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May Chicago festival calendar

Hit the streets with the family for ribs, music, culture and more at these top Chicago summer festivals

Photograph: Maddie Blecha
Do Division - June 2, 2013
Traditionally, May marks the arrival of summer in Chicago, bringing sun and outdoor events to the city's streets. If you're not outside enjoying a meal at a patio or garden, you're watching some bands play at a music festival or persuing some local art at a craft fair. May is one of those months that makes us truly glad that we live in Chicago. If you're still looking for an excuse to get out of the house, you should check out our list of the best Chicago festivals that are happening this month.

Chicago International Movies and Music Festival

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In its sixth year, CIMMfest is a sprawling affair spread across the city—venues include the Metro, Concord, Double Door, City Winery, the Logan, Subterranean, Hideout, Empty Bottle, Concord, Lincoln Hall, LSA and more. With dozens of music-centric films and live bands, it can be a task to navigate, so we'll cut to the highlights. Yo La Tengo headlines the first night, neo-disco act Escort the second. Italian psych legend Goblin plays its score to the classic horror flick Suspiria at Metro on May 3. Nineties rock dudes Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins) and Scott Lucas (Local H) team to provide a live score to Sergei Eisenstein’s pioneering silent protest film Battleship Potemkin (No, really).

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Until Sun Apr 17

ACTIVATE

Recommended

The newest series of events presented by Chicago Loop Alliance transforms mundane, downtown alleys into glowing laser light shows. Each month, the party will move to a different alley in the city, transforming the space for a single evening. The inaugural event in the Sullivan Center alley will feature immersive art from Johalla Projects, a Zipcar DJ booth and a cash bar.

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Various venues , Chicago Thursday September 15 2016 - Thursday October 13 2016

Found Footage Festival

Featuring VHS finds from garage sales, thrift shops and dumpsters, curators Joe Pickett  and Nick Prueher provide live commentary as they present their unearthed oddities. This year's festival includes an instructional video titled "How to Have Cybersex on the Internet and video for dog breeders detailing the process of "whelping."

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Until Thu May 1

Cinco De Mayo Festival

Yes, it takes place on the Dos, Tres and Cuatro of Mayo, but no Cinco celebration is more authentic than the fete in Little Village. The kiddies can ride live ponies and carnival attractions, and there's food, arts, crafts and music in this massive celebration of Mexican culture in the Midwest.

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Until Sun May 1

Kids and Kites Festival

Recommended

Celebrate the arrival of spring at this free, outdoor family-friendly festival at Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park where kids can fly a kite or watch professional demonstrations. Free paper kites will be provided, but families will also be able to purchase more intricate flying creations from a variety of vendors.

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07 May 2016

Derby Days Street Festival

If you can't make it out to Chruchhill Downs for the big race this year, just head to Joe's Bar on Weed Street. The bar will be shutting down the street, setting up a jumbotron and serving up Mint Juleps to thirsty attendees. Pick your favorite, place your bets (the bar offers off-track betting, for a $2 fee) and get ready to experience in the Kentucky Derby in the streets of Chicago.

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03 May 2014

Polish Constitution Day Parade

The Polish Constitution was signed on May 3rd, 1791 and for the past 123 years Chicago has celebrated the date with a parade in Grant Park. Over 250,000 attendees flock to Columbus Drive to watch the procession and honor Europe's first democratic constitution.

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Until Sat May 7

Revolution Craft Show

Recommended

Peruse arts and crafts from more than 40 Midwest artisans, enjoy live music and refuel with snacks from food trucks in Salvage One's vintage-decorated space.

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Until Sun Dec 13

Cinco De Mayo Parade

Although most Americans use Cinco De Mayo as an excuse to drink margaritas, the holiday actually commemorates the victory the Mexican forces had over the invading French army on 5 May, 1862. This annual celebration in Pilsen fills the streets with colorful attire and traditional music. The parade starts at Cermak and Wood and travels west to Kedzie.

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Until Sun May 3

Studs Terkel Festival: "Let's Get Working"

Recommended

The University of Chicago celebrates the life and work of Studs Terkel, a famous writer, broadcaster and activist who won a Pulitzer Prize. Terkel passed away in 2008, but his work has inspired a new generation of socially conscious journalists, including featured speakers like This American Life host Ira Glass and The Interrupters producer Alex Kotlowitz. You'll find a complete list of events at the festival website.

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Until Sun May 11
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