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Rahm Stands by Fire Fest, but Says 'Changes, Adaptations' to Be Made

By  Ted Cox and Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | October 8, 2014 2:26pm | Updated on October 8, 2014 3:26pm

 Redmoon Theater's Great Chicago Fire Festival promised to light up the Chicago River. While things didn't go as planned, thousands turned out for the festival.
Great Chicago Fire Festival
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CITY HALL — The mayor defended the Great Chicago Fire Festival Wednesday, but acknowledged that "changes and adaptations" need to be made to it going forward.

"I do believe this is something we want to continue to do," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a news conference after Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Two days after Ald. Edward Burke (14th) labeled last Saturday's event a "fiasco," Emanuel said, "Clearly, we're gonna makes changes and adaptations." He added that was expecting a report on "what didn't work, what worked, what we need to do different."

He also mentioned that about 40,000 people showed up for the event on the river last Saturday "in cold weather and rain," which eventually doused the attempts to create a genuine flaming spectacle. Still, the mayor said it "touched a spirit" in the city, one of "resilience, rebirth, renewal."

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that "changes and adaptations" would be required to keep the Great Chicago Fire Festival going in the years to come.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that "changes and adaptations" would be required to keep the Great Chicago Fire Festival going in the years to come.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano details what was supposed to happen at the festival:

Emanuel also cited the involvement of kids from 15 neighborhoods in the construction of props and other aspects of the Redmoon Theater production, adding, "I don't want to lose that."

Earlier, Michelle T. Boone, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, hinted the event would continue next year.

"We remain committed to helping Redmoon and its team of education and arts organizations build a foundation for this new annual event, which activates our riverfront with dynamic new recreational and cultural uses — and experiences for the entire city to enjoy," Boone said.

Eric Eatherly, a spokesman for Redmoon, said it was interested in having another crack at it.

"Redmoon is optimistic that DCASE is so far still expressing its support to renew the festival next year," he said.

But despite Boone's statement, Emanuel did not commit to working with Redmoon again. He said he'd wait to review the final report, but "not throw in the towel" on the festival as an annual event.

Burke, who has previously championed a story blaming Daniel "Peg Leg" O'Sullivan for the Great Chicago Fire, and not Mrs. Catherine O'Leary's cow, welcomed surviving members of the O'Leary family to the City Council Wednesday to commemorate the 1997 resolution that absolved Mrs. O'Leary's cow "from all blame in regard to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871."

Yet, Emanuel couldn't resist saying that Redmoon Theater could have used Mrs. O'Leary's cow and its lantern last Saturday night.

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