THE LOOP — The Chicago River will be ablaze in fiery cauldrons, burning houses and fireworks Saturday as the city's first-ever Great Chicago Fire Festival lights up the Loop.
The all-day festival is meant to celebrate Chicago's grit and resilience, and will be loaded with flame-filled spectacles that could rival Burning Man's.
It's a production of the Pilsen-based Redmoon theater group, meant to celebrate Chicago's rebirth after the Great Fire of 1871. The fest will be capped by an 8 p.m. "Grand Spectacle," that includes the lowering of 15 "fire cauldrons" from bridges over the Chicago River onto boats below.
Lizzie Schiffman describes what exactly will be burned down this Saturday:
Actors Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney from the NBC series "Chicago Fire" will be on hand to help ignite the evening's festivities. The Chicago Children's Choir will perform as the cauldrons burn.
In addition to the cauldrons, the S.S. O'Leary steamship will enter the river, along with three mini-steamships. Each ship will ignite a floating, pre-1871-style house structure on the river. After they are extinguished, the "renewal" begins.
Then come the fireworks.
Co-sponsored by the City of Chicago and the Park District, the Great Chicago Fire Festival's main events will take over the streets surrounding the State Street and Columbus Drive bridges, including the section of the river between them, from 11 a.m. until midnight.
The festival's mission statement is to celebrate "the diversity of Chicago's great neighborhoods and the city's powerful spirit of renewal," so events are scattered across the city.
Earlier this month, Redmoon staged performances at Rainbow Beach Park and hosted a vendor night with live music in South Shore.
The free main event kicks off with a neighborhood bazaar that opens at 3 p.m. Saturday. Music performances start at 5 p.m., and at 8 p.m., the "Grand Spectacle" begins.
If it rains, the festival will be rescheduled for Sunday.
Redmoon's Mobile DJ unit — "a cross between a Segway, a classic car and a DJ booth," according to the company — will park in Daley Plaza at noon Tuesday to help kick off the event, which the city hopes to repeat annually.
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