WEST TOWN — Hours after city leaders said festivals can resume throughout Chicago, organizers of Do Division Street Festival announced the 2021 event in West Town is called off for a second year.
The city announced new rules for events including street festivals Thursday as part of its plan to reopen more events and facilities thanks to lower coronavirus test positivity and increasing vaccination rates. Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events can operate with 15 people per 1,000 square feet.
Do Division typically takes place the weekend after Memorial Day. But a turnaround time of a few weeks is too fast to stage such a massive event that organizers normally take 6-7 months to plan, West Town Chamber of Commerce director Kara Salgado said.
Beyond time limitations, Salgado said the chamber isn’t sure how they could enforce crowd control when an entire street is closed down.
“When you’re planning special events, there comes a time in the timeline when you have to pull the plug,” Salgado said. “We’re in a crunch situation with the timeline.”
In lieu of the festival, the chamber will launch the Division Street Summer Sale June 5-6.
While some outdoor Chicago events are nailed down — Lady Gaga’s performance in Wrigley Field, the ARC Festival in Union Park and Windy City Smokeout at United Center — there remains plenty of uncertainty about whether some festivals can go forward.
Events including the Logan Square Arts Festival, Midsommarfest in Andersonville and the Silver Room Block Party in Hyde Park already have cancelled for 2021.
Crowd control is easier to accomplish when events take place on private property, Salgado said. With street festivals, she said, it’s harder to control people within a specific space limitation.
When a street is closed down, there’s no way to know if someone walking in plans to attend the festival — or if they’re simply walking into the festival to patronize a local business or enter their own home, Salgado added.
Chambers of commerce, which often organize street festivals, also cannot charge entry fees, Salgado said. Keeping events free is a trade-off for being allowed to shut down a street. That means crowd control via ticketing is out of the question.
Chambers, which are nonprofits, often ask participants for door donations to raise money.
Last year Do Division went completely virtual with live-streamed performances. This year won’t be totally virtual, as the planned summer sale will bring neighbors together in real life in some capacity.
Because of the unknowns, Salgado said the chamber is focused on making the 10th anniversary of the West Town Art Walk the “best it can be.” That event will take place in September.
The chamber has not made any decisions about its two other summer festivals, West Fest Chicago and Dancing In The Streets.
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