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lollapalooza 2018
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Festivals and large gatherings won’t happen until Illinois stops the spread of coronavirus

Gov. Pritzker offered more insight on what Chicago could look like this summer.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Prepare for a summer in Chicago devoid of festivals, concerts and conferences—large gatherings won't be allowed in Illinois anytime soon. While announcing his plans for a phased reopening of Illinois today, Governor J.B. Pritzker revealed that he doesn't see a way for events that draw huge crowds to happen until there's a vaccine for COVID-19 or a highly effective and widely available treatment.

"It brings me no joy to say this, but based on what the experts tell us and everything we know about this virus and how easily it spreads in a crowd, large conventions, festivals and other major events will be on hold until we reach Phase 5," Pritzker stated. Phase 5 is the final phase of his Restore Illinois plan and signals a return to life as it was before the coronavirus pandemic, requiring "the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period of time." The largest gathering allowed under Phase 4 of Pritzker's plan (which no region of the state has yet reached) is of 50 people or fewer—far less than the attendance at a typical concert or festival.

When pressed about the status of Lollapalooza specifically—which is still scheduled to take place from July 30–August 2 in Grant Park—Pritzker would not provide a definitive answer, saying "I think people will make their own projections going forward about the likelihood of it." Lollapalooza organizers have previously delayed the announcement of the festival's lineup and stated, "We are confident that we will have enough information to make a definitive decision about the path forward by the end of May."

Lollapalooza isn't the only major event that has delayed making a definitive decision about canceling or postponing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak; major music festivals like Pitchfork, North Coast and Riot Fest are still clinging to their previously scheduled 2020 dates, though they're likely to provide updates in the coming weeks. The city has already put the kibosh on May and June events like the Chicago Blues Festival and the Memorial Day Parade, while the Chicago Pride Parade has been postponed indefinitely and the Spring Awakening Music Festival was canceled outright.

The release of Pritzker's reopening plan will have repercussions in all sorts of industries that depend on people gathering in groups. Local music venues won't be back in action until COVID-19 is contained and events like weddings, block parties and cookouts are also out of the question (unless they're held virtually). Likewise, the halls of McCormick Place are likely to remain empty with no conventions in town, and a lack of out-of-state visitors will impact the business of hotels, restaurants and bars and rely on tourism.

It's tough to imagine summer in Chicago without people congregating outdoors, but the reality of our current situation involves making lots of sacrifices in the name of health and safety. One thing we'll never complain about again once this is all over? Having too many things to do on a beautiful summer weekend.

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