The city of Chicago and the Blues go hand-in-hand. Starting in the beginning of the 20th century with the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the more prosperous and integrated cities of the north, Chicago has been seen as a haven for musicians and particularly those singing the blues. In 1984, Chicago’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Lois Weisberg, began the Chicago Blues Festival. One of the largest and most famous of Chicago cultural events, Weisberg dreamed the Chicago Blues Festival up following the death of McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters). The event was and still is a way to celebrate the rich contribution of the blues to the Chicago cultural landscape and the life of a man considered its father.
Today, the Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world. It is held each June in Grant Park and offers visitors the chance to see popular blues acts on five different sponsored stages. This year, the festival will be held Friday, June 8th through Sunday, June 10th and will run from 11 am to 9:30 pm Friday and Saturday and 11 am to 9 pm Sunday.
Amazing Voices and Good Times, but Be Prepared
Past performances at the Chicago Blues Festival have included such storied acts as Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King and Ray Charles. On average, over 500,000 people will flock to Grant Park for the festivities over these three days, making this one of the most prosperous and busy weekends for the Chicagoland area. Therefore, anyone planning to go to the festival should be prepared.
Here are a few tips to make your trip to the Chicago Blues Festival the best it can be:
- Know where you want to go: The set list for this year’s festival has already been finalized. Therefore, figuring out where you want to be and when should be determined before leaving for the festival. For set schedules, go to the Chicago Blues Festival homepage.
- Bring your own seat: With the exception of performances at the Petrillo Music Shell, folding chairs can be brought along to provide seating. If you plan on going all day and staying through several acts, bringing a chair, or at least a picnic blanket, is a great plan.
- Consider your food: Several famous Chicago eateries including Gold Coast Dogs, Reggie’s Bar & Grill, and Robinson’s #1 Ribs will be serving up refreshments at the festival. However, you can save time and money by bringing your own picnic lunch to the park. Just remember that alcoholic beverages and personal grills are not allowed on park grounds.
- Look for fun elsewhere, too: The Chicago Blues Festival is a city-wide celebration. Though the free music is limited to Grant Park on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there are several other places throughout the city that will be offering free or low-cost blues themed entertainment throughout the week leading up to the festival. These venues can also be found on the main festival information page, here.
If you are planning on visiting the Chicago area the weekend of June 8-10 or if you live within driving distance of the city, the chance to visit the Chicago Blues Festival should not be passed by. In addition to hearing amazing, free music you will be participating in one of the most famous and memorable cultural events that this city has to offer.