront.
If you live fairly close to the lake you will probably hear them overhead on Friday even if you are in the northern suburbs. Yes, the Thunderbirds are 2018’s headliners.
As for the weekend, even though the show goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the headliners have tended to do their thing towards the end.
Finding a prime spot at North Beach, the festival’s loci, does mean coming early but how much sun is OK? The show can be seen from south of North Avenue at Oak Street and north to Fullerton Avenue.
Speaking of Fullerton, check with Theater on the Lake which is hosting a catered viewing party that includes an open bar. Theater on the Lake is at 2401 North Lake Shore Drive at Lake Michigan and Fullerton.
However, arguably the best spot if going to North Avenue beach is at The Shore Club if reservations aren’t already filled. The Shore club is at 1603 N Lakeshore Dr.
The Signature room, on the floor 95 in the Hancock Building is a choice spot but lunch reservations may be filled so check its lounge on the 96th floor or consider going to the observation deck “360.” You will need tickets. For information visit 360. The Hancock is at 875 N. Michigan Ave.
Down on the ground, The Patio at Café Brauer and the bridge behind it are good viewing points for some of the air action and the café is offering some deals on beer. Cafe Brauer is at 2021 N. Stockton Dr. in Lincoln Park.
Taste of Chicago has been here and gone but there are lots more festivals to feed our culinary, cultural and musical cravings this summer. With a city as rich in ethnic neighborhoods and interest in music as Chicago you would expect an almost endless list. But here are a few of the festivals to enjoy before fall’s back-top-school and cooler temps change the social calendar.
July 14 Ravenswood neighborhood
Think revolution. The French celebrate their rising up not July 4 but July 14 when the populace took over the hated Bastille prison in 1790. In Chicago, Bastille Day, also called French National Day is celebrated in French restaurants but also on the grounds of the French School translated as Lycée Français. Located at 1929 W. Wilson, the festival includes the game, pétanque to watch and learn, children’s activities, music, a DJ, a waiters’ race with trays and a child appropriate film. Attendees bring their own food for a picnic. Wine and beer will be sold nearby because the public cannot bring alcoholic beverages on the school property. Hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m. For other information visit Bastille Day.
July 14-16, West of River North
The popular Windy City Smokeout is back with more beer, barbeque booths and bands. VIP tickets are sold out but individual tickets of $40 and $45 plus three-day $110 tickets are still available. The event is at 560 W. Grand Ave.nue a block west of the Chicago River. For more information visit Windy City Smokeout.
July 14-16, Near West neighborhood
Chicago’s famed Pitchfork Music Festival returns to Union Park at Randolph Street and Ogden Avenue. The festival’s reasonable prices and predilection for featuring good bands draws about 50,000 music lovers from across the world. For hours and tickets visit Pitchfork.
July 21-23, River North
Taste of River North spreads across Kingsbury and Erie with music stages and food booths the fourth weekend of July. Hours are Friday 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For other information visit Taste of River North.
July 22-23, Sheffield Neighborhood
Now in its 29th year, the Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk has become a much anticipated summer event. Entered at Sheffield and Webster,the community festival asks for a $10 donation. Hours are noon to 10 p.m.. For other information visit Sheffield.
July 29-30, Wicker Park Neighborhood
Wicker Park Fest is all about neighborhood fun with music, food, crafts and children’s activities. For other information visit Wicker Park.
Aug 4-6, Jefferson Park neighborhood
Jeff Fest features is a music festival in the northwest Jefferson Park area of Chicago around 4822 N. Long Ave. For the band lineup and more information visit Jeff Fest.
Aug. 12-13, Boystown
The street-filling North Halsted Market Days returns to Lakeview with food, music and crafts centered at 3400 N. Halsted St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For other information visit North Halsted.
Aug. 18-20, Taylor Street
Go to Festa Italiana to enjoy the culture. There will be traditional food, music, folk dances and games and, of course, meatballs. The festival is on Taylor Street from Ashland Avenue to Racine Street. Hours are Friday, 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 10 p.m. For other information visit Starevents.
Aug. 19-20, North Avenue Beach
The Chicago Air and Water Show, a wonderful, free event that draws folks to North Avenue B each and anywhere along the near north shoreline, features the U.S. Navy Blue angels this year along with the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and other heart-stopping aerobatics. For more information visit City of Chicago.
Aug. 31-Sept 3, Downtown Chicago
The Chicago Jazz Festival ends the summer in Millenium Park and at the Chicago Cultural Center. Headliners include Jon Faddis, the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio, Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom and Rebirth Brass Band. For line-up locations and times visit Chicago Jazz.