Are You Ready for Some Lolla?!?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced this week in a playful video (above) with Health Commissioner Allison Arwady that Lollapalooza will be returning to Chicago this summer without capacity restrictions!
That is a major announcement to be sure, given that Lollla routinely draws 400,000 attendees over four days to enjoy more than 170 artists on multiple stages placed throughout Grant Park.
Reactions have been mixed, with some critics contending it is too much, too soon and others questioning the move given remaining capacity restrictions on smaller venues who have been shuttered for more than a year.
Others are cheering the move, pointing to the dwindling case rates and increasing vaccination numbers, as well as the CDC's recent announcement to end mask & social distancing requirements for outdoor gatherings and even indoors for vaccinated individuals.
I fall in the latter camp. I have argued in previous Dispatches that there has been a lack of intellectual honesty and consistency in positions across the board, and this is clearly a case where the science is showing that there is virtually no risk of transmission outdoors, especially for vaccinated individuals.
But, the facts support reopening and lifting of restrictions and the CDC, White House, Governor and Mayor are all supporting it.
More importantly, this represents a real opportunity to encourage more people to get vaccinated, especially younger folks who have expressed lower interest in doing so. Recent polls are showing that Gen Z & Millennials are becoming the biggest vaccine-dodging group
with 56% saying they were "unwilling" or "uncertain" about getting vaccinated. And these aren't anti-vaxxers who are concerned about government overreach or side effects, they simply don't fear COVID-19 enough to warrant a vaccine.
So if the fear of serious illness won't spur action, perhaps the appeal of access to live events and performances (indoors & out) can help drive more support.
I am sure that is part of the motivation behind the City's support for Lolla...all attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result for entry. And promotions for ticket giveaways are likely to be announced soon.
I think this is all a smart and strategic move by the Mayor, who smartly leveraged the mass media exposure and reach of Lollapalooza's following to send a clear message to a key target demographic: "festivals are back and you can party like it's 2019...IF you get vaccinated."
That's a huge amount of earned media value, which critics should keep in mind when talking about the small venues suffering across the City. A rising tide raises all ships, and the Mayor has clearly prioritized helping those venues and the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events recently announced $60M in recovery funding
for institutions and artists targeting disadvantaged and smaller organizations.
We are a City of Festivals. And the summer festival season is something that drives visitation, helping restaurants, theaters and hotels, and contributing to the $16.5 Billion that was spent on tourism in Chicago in 2019.
We desperately need that economic impact. And the science says we can do it safely.
So let's go Chicago...it's 86 degrees outside and I'm ready to start living again.
Who's with me?!