CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday the cancellation of five major summer events because of the coronavirus crisis.
Musicians and fans across Chicago are expressing sadness over the cancellation of the famed Chicago Blues Fest, Jazz Fest, the House Music Conference and Festival and the Gospel Music Festival.
Musician Phil Circle has been performing and teaching in the city for three decades
“One of the great things about the city is all the events that we have, all the interaction between human beings from all over the world. To not be able to present that side of Chicago to people is heartbreaking,” he said. “I was disappointed, but people’s lives matter. The arts are about people’s lives, and the human condition, so it makes it hard to justify putting their lives at risk. I think the mayor’s doing the right thing.”
Lightfoot said she would follow the advice of public health officials and the guidance of the Center for Disease Control to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Chicago.
“We’ve been very clear that we have to see a lot of things in place before we have a comfort level where we can come back into congregate settings,” she said. “While we continue to be diligent, and stay at home is paying dividends, we’re not even close to being out of the woods yet.”
Blues Fest is one of Chicago’s signature events bringing half a million people to Millennium Park for three days of free performances from international blues musicians and many local artists.
Renowned blues musician John Primer was scheduled to play the fest this summer.
“It brought tears to my eyes. I’m very upset about it,” he said. “Music heals all the people, regardless of what type of music, it brings people together and heals you.”
The cancellations also mean loss of income for the musicians, production crews, vendors and many others.
It’s the biggest outdoor blues fest in the world, and I know a lot of people who lost gigs either on the performance or the production side,” Circle said.
But Circle says there’s something poetic about the situation that just might make a good blues song someday,.
“I guess this is what the blues are written about, so may Chicago rise to the occasion and write a few more songs,” he said. “How else can we react but to find a positive opportunity in it?”
The city also cancelled its Memorial Day parade and wreath laying ceremony.
These cancellations call into question the entire summer of Chicago festivals including major events like Lollapalooza and the Pride Parade, neither of which have been officially canceled yet.