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Chicago Grateful Dead Shows Will Allow Tailgating But Not Camping

SOLDIER FIELD — Good news, Deadheads: Tailgating will be allowed at the Grateful Dead's farewell shows this summer at Soldier Field.

For a bit.

Soldier Field spokesman Luca Serra said Wednesday that the stadium would open its parking lots extra-early for the Dead's "last shows" over Fourth of July weekend. The lots will open at 1 p.m., a good six hours before the psychedelic jam band hits the stage at 7 p.m. The parking lots will remain open for roughly "a half-hour or an hour" after the shows end, Serra said.

That's good news for Deadheads, thousands of whom failed to score tickets for the Dead's 50th Anniversary reunion in Chicago. Someone has already listed two three-day passes to the event online for $116,000

Serra confirmed that Soldier Field security will not ask tailgaters to present concert tickets to get into the parking lot. But here's the catch: They'll be asked to leave once the show begins.

"We have 70,000 people in the stadium, so we need to manage keeping those people safe, too," Serra said. Overnight camping will also not be allowed after the shows, according to earlier media reports.

The policy is similar to the rules Soldier Field enforces for Chicago Bears games and other events. 

Recognizing the number of Deadheads expected to swarm Chicago this summer far exceeds the amount of tickets sold, the Grateful Dead is working with the Chicago Park District and Soldier Field to "accommodate" fans left hanging, Serra said. No decisions have been made, but as of now, options including a live watch-party at nearby Downtown parks or on-demand remote viewing are under consideration. The park district, which declined to comment, is discussing such options daily with the Dead's promoter, Serra said. 

Formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, Calif., the Grateful Dead pioneered the "jam band" genre, garnering hordes of fans who traveled worldwide for decades to camp out at Dead shows. The last official Grateful Dead concert was in 1995, also at Soldier Field, before bandleader Jerry Garcia died. 

A Grateful Dead spokesman did not return a message seeking comment. 

Dating back to the 1926 Army/Navy football game or the Eucharistic Congress Mass that same year, Soldier Field has hosted humongous crowds before. But since the historic stadium reopened in 2003, there has been no event on the scale of what the Grateful Dead are expected to draw, Serra said.

"This is pretty exceptional," he said. 

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