By Philip Vidal
Sometimes it takes something or someone from the outside to help you really appreciate your hometown. Forbes Magazine named a Chicago neighborhood, Pilsen, as one of the 12 coolest in the world. Another reason to return is for dinner at HaiSous, the celebrated Vietnamese restaurant in Pilsen. You can also check out Pilsen Fest, August 18-19, or “Arte Diseño Xicágo: Mexican Inspiration from the World’s Columbian Exposition to the Civil Rights Era” at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, through August 19.
The travel magazine “AFAR” recognized “Charles White: A Retrospective” at the Art Institute of Chicago (through September 3) as one of the “10 Brilliant U.S. Art Exhibitions Worth Traveling for This Summer.” Artist, activist and educator, Charles White was born in 1918 in Chicago. He attended classes as a teenager at the Art Institute, and then received a full-time scholarship to the School of the Art Institute. He moved to New York, then Southern California, where he taught Kerry James Marshall, whose work has realized eye-wateringly high prices at recent art auctions.
I was recently introduced to a woman from Munich who comes to Chicago from time to time to visit her daughter, son-in-law and grandson. She said that Chicago is her favorite city because there are so many cultural events you can attend for free all year round, but especially in summer. I hadn’t really given it much thought until then, but she’s right. Here is just a smattering of free events this month.
Coming from Munich, I would expect to see her at Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (“Songs of Bavaria”). It’s the final concert of the Grant Park Music Festival, on August 17 and 18, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.
Before the season closes I would like to see the Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert on August 13, which previews performances of “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Miss Saigon” and other upcoming “Broadway in Chicago” shows, Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.
The Great Lawn at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is also the place to watch the stars, under the stars, at Movies in Millennium Park, Tuesdays, through August 21.
Victory Gardens’ 10th annual Ignition Festival of New Plays presents six plays presented as readings, open to the pubic and free, August 3-5.
The Water Colors jazz series, presented by Navy Pier and the Jazz Institute of Chicago, is at the Lake Stage in Polk Bros. Park at Navy Pier, Friday evenings, through August 24.
Chicago SummerDance is Thursdays-Sundays, at the Spirit of Music Garden, Grant Park, and Wednesdays at Chicago Park District locations, through August 25.
International Music Foundation’s Rush Hour Concerts at St. James Cathedral continue on Tuesday evenings through August 28.
The 40th annual Chicago Jazz Festival in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center is August 24-September 2. Legendary Chicago pianist Ramsey Lewis will give his farewell performance on September 1. The festival will also include free concerts around the city, Aug 24-29. The Harris Theater for Music and Dance’s inaugural series Summer Jazz at the Harris kicks off with local talent: Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things ensemble performing on the Harris Theater’s Rooftop, August 27, and Makaya McCraven performing on the Harris Theater’s stage, September 1.
Another way to appreciate Chicago and celebrate its rich and diverse cultures is by attending one of the many ethnic events around the city this month. It’s been around for 62 years, but I have never been to the Ginza Holiday/Japanese Music and Crafts Festival, a lapse I hope to rectify this year. The festival is at the Midwest Buddhist Temple, August 10-12. The Noche Caribena concert is August 11 at Navy Pier. Little Italy Festa is August 16-19 on historic Taylor Street. Taste of Greektown is August 24-26 at 400 S. Halsted. Croatia’s loss to France at the World Cup final last month is sure to be a topic of conversation at Velika Gospa, a holy day and annual Croatian feast at St. Jerome’s Croatian Catholic Church, Bridgeport, August 15.
The Chicago Tribune Food Bowl, at various locations, August 8-26, sounds like another great way to celebrate Chicago’s diverse cultures through their cuisines.
Hot dogs and beer are summer staples. The 6th annual Chicago Hot Dog Fest at Chicago History Museum, Stockton and LaSalle Drive, is August 10-12. Remember that Chicagoans never put ketchup on their dogs. The Lagunitas Beer Circus Chicago, on August 11, in Douglas Park, will feature food, live entertainment and beer, of course.
Compare the hot dogs and beer at one of the two crosstown double-headers this month: on August 2 the Sox play at 1:10 PM, and the Cubs play that same day at 7:05 PM. On August 10, play is reversed: the Cubs play at 1:20 PM and the Sox at 7:10 PM.
A staple at sporting events and state and county fairs is funnel cake, which looks so dangerous to eat I’ve never had one. You can have funnel cake at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, August 9-19. I’ve also never had a horseshoe, but if I’m in Springfield I’d like to try one of those, too. It’s the Illinois capital’s signature dish…an open-faced sandwich usually topped with meat, cheese sauce and French fries. The Illinois Bicentennial Route 66 motorcycle ride from Chicago to Edwardsville is August 26. Governor Rauner will be on his hog leading the pack to commemorate the state constitution’s 200th anniversary.
Cows, horses, now lighthouses on Michigan Avenue….It’s been too hot and humid to take a leisurely stroll down Michigan Avenue to view the fifty-one, six-foot tall lighthouse sculptures that are there to raise awareness about people with disabilities. I certainly hope it cools down long enough so that I can take a closer look at Lighthouses on the Mag Mile before they disappear on August 11.
Despite the heat and humidity, August is prime time for outdoor music concerts and festivals. Lollapalooza returns to Grant Park, August 2-6. Jay-Z and Beyoncé play Soldier Field on August 10. Check out the 3rd annual Thirsty Ears Classic Music Street Festival, Wilson from Hermitage to Ravenswood, August 11-12.
I can also relive a bit of the halcyon days of my youth this month. Chris Isaak performs at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, August 12. Jeff Lynne’s ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) plays the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, August 15. Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam’s frontman, grew up in Evanston and apparently is a diehard Cubs fan, so he should enjoy performing at Wrigley Field, August 18 and 20. Culture Club, B-52s, and the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey are at Ravinia, September 1.
That is not to say that I am totally stuck in the past. I would like to try the new Lakefront Restaurant at the Theater on the Lake, at Fullerton and the lake. The Chicago Summer Theater Festival at the Theater on the Lake continues with The New Colony’s production of Loy Webb’s “The Light,” August 21-24, and Stage Left Theatre’s production of Robert O’Hara’s “Insurrection: Holding History,” August 28-31. The old theater space was open-air, but screened in. I’d like to see what the new theater space is like.
I recall attending Dance for Life at the open-air Skyline Stage at Navy Pier and fretting about the weather. The 27th annual Chicago Dancer’s United Dance for Life, now held indoors, is August 18 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, with a gala reception at the Chicago Hilton’s Grand Ballroom. Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Dance Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet are just a few of the local companies slated to perform.
The 24th annual Black Harvest Film Festival, August 4-30, at the Gene Siskel Film Center features films from all over the world, but several of them were filmed or set in Chicago: “Animator;” “The Area;” “Chi-Town;” “The Color of Art; and “The G Force.” The 10th annual “Noir City: Chicago 2018” film festival is August 17-23 at the Music Box Theatre.
The public grand opening of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s new space at 111 East Wacker is scheduled for August 31. The Chicago Architecture Foundation is also changing its name to the Chicago Architecture Center. I used to work for the U.S. League of Savings and Loan Association that was headquartered in that building.
The last Aon Summer Firework display at Navy Pier is Saturday, September 1 at 10:15 PM, a sign that summer is almost over. Chicago’s beaches close for swimming September 3. I will miss the Wednesday and Saturday fireworks, and I know that fall will soon be here when I no longer see the lifeguard row past my windows from the Ohio Street beach to Oak Street beach every night at 7:00 PM.
Dates, times, and availability are subject to change.