Sep 16, 2022 - News

Despite opposition, Riot Fest is on

A gate of a park with No Riot Fest written on it

People walk by fencing where cleanup was underway following Riot Fest last year in Douglass Park. Photo: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Popular three-day outdoor music festival Riot Fest is expected to bring over 100,000 people to Douglass Park this weekend.

  • And some residents aren't happy.

Why it matters: Community members are petitioning the Chicago Park District to remove Riot Fest and other music festivals from the Lawndale/Little Village area park.

Driving the news: Wanting the district to stop giving permits to large, for-profit festivals, they delivered a letter to the Chicago Park District yesterday signed by 30 organizations and local leaders.

Context: The trouble stems from the park district adding another large festival to Douglass Park. There were three there over the summer.

  • Residents are angry that, considering festival load-in and cleanup, they don't have access to the park for most of the summer.
  • Parking and transportation issues cause gridlock, neighbors say.
  • And the park gets trashed with garbage and debris, disrupting normal activities like youth soccer.

Of note: North Lawndale and Little Village are predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods.

What they're saying: "We do see this as a form of environmental racism," local organizer Edith Tovar said at a recent press conference.

State of play: Riot Fest held a community meeting last month to address concerns, but according to residents, the meeting was contentious and hostile.

  • Riot Fest apologized afterwards, saying in a statement, "We have been in Douglass Park since 2015, and we consider it our home."
  • They parted ways with the contractor who held the meeting.

Flashback: Before Douglass Park, Riot Fest was in Humboldt Park, but similar concerns led to the festival moving in 2015.

The intrigue: Ald. Cardenas has welcomed summer music festivals for years and has taken campaign contributions from organizers.

  • But he is stepping down to run for Cook County Board of Review.

Justin's thought bubble: Riot Fest is one the premiere music festivals in the country. The lineups are always fantastic and it has served as a nice complement to the more mainstream (and expensive) Lollapalooza.

  • If you go, I recommend seeing hometown faves Alkaline Trio tomorrow.
  • But I've been to the fest and completely get what the residents are saying.
  • Here's an idea: maybe it's time to let the Bears go to Arlington Heights and move forward on repurposing Soldier Field for festivals.
  • And give us back our neighborhood parks.

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