A glass of cold sangria in one hand, a plate of food balanced in the other. The only reason to disrupt such a perfect combination might be to dance to the live band performing just a few feet away. That's the basic Midsommarfest formula, and every summer, nearly 50,000 people flock to Andersonville for this celebration of all things local. Going strong for the past half century, the fest takes over Clark Street from Foster to Catalpa with booths for food and crafts as well as five different stages. These showcase eclectic entertainments that truly reflect the neighborhood's charm: not just cover bands (though there are those, too), but a pet parade, Swedish music, dance troupes, and sets from blues, roots, and funk bands. All the fun also helps the neighborhood, and not just because stoplights are powered by laughter; proceeds go to benefit community causes.
A celebration of all things ink, Tattoo Arts & Horror Festival brings together celebrities, sideshow entertainers, tattoo artists, and connoisseurs of the horror movie genre for a weekend of macabre camaraderie. The roster of celebrities hews toward the horror film genre?on hand will be George Wilbur of the Halloween films, Ari Lehman from Friday the 13th, and John Carl Buechler, the writer, director, and actor known for his work on Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and Halloween. The rest of the guest list includes tattoo supermodel Heather Moss and enough tattoo artists to honor every MOM in North America.
But there's plenty more to ogle at than just celebrities. Human suspension performers, for instance, challenge viewers' concepts of pain and endurance by piercing their flesh with large hooks and suspending themselves from above. Further impossibilities are on display during the Captain's Sideshow, a performance with beds of nails, mouse traps, and just about anything else that can make you cover your eyes and then peek between your fingers. But at Tattoo Arts & Horror Festival, the show easily crosses the threshold of the stage and into the crowd. Expect to see everybody in their brightest inks, their sharpest piercings, and their most gothic duds, especially during the costume contest and the Ms. Tattoo Pageant.
The Southside Polish Fest is said to be the largest of its kind in the country, an honor it has earned by attracting not just the local Polish community, but by welcoming Chicagoans of all ethnicities. Whether familiar with the culture or not, revelers can immerse themselves in it by sampling traditional foods and beers and by taking in the live performances scheduled to fill all three days of the festival. This entertainment includes polka bands, Polish musicians, traditional dancers, the unceasing movement of the sun, and even a pierogi-eating contest. Kids will be drawn to the 25 carnival rides, which riders can enjoy by purchasing wristbands good for either 4-hour blocks or all three days of the festival.
On May 20, 1891, an estimated 6,000 people attended the first-ever Opening Day at Hawthorne Race Course. The event featured the Chicago Derby?a quarter-mile race won by a horse named Brookwood. Since that day, the facility has thrilled Chicago-area racing fans season after season with live competition and full-card simulcasting. But it hasn't always been easy. In 1905, for instance, racing was banned in Chicago for more than 15 years after several of the facility's horses became mired in a political scandal. And Hawthorne Race Course itself has had to overcome its fair share of adversity, including two fires, the most recent of which destroyed the grandstand in 1978.
Disappointed by the relative lack of comedies at film festivals, independent filmmaker Jessica Hardy founded Chicago Comedy Film Festival last year as a much-needed outlet for comedic expression. Now in their second year, Hardy and her staff have picked another round of humorous flicks to the screen over the three-day, second-annual laugh fest, screening both independent feature films and shorts.
Films on Friday include Servitude, starring Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio actor Dave Foley as the manager of a Western-themed restaurant’s overworked staff. Earlier in the day is the screening of Close Quarters, a flick starring renowned local actors T.J. Jagodowski, Susan Messing, and Gregory Hollimon as they debate love, friendship, and jealousy—all over some coffee.
On Saturday, catch the Midwest premiere of Bad Parents, where Janeane Garofalo and Cheri Oteri play stressed-out soccer moms trying to communicate with their inanimate soccer-ball children. On Sunday, those with VIP passes can attend the award ceremony, as well as the after-party at Rockit Bar & Grill.
Simply put, Players Sport & Social Group helps more than 60,000 people each year get together, meet new friends, and have fun. The two-decade-old company has more than doubled in size in the last five years, due in no small part to the wide variety of sports leagues and clinics that it offers at venues throughout the city. Teams or individuals can sign up for sports ranging from dodge ball to beach volleyball to games of "bags," otherwise known as cornhole. Players can check their weekly standings online and review each sport's rules, learning exactly what is considered a foul in kickball or how to dispose of a football opponent's captured flag by burning it in a respectful ceremony.
The company also hosts and sponsors social events such as happy hours, fundraisers, and the Luau: a 55,900-participant grass-volleyball tournament with DJ music, food, and beer. Similarly, The Big Dig volleyball tournament offers the same mix of munchies, brews, and live entertainment, but on the sands of North Avenue Beach.