In 2014, Riot Fest vastly expanded its footprint in Humboldt Park, and saw heavy rains fall throughout the mid-September festival. That combination left the grounds in rough shape, as thousands of feet churned up the swampy turf. It took months and $150,000 dollars for Riot Fest to work repairs, some of which are still ongoing. We've been anticipating the lineup announcement from Riot Fest, which typically arrives in early May, but we hadn't fully considered the possibility that the event might need a new home. The future location of Riot Fest was called into question today in a Red Eye interview with 26th Ward Ald. Roberto Maldonado.
"I am exceptionally disappointed at the Riot Fest organizers for the mess they left at the park last year and their shallow and hollow promises to restore the park," he told the paper. "I don't support them coming back."
Grass growth continues to struggle in patches of the park, and after a recent walk-through of the park, Riot Fest was asked to re-aerate and re-seed certain areas. If the festival returns (note: they say "if"), more plastic covering would be used.
Early this morning, Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn responded via press release—and threw some blame at Maldonado.
"[A]lthough we entirely agree with the Alderman that the some areas needed additional landscaping maintenance (which continued this past Monday), we must all be reminded that it was Alderman Maldonado's direction and his final decision to change the footprint in 2014 to encompass low-lying parts of the park that we neither wanted, planned on or needed during a July 2014 meeting," Petryshyn stated. Oh, snap.
Petryshyn also points out the "hundreds of thousands of dollars" the festival donates to ward charities and his concert's "job creation in a ward that has sorely lacked new job development."
Frankly, the vibe at last year's Riot Fest was that of a festival in over its head. The continued expansion and big-name-grabbing of the bill is awesome, but it perhaps grew too big too fast. They are going toe-to-toe with Lollapalooza with bookings, but can't manage it with the military-operation-like efficiency of C3. Whatever happens in 2015, it is certain to use 2014 as a major lesson.