Chicagoans have always been content ringing in the new year watching the ball drop in New York City on TV. This year, the city is getting its very own gaudy outdoor New Year's Eve celebration on the riverfront, an event that aims to make Chicago a holiday destination. For those tired of the usual concerts, hotel parties and house soirees, it's an opportunity to go outside and observe the holiday in the freezing cold.
The party will take place on the north and south sides of the river between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, featuring multiple stages of live music, a fireworks display, a live broadcast on NBC 5 and a midnight countdown that will feature a giant star ascending 36 stories up the side of the Hyatt Regency Chicago building. It also boasts a groan-worthy name: Chi-Town Rising.
The downtown spectacle is being produced by Arena Partners, a private company founded by John Murray, the man behind Chicago's failed 2016 Olympic bid and who also helped bring the NFL Draft to the city last April. The Tribune reported that the budget for the inaugural event is "well into seven figures," adding that Murray does not expect to make a profit in the first year (access to the event will be free, but there will be private parties in surrounding restaurants, bars and hotels). Organizers have lofty expectations for the event, estimating 100,000 attendees and framing it as a way to draw tourists to the city. Accordingly, Chicago's tourism bureau, Choose Chicago, and the Illinois Office of Tourism will be helping to promote Chi-Town Rising.
Will Chicagoans warm up to a large-scale outdoor event on the eve of 2016? We'll have to wait and see what kind of musical talent the organizers can drum up.