Riot Fest, a large music festival, is still awaiting approval from the Park District to be held at Douglass Park this year. The festival has been a source of contention between organizers and North Lawndale residents for years, with neighbors claiming that the private event blocks them from portions of a public park and hurts the community. Riot Fest organizers have attempted to partner with and benefit neighbors, offering free tickets, temporary jobs, park cleanups, and beautification efforts. They have also highlighted local talent and made the park accessible. Riot Fest’s economic development director, Neli Vasquez Rowland, said that the organizers are working to build a stronger relationship with the community by prioritizing safety and providing internships to youth. Riot Fest’s supporters include Ald. Monique Scott (24th), the Douglass Park Advisory Council, the North Lawndale Eagles football team, Little Village Foundation, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Chicago West Community Music Center.
The protests against Riot Fest reached a peak last year when access to part of the park was blocked for large swathes of the summer and early fall for three private music festivals: Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash, Heatwave Festival, and Riot Fest. Summer Smash and Heatwave have relocated due to the backlash, but Riot Fest still plans on returning. Riot Fest wants Park District clearance to hold the festival from September 15-17 at the park, with an expected crowd of 50,000 people per day. However, neighbors have long complained that the festival and other events in the park block public access, damage the grounds, displace youth sports teams, and attract large crowds that create safety risks.
The debate between neighbors and organizers over turning over public park space for private events continues, with no clear answer after another meeting between residents, officials, and fest organizers this week. The Park District has not yet signed off on the fest amid the debate between neighbors and organizers. District spokespeople did not immediately answer Block Club’s questions about when officials will make the final call. Riot Fest’s organizers will hold a virtual community meeting on June 7 to discuss the festival.
Keywords: Riot Fest, Douglass Park, North Lawndale, Park District, music festival, private event, public park, community, safety, partnership, local talent, economic impact, controversy.
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