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Humboldt Park Beach Reopening To Include Dancers On Floating Platforms

By Paul Biasco | July 21, 2016 5:58am
 The sand has been put in place at the new Humboldt Park Beach.
The sand has been put in place at the new Humboldt Park Beach.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

HUMBOLDT PARK — Humboldt Park residents who led a push to bring back the park's beach are planning a weekend-long celebration of its return with a focus on families.

The reopening celebration is set for the first week in August, with festivities kicking off Aug. 5.

There will be live music, movie nights with "Jaws" and "Finding Nemo," and even a three-week long production of dance, music and visuals set on the lagoon that begins Friday and will wrap up the weekend of the beach reopening.

The free live performance series, called "Fantasmagorie," will be geared toward all ages.

"I definitely think it's a first of its kind," said Josie Davis, executive producer of the performance. "We are excited to bring it to Humboldt Park. The community has just been so welcoming to the project and really excited and enthusiastic to have us there."

Dancers practice Wednesday on the Humboldt Park lagoon for the show. [DNAinfo/Paul Biasco]

The real focus each day will be on simply enjoying the sand and its return for neighborhood families.

There won't be speeches or ribbons to cut, according to Morgan Halsted, a Humboldt Park resident who has been an active organizer in bringing back the beach.

"We are trying to create a grassroots celebration that's really low-key and celebratory for all of the families that have used it throughout history and will continue to use it," Halsted said.

Construction crews are still aiming for the beach to officially open July 29, but organizers of the grand opening celebration pushed it back a week just to be sure the water is ready.

The celebrations will be from 6-9 p.m. Aug. 5; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 6; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 7.

"It will be very low-key. Very family-oriented. Very community-oriented," Halsted said.

Halsted, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years, said she began working on gaining support for a new beach about five years ago when she and other residents began hearing rumors the city might shut down the old one.

Those rumors were true, and the Chicago Park District closed the beach last summer for the first time because it was too expensive to continually drain the lagoon of stagnant, shallow water that warmed quickly, and refill it.

The closure sparked protests, which led to the new beach that includes a 10-foot-deep cold water hole in the lagoon that will keep the water temperatures down. The new lagoon will not be drained, saving the city money on water.

RELATED: Humboldt Park Puts Protest Where Its Beach Was

"I would give an awful lot of credit to the Humboldt Park community folks," said Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, who is also a Humboldt Park resident.

Irizarry was active in the push to get the beach because before she took over as head of the parks watchdog group last year.

"I am very pleased. It would have been nice if it would have been done to open this season, but we are glad that they pushed it," Irizarry said.

The "Fantasmagorie" performances will be held starting at sunset each Friday and Saturday night through Aug. 6. They will last an hour.

Fifteen dancers will perform each night on three large floating platforms on the lagoon.

There will be a 50-by-18-foot screen behind the dancers displaying a 45-minute original film that coincides with the dance.

The multimedia performance series will take audiences on a journey from the Great Lakes watershed to coral reefs and to the Amazon River basin with a goal of raising awareness about conservation.

The best viewing will be from the Humboldt Park Boathouse area.

The performances are being held in partnership with the Park District.

"The timing is really excellent given the reopening of the beach," Davis said.

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