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2020 Chicago Blues Festival Cancelled

April 21st, 2020

With regret, the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has announced the cancellation of four beloved annual events and what would have been a new citywide celebration of music. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Chicago Memorial Day Parade and Wreath Laying Ceremony (May 23) will be cancelled along with three legacy music festivals: the 5th Annual Chicago House Music Conference & Festival (May 21-24), the 35th Chicago Gospel Music Festival (May 27-30), and the 37th Annual Chicago Blues Festival (June 5-7). Additionally, DCASE has cancelled Chicago In Tune (May 21-June 7), a new 18-day, citywide celebration of music that was to be a signature program of the Year of Chicago Music.

Due to the cancellation of these major music festivals, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and DCASE will extend the 2020 Year of Chicago Music into 2021. The Year of Chicago Music will continue this year and throughout next year, to amplify the excitement and momentum building across the local industry. Many of the initiatives planned for 2020 will extend into 2021 - specifically, Chicago In Tune and the return of the House music, Gospel music, and Blues festivals.

"These cancellations are disappointing to all of us here in Chicago, particularly for the countless individuals who worked so hard to organize an extraordinary Year of Chicago Music," said Mayor Lightfoot. "Nonetheless, these difficult but necessary steps were taken in order to ensure the health and safety of our residents and visitors, which continues to be our utmost priority throughout the COVID-19 crisis. As upsetting as it is to remove these events from our calendar, we are already looking forward to next year where we'll be pulling out all the stops for a festival season Chicago will never forget."

The cancellation of these specific DCASE-run festivals is not official City guidance for other event producers; they should continue to follow the public health guidance of the CDC, City and State officials. Like many other cultural presenters, the City of Chicago made these difficult decisions out of an abundance of caution related to large public gatherings and because DCASE otherwise would not have sufficient time to plan and successfully execute these major events. DCASE had previously cancelled its programming through May 15 in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for large events and mass gatherings of 50 people or more, and Governor Pritzker's subsequent ban on events with more than 1,000 attendees.
 
As the City continues to recognize the Year of Chicago Music, DCASE will offer digital content and virtual concerts in lieu of the 2020 House music, Gospel music and Blues festivals. Additionally, Mayor Lightfoot and DCASE are presenting livestreamed performances by local musicians on Instagram Live and Facebook every Sunday. DCASE is collaborating with Do312 to collect and promote listings of virtual concerts (do312.com/yearofchicagomusic), and Choose Chicago has curated an exhaustive list of virtual events of all kinds (choosechicago.com/things-to-do/chicago-home).

"These special events are Chicago summertime traditions," said Commissioner Mark Kelly of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. "While we recognize this is disappointing news for our artists, participants and attendees, we are committed to honoring and engaging them in new ways - and, at this difficult time, pivoting to advocate for and support our local arts and events sector through the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund and many other efforts."

Today's cancellation of larger DCASE-run events in May and June does not necessarily impact smaller DCASE programs, DCASE festivals scheduled for later this summer, or co-presented programs hosted by the City in venues like Millennium Park. At this time, Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center and other DCASE-managed venues remain closed to the public until further notice. City-run farmers markets will not open until sometime after May 15. Additionally, the City is not issuing special event or film permits through May 15. For updates, visit chicago.gov/dcase.

Per Mayor Lightfoot's order to close the Lakefront and several other public spaces in March, Chicago's Riverwalk will remain closed to the public. Additionally, in accordance with the Governor's 'Stay at Home' Order all businesses along the Riverwalk will remain closed to the public throughout the duration of the order. When the order is lifted, the Riverwalk will reopen in accordance with Public Health guidelines, to ensure the safety of visitors and residents alike.
 
For more information about the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, and to donate or apply for funding, visit ArtsforIllinois.org.  

For more information and updates on the City's response to COVID-19, text COVID19 to 78015, email coronavirus@chicago.gov or visit Chicago.gov/coronavirus.