CITY HALL — The city Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will not provide any funding for the Great Chicago Fire Festival next year, Commissioner Michelle T. Boone said at a City Council budget hearing Monday morning.
According to Boone, the city had always committed to back the festival for three years, "and we just closed out our third year." Over the course of that time the city gave the festival $350,000, including start-up money before the first of the two festivals held so far.
At the same time, Boone lauded Redmoon Theater for launching the festival "and coming back strong and realizing a vision" for it.
The inaugural event on the Chicago River was labeled a "fiasco" by Ald. Edward Burke (14th) a year ago after much of the display failed to ignite after rain in the days leading up to it.
Organizers were successful in getting the fires to burn this year, so much so that some members of the Burnham Park Yacht club claimed embers from the festival damaged their boats, according to the Tribune. A new vinyl awing on the club was also damaged, to the tune of $6,000, the Tribune reported.
"I thought it was great," Boone said of this year's event. "I loved the location on Northerly Island.
"Families were out there on blankets and lawn chairs," she added, with the city skyline creating a perfect backdrop.
"Redmoon is fantastic," Boone said. "I think they're a great Chicago cultural institution."
Yet if the Great Chicago Fire Festival is to burn on, it will have to do so without city funding.
Redmoon Artistic Director Jim Lasko expressed interest in continuing the festival Monday, without actually committing to it.
"We are very thankful for the support provided by the City of Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events that helped to establish the Great Chicago Fire Festival and bring Redmoon’s vision to create a citywide artistic and theatrical experience to life," Lasko said in a statement.
"Together, Redmoon and the city were able to advance the Chicago Cultural Plan, and public funding enabled our work with Chicago Park District day camps, After School Matters and the Boys & Girls Clubs. Together we were able to reach nearly 100,000 Chicago youth over the last two summers with free arts programming.
"As we continue planning for 2016, we are very excited by the strong public interest and attendance at this year’s festival, and we will continue in our mission to create large-scale theatrical events that promote community, creativity and collaboration in Chicago for years to come," he added.
"We are confident that the city will continue to find ways to support the Great Chicago Fire Festival and any other events that reflect its cultural plan."
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