As the third most populated city in America, it is little surprise that Chicago knows how to put on a show. This spring, the ‘Windy City’ will do just that with a host of festivals and fairs, celebrating music, art, food and much more. Here are some to whet the appetite:
Logan Theatre, 13 – 17 April
The job of producing music for the silver screen is one of the most undervalued in the entire movie making business. To help rectify this, each year the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival celebrates the inseparable connection between music and movies. For five days, the festival takes over the city with screenings, Q&A’s, concerts, live performances, VJ/DJ sets, late-night parties, an awards ceremony and an industry conference. Each year the programme includes several world and US premieres and a selection of retrospective classics. Previous high profile guests have included filmmakers Spike Lee, Julien Temple, Les Blank and Sarah Goodman, along with music icons such as Hank Shocklee (Public Enemy) and Robert Trujillo (Metallica). This year the CIMMfest footprint expands throughout Chicago’s most arts-friendly neighborhoods, from Hyde Park to Lincoln Square. Highlights will include the Chicago Premiere of The Smart Studios Story (Official Film of Record Store Day 2016), a feature-length documentary about Madison, Wisconsin’s legendary recording facility; and the World Premiere of Blackhearts, which tracks the global reach of Norway’s infamous black metal scene. For anyone who loves the sounds of the movies, this festival delivers an enriching experience and a reminder of the work and creativity that lies at the heart of a true art form.
UIC Forum, 24 – 26 March
In recent years, as public awareness around issues of environmentalism and animal welfare has grown, there has been a surge of interest in eating local, sustainable food. As testament to this burgeoning trend, the annual Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago has never been more popular. Now into its 12th year, the latest edition, which takes place in March, will feature another rich and diverse programme of DIY workshops, chef demos and much more. The three-day event welcomes all-comers and caters for children of all ages with activities such as the interactive Purple Asparagus Kids’ Corner. There’s also an Urban Farm Bus Tour which visits four local urban agriculture sites, while the Good Food Marketplace gives visitors the chance to sample and shop from local farms and food producers. For anyone passionate about food and keen to learn more about how it’s sourced and produced, this festival will not disappoint.
Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Hall, 16 – 17 April
We all have days when we can’t resist our favourite food and end up gouging on far more than we should. After all, it would be a boring life if we abstained from our guilty pleasures the whole time. For chocolate lovers in Chicago this April, all your good intentions will have to be put to one side when the Chicago Artisan Chocolate Festival comes to town. The two-day event showcases a mouth-watering array of high quality artisanal chocolatiers, as well as talks, demonstrations and much more. Samples will be in generous supply and there’ll be a chance to purchase some of your favourites. Adding to the occasion, there’s also wine and olive oil tasting and a wide range of gourmet (non-cocoa based) food. Persuaded? I know I am!
Music Box Theatre, 20 – 26 May
When it comes to movies, everyone’s a critic, but in Chicago a cohort of professional reviewers have come together to create their own independent film festival, cocking a snook at the rigid conformity of the traditional film industry. Now into its fourth year, the Chicago Critics Film Festival is a week-long celebration of recently or soon-to-be released movies from a wide variety of filmmakers. The nature of the event means that film can be shown simply because they were enjoyed by critics, regardless of whether they were picked up for mass-market distribution. It is a laudable idea that breaks down boundaries between filmmakers and prospective audiences, Like the best critics, go with an open mind and you might end up discovering a cinematic gem.
UIC Forum, 30 April – 2 May
There’s the finer things in life and then there’s bacon. Is there anything more delicious than a couple of rashers of smoked, crispy piggy godliness topped with lashings of brown sauce and sandwiched between two thick slices of a freshly-baked white bloomer? If like me, your answer is “no”, then you may want to consider being in Chicago at the end of April when it plays host to Baconfest, a fun-filled tasting event featuring the most creative bacon dishes from the best chefs the city has to offer. On the festival floor, the hottest chefs from the finest local restaurants prepare and serve small plates, while mixologists and brewers quench thirst with refreshing bacon-based drinks. Meanwhile luxury brands and artisan bacon-makers display, sample, and sell a multitude of local craft bacons and bacon-related products. If that doesn’t sound tempting enough, you’ll also be doing your bit for those less fortunate, with a portion of proceeds from the event going to local food charities. (Image courtesy of Ben Collins-Sussman.)
Navy Pier, 16 April
Ask a wine lover for their favourite grapes and it’s likely that the Pinot family will be among them. Renowned for its elegant diversity, the Burgundian grape is a timeless classic among wine connoisseurs. This April, its popularity will be celebrated at Pinot Days Chicago, the largest gathering of Pinot Noir producers in the world. The one-day festival sees more than 60 wineries descend on the Windy City to paint the town pinot. Guests will be able to sample up to 150 pinots from every major pinot noir region in America, while food pairings at local wine bars and restaurants and talks with the creative forces behind some of the world’s most highly acclaimed wines ensure an action-packed programme. (Image courtesy of Huge Galdones.)
Navy Pier, 12 – 20 March
Flower power is taken to another level this March at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show.
An action-packed programme of presentations and activities combined with the sights and aroma of the flowers themselves makes the show a captivating experience for adults and children alike. New varieties of flowers, along with edibles and other plants, plus innovative and unusual gardens landscaped by top designers are all on show, while a Kids Activity Garden helps to teach younger visitors about the elements of science, technology, engineering and maths that are intrinsic to the art of gardening. And when you’re all flowered out, you can kick back with a glass of wine served up at one of the event’s refreshment outlets. What’s not to like?!
Western Avenue, 12 March
With over 200,000 Irish Americans residing in the city, it is little wonder that Chicago enjoys the opportunity to turn itself green. This March, just a few days after St Patrick’s Day, the Windy City plays host to the South Side Irish Parade, a family friendly occasion featuring bagpipers, floats, Irish dancers marching bands, and much more. Taking place along Western Avenue in the southern districts of Chicago, the annual procession is a hugely popular event on Chicago’s events calendar, with many local businesses including restaurants and pubs getting involved. The no-alcohol policy does nothing to dim the enthusiasm of revellers who turn out in their droves to celebrate Chicago’s deep-rooted links with the Emerald Isle.
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 20 – 22 May
One of the most successful cultural imports from east to west of the past 50 years has been the Japanese visual art forms known as anime and manga. By the 1980s, both genres were firmly established in western culture and have proceeded to go from strength to strength. This May, Anime Central, the largest anime, manga and Japanese pop culture convention in the Midwest, will see fans descend from all around the world for the four-day event. Taking place in in Rosemont, less than 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, the annual convention will feature a vast video game room, concerts, dances, educational panels, workshops, premiere screenings, autograph sessions, 24-hour video rooms, tabletop gaming, and much. Guests from the Japanese and US sectors of the anime and manga industry will be in attendance, ensuring a broad spread of perspectives on what has grown to become a hugely important cultural phenomenon.
AMC River East 21, 8 – 21 April
The 32nd Chicago Latino Film Festival takes place this April, showcasing over 70 feature length films and over 40 shorts from Latin America, the U.S., Spain and Portugal. In 1985, the festival began with 14 films projected onto a concrete wall for 500 viewers. Today, more than 70,000 people (Latinos and non-Latinos alike) enjoy the year-round multidisciplinary cross-cultural exchanges offered by the International Latino Cultural Center (ILCC) of Chicago – with the festival acting as its flagship event of the year.
Wolcott Avenue, 5 March
The Chicago Urban Shopping Cart Race, affectionately known as the CHIditarod, is an annual charitable race through the Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village neighbourhoods of Chicago. Now in its 10th year, it was inspired by the Alaskan Iditarod, are while there are some basic similarities between the races, there is plenty more whimsy involved in Chicago’s urban setting. Instead of sleds, shopping carts are used, while in place of dogs are teams of five humans – including four pullers and one musher. The event typically draws over 1,000 people – both participants and spectators – and has collected over 100,000 pounds of food and more than $100,000 in direct donations in the fight against hunger since its 2006 inception.
Music Institute of Chicago, 22 April – 6 May
The 43nd annual Bach Week Festival will welcome first-time guest choir Bella Voce, an acclaimed Chicago vocal ensemble, when the spring festival celebrating the rich variety of J.S. Bach’s music opens in April. A collaboration between Bach Week and North Park’s School of Music, the festival takes place at the Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston and Anderson Chapel at North Park University and features a diverse programme, encompassing works from the late Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, and 20th century.