CHICAGO — The Silver Room Block Party has been canceled due to the organizer’s concerns over coronavirus.
The massive South Side event, which attracts crowds of 50,000 people, had been scheduled for July 18. But founder and director Eric Williams said Monday he’s opted to cancel it because there’s too much uncertainty over what will happen this summer due to the pandemic.
Williams’ decision came just days after Gov. JB Pritzker said he thinks all large summer events should be canceled due to the virus. Though Pritzker hasn’t made an official announcement canceling summer events, Williams said he needs to focus on his store, the Silver Room — which is closed due to the stay at home order — and how he’ll help its 10 employees.
Planning the event would be too much work “with way too much uncertainty,” Williams said. “No one knows how long [stay at home is] gonna go. No one knows what new policies might be in place.”
Williams said he’s worried that even if the stay at home order is lifted after April 30, the state could continue to ban events with large crowds — including street festivals like the Silver Room Block Party.
The fest is “a very spiritual and healing thing to do,” Williams said. “But the fact that you just don’t know what’s gonna happen is causing this whole set of issues. It’s unfortunate. But no one knows right now. The uncertainty is the biggest issue.”
The festival started in Wicker Park 16 years ago but is now held every summer in Hyde Park. It was a difficult decision to cancel it, Williams said, especially since it’s one of few large events held on the city’s South Side.
The festival brings in about $3 million to the area between people flying in, staying in hotels, eating at local restaurants and buying from local vendors, Williams said.
It takes months to plan the festival, and Williams is worried about the people who make their living off such events — event organizers, artists and performers — and how Chicago’s morale will fare if there’s a summer with no events.
Williams is also worried about the disproportionate effect the loss of events will have on the South Side, saying residents there could have their spirits hit harder since they’ve already been disenfranchised in various ways and fewer major events are held in their communities.
But the Silver Room Block Party will return in 2021, and they’ll “do it even better,” Williams said.
“I know it’s sad because people look forward to this,” he said. “But right now people are going through life and death situations, so I think we need to focus on that. Make sure everybody’s healthy. Make sure the state of our world is intact. And then we can move forward later.”
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