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Remix Chicago: 'We Regret the Decision to Include Animal Rides' on Hot Days

By Victoria Johnson | September 4, 2013 6:43am
 A festival-goer snapped this photo of a camel and ponies at Remix Chicago.
A festival-goer snapped this photo of a camel and ponies at Remix Chicago.
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Jeff Sloan

LOGAN SQUARE — The Remix Chicago festival will not include animal rides in the future after some critics called the pony and camel rides offered at this year's event "cruel" considering the heat.

The recycled arts fair was held Saturday and Sunday on Milwaukee Avenue between Fullerton and California avenues, and organizers had high hopes for this year's event, held for the first time in Logan Square after two years in Ravenswood.

Though Remix Chicago spokeswoman Jen Gordon said most of the feedback was positive this year, she admitted organizers got an earful of complaints about animal rides, particularly on Sunday when temperatures reached 85 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

"That was probably the one issue where we heard a lot of feedback that was more negative than positive," she said.

A handful of festival-goers took to Remix Chicago's Facebook page to complain, including Jeff Sloan, who attached a photo of a camel seeking some shade next to its trailer and the pony ride, which consisted of four ponies tethered to a pole as they circled around it.

"i really don't appreciate this animal cruelty in logan square," he wrote in a Facebook comment posted Sunday. "bad idea. boy doesn't this camel look right at home happy."

Another commenter, Patti Hizel, wrote, "It's shameful that you had animal 'rides' at a so called progressive event."

Allie London, a 46-year-old writer who lives in Edgewater, said she was shocked by the sight of the animal rides and questioned their inclusion in a "good-to-the-earth" themed event.

"It was super hot and I didn't see any water source. It really was heartbreaking," she said. "They didn't even have a tent cover for the poor things — that would have appeased me a little bit."

London said she nearly confronted the man running the pony ride, but her friend stopped her. Instead, London contacted PETA, which is strongly against the rides.

"Tethered tightly to turnstiles and forced to plod in endless circles, ponies can suffer from hoof ailments and are often left sore and chafed from ill-fitting equipment," the animal-rights organization says on its website.

Gordon said Remix Chicago organizers regretted the decision to include the animal rides.

"As we were rushing to pull things together one of the things that came up was animal rides as part of a larger kids area," she said. "It's a festival still very much in its infancy and we appreciate the feedback. As we think about future years we certainly won't be including animal rides."

Michael Todd, who provided the animal rides, said he has been in the business for more than 40 years and is used to criticism — but he denied they were mistreated.

He emphasized that water was provided to the animals on Sunday and that they were given frequent breaks.

He declined to comment in detail, saying that he did not want to "engage" with those who oppose his business.

"All I can say is the animals are cared for to the best of anyone's ability, and we love them like they're our children," he said.