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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Wicker Park’s Boo-Palooza Festival Canceled Due To Short Staffing, Communication Issues, Organizers Say

The annual event is a major source of funding for Wicker Park programs and garden upkeep.

Families at the annual Boo-Palooza Halloween festival in Wicker Park
Doug Wood/Provided
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WICKER PARK — A popular Wicker Park Halloween fair has been canceled, with organizers saying poor communication by the Park District and understaffing with an event contractor made it impossible.

Boo-Palooza has been held in Wicker Park’s namesake park, 1425 N. Damen Ave., every year since 2005. It is organized by the all-volunteer Wicker Park Advisory Council and features costume contests, a dog parade, pumpkin decorating and other activities.

The fair draws about 2,000 people every year and brings in about $20,000 in revenue, said Doug Wood, events and program coordinator for the advisory council.

Those funds are used to support programs such as concerts and moving screenings at the park throughout the year. They also go toward upkeep of the park’s gardens.

But Boo-Palooza — originally scheduled for Oct. 22 — will not happen this year.

Wood said he and other event organizers were forced to cancel the event after they received no response from Park District staff when submitting permit applications in August to hold the event.

Wood submitted a permit application, site plan and other documents Aug. 15, according to an email shared with Block Club.

Wood said he received no confirmation from the Park District about the event for more than a month, until he alerted neighbors and staff on Sept. 19 that Boo-Palooza would have to be canceled.

“As of 9/19/22 – NO communications or confirmations from the Field House Staff or the Central Region Staff confirming the field house hours for the event or any Confirmation of rooms, chairs, tables, stage platforms to date as requested in the Attached Partnership form submitted on 8-15-2022 – absolutely NO communications were received,” Wood wrote in an email this week.

Credit: Doug Wood/Provided
A flier announcing the cancellation of Wicker Park’s Boo-Palooza fair on Oct. 22

After Wood announced news of the cancellation, Park District employees responded via email that permits for the event had been processed in mid-August and they expected Boo-Palooza to go ahead on Oct. 22.

But Wood told them he never received confirmation, and it was now too late to go ahead with the event.

In response to the cancellation, spokesperson Michele Lemons said the Park District remains in “full support of Boo-Palooza” and welcomes partnering with the advisory council on the event.

“The Park District was informed by the Wicker Park Advisory Council that it cancelled the annual Boo-Palooza scheduled for October 22nd due to a number of reasons, including an outside vendor’s inability to supply materials for the event. Park staff immediately informed PAC leadership that all matters related to park operations needed to support the event are in place, as discussed,” Lemons said in a statement.

Wood also cited staffing issues with event contractor Christy Webber Farm and Garden Center as another factor for Boo-Palooza’s cancellation. Christy Webber has for many years provided pumpkins, straw and other materials at the event.

Wood wrote that “the understaffing of both groups led to their inability to fully support the event,” in an email to neighbors.

In an email, Christy Webber CFO Roger Post said the company remains supportive of Boo-Palooza, as it has for many years.

“The event just coincides with another at our store on Chicago Avenue so we asked that the organizers find some volunteers to unload when we deliver pumpkins, corn stalks and hay bales. We hope they don’t cancel it!” Post wrote.

But in the email to neighbors Wednesday, Wood reiterated that Boo-Palooza won’t happen this fall.

“Unfortunately there is no way to make it work this year. SEE YOU in 2023!” he wrote.

Boo-Palooza is a major source of fundraising for programs planned by the Wicker Park Advisory Council. Data shared by Wood show more than 6,500 people attended 25 events in the park this summer, which were partially funded by dollars raised through last year’s Boo-Palooza.

With this year’s event getting called off, “that means that we have to obtain sponsorship to compensate for that loss,” Wood said. “We have a whole lot more fundraising to do.”

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