Great Chicago Fire Festival Encounters Problems

Great Chicago Fire Festival Encounters Problems
Photo: Chicago Tribune

The Great Chicago Fire Festival Report…the festival went on despite a problem with the ignition system…not to mention record cold and attendance figures smaller than expected.  Many were disappointed but hopefully, they can reboot for 2015. Here is the official news release detailing the event:

October 4, 2014.  An estimated 30,000 people attended the Great Chicago Fire Festival tonight, which featured a pre-show Community Bazaar, a parade of boats, a performance by the Chicago Children’s Choir and a fireworks display, all showcasing Chicago’s river front.

After an electrical issue with the ignition system caused by recent heavy rains delayed the main fire effect, and several unsuccessful attempts at manual ignition, Redmoon and the operational team moved on to a spectacular fireworks finale.

The Great Chicago Fire Festival main event began at 8 pm as emcee Rob Stafford, NBC-5 Chicago anchor, welcomed the crowd and introduced the festival. Local firemen and their families, aboard the Wendella sightseeing boat, sailed along the river in a tribute to the heroism of First Responders. Then Grand Marshals Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney, stars of the hit television drama Chicago Fire, ignited a fiery cauldron on the Michigan Avenue Bridge, an act mirrored on the Columbus, Wabash and State Street bridges by Boone, CPD General Superintendent Mike Kelly, representatives from sponsor BMO Harris, students from After School Matters and other community leaders. A total of 15 Fire Cauldrons were ignited to spark the performance.

As live music from the Chicago Children’s Chorus filled the air from singers aboard the Shorelines Sightseeing boat, the S.S. O’Leary – a Redmoon original creation designed like a Victoria-era steamboat – motored along the river accompanied by three mini steamboats, each issuing puffs of flame into the air.

After a dazzling fireworks display designed by Las Vegas-based company Pyrotechnico, the ritual performance closed with 15 projection screens on boats on the water, each representing a neighborhood partner, displayed photographs of local community members, celebrating the collective identity of Chicago today. Finally, 75 kayaks pulling buoys of prairie grass appeared from each end of the river, representing the renewal of the Chicago River to its pre-industrial natural splendor.

Original Post

Over a year in the planning, the Great Chicago Fire Festival, rises from the ashes Saturday, October 4th with a public River Bazaar and pyrotechnic Grand Spectacle on the main branch of the Chicago River, between State Street and Columbus Drive.

The event, sans Mrs O’Leary and her cow, promises to be more spectacular than the Magnificent Lights Festival–culminating when three enormous Victorian-era houses (on platforms on the river) are set ablaze–lighting up the river and skies with a massive, but controlled, fireball.

Tens of thousands are expected to attend this new festival which is to become an annual event.

The spectacle part is the due to the efforts of Redmoon, Chicago’s 24-year-old theater company known for Spectacle Art–their largest project yet. Redmoon Executive Artistic Director, Jim Lasko, elaborates on the project saying “Together with the City of Chicago, we hope to create a unique event for Chicagoans that captures the world’s imagination.”

The festival kicks off at 3 p.m. with a River Bazaar that will feature 15 designated areas, each representing an official Fire Festival Neighborhood where the historic fire burned in October of 1871.

The communities represented include: Albany Park, Austin, Avondale, Bronzeville, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Little Village, North Lawndale, Old Town, Pilsen, Roseland, South Chicago, South Shore, Uptown and Woodlawn.

Each community will have two kiosks at the bazaar with arts, crafts, goods and foods representing their neighborhoods that will be available for purchase.

From 5:30 to 8 p.m., local performers will appear on two stages leading up to the Grand Spectacle.  The “ Music & Spoken Word Stage” will showcase local musicians and poets in Pioneer Court (435 N. Michigan Avenue).

Three blocks west on the AMA Plaza at Wabash and the river, the “BMO Harris Dance Stage” will feature an Urban Dance Battle with some of Chicago’s top hip-hop, breaking and footworking teams.

The  main event kicks off at 8 p.m. when Grand Marshals Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney, of the television drama Chicago Fire, ignite a fiery cauldron on the Michigan Avenue Bridge.  The cauldron will then be lowered to waiting watercraft on the river below. Similar events will take place on the Columbus, Wabash and State Street bridges–with a total of 15 Fire Cauldrons to be ignited and lowered.

As live music from the Chicago Children’s Chorus fills the air, a Victoria-era-inspired steamboat, accompanied by three mini steamboats will cruise the river toward the structures signaling the primary fire ritual performance to begin.

A fireworks extravaganza, set to music, along with 15 projection screens on boats on the water–one for each of the neighborhoods ravished by the 1871 fire–create the grand finale and renewal–represented by 75 kayaks pulling buoys of prairie grass from each end of the river.

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