There are not many events that take over the streets of downtown Chicago, but Oprah has taken over the Magnificent Mile to tape her 24th season opener.
Michigan Avenue, between Wacker and Ohio, has been closed since midnight Monday and will remain closed until 5am Wednesday morning. With the large number of people expecting to gather for the event, foot traffic is expected to be as difficult as the rerouted CTA buses, taxicabs, and other downtown traffic.
For an event of this magnitude, it takes more than just a weekend of planning to make it successful. Planning this type of event not only takes months of preparation, but also a great deal of cooperation from the city. Applying for city permits that allows for a Magnificent Mile takeover can take months to obtain. Notification must also be given to the merchants and businesses throughout the event's selected area, since it will directly affect them in regards with access to buildings as well as parking. After receiving permission from the city and notifying the appropriate people, planning the details can begin.
A detailed schematic of the city had to be created to make sure all bases were covered. They had to carefully place barricades, restrooms, power sources, and emergency exits. Once placement was secured, event rentals for barricades, restrooms, and power sources had to be secured. The location of the stage, space for the audience, and flow for the event all had to be considered when creating the layout of the event.
Once the overall plan for the event is in order the next hurdle to conquer is crowd management. With the number of people in attendance constantly growing, security, police, and emergency services need to be on site and accessible. There also needs to be a contingency plan for emergency response; exit strategies and alternative routes need to be in place in case of an evacuation. Accessibility to the event for handicapped guests also needs to be taken into account when planning. There must be handicap accessible seats, restrooms, and walkways; whether there is a designated section that allows priority for those with disabilities, planning must take place in order to make the event enjoyable and accessible to all in attendance.
Chicago's wonderful and unpredictable weather must also be accounted for when planning an event in the streets of Chicago. In the blink of an eye the weather can change from blue skies and sun shine to clouds and rain. No matter what the weather, Oprah's Block Party will happen rain or shine!
The taping of Oprah's 24th season premier is going to be one of her best yet, and it took a great deal of planning to get there,