Early Friday Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the formation of a new autumn festival that will — metaphorically speaking — set the city on fire.
"The Great Chicago Fire Festival will be truly unique, an event worthy of our world class city,” said Mayor Emanuel in a Friday release announcing the news. The event will debut on October of 2014, in partnership with the public art and performance group Redmoon Theater.
According to the city, the ambitious (if not somewhat questionably named) fest will feature "acrobatics, live music, fantastical machines, and more," culminating "in a procession of illuminated floating fiberglass sculptures as well as a fire spectacle on the main branch of the Chicago River."
Crain's Chicago Business notes the festival fullfils a tenet of the Chicago Cultural Plan, released last October, aimed at boosting the city's reputation as a "global cultural destination and make the arts accessible to residents of all neighborhoods."
Still more than a year away from its inaugural event, the festival seems to have been in the works for some time. According to a May 2012 Redmoon blog, the group's co-artistic director Jim Lasko hinted the project after being named a 2013 recipient of the prestigious Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University.
Calling it at the time a "signature event for the City of Chicago tentatively entitled 'The Great Chicago Fire Festival,'" Lasko said the project would aim to "create art collaboratively with the communities of our great neighborhoods that will then gather on the Chicago River for a culminating Fire Spectacle."
Lasko defended the name to the Sun-Times, conceding the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 "was a tragic event."
"It was terrible. But it also gave us an opportunity to re-envision ourselves," Lasko told the paper. "This is a symbolic version of that. It’ll be a signature event and a huge public celebration of the city and its unique character. I hope it becomes a beacon in the city, nationally and internationally that calls people together to celebrate us.”
The festival news follows on the heels of the mayor's Riverwalk announcement from Thursday. The city has reportedly landed a $100 million federal loan funded by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act to overhaul six blocks of the Loop-adjacent riverfront.
Meanwhile, The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will provide $100,000 to Redmoon for the planning and development of artistic and cultural programming for the 2014 festival.