Saturday night, Chicago saw something its city hasn’t really seen. Thanks to the masterful hometown theater performance company, Redmoon, the 1st Annual Great Chicago Fire Fest brought a historical show to the Chicago River. The performance, of sorts, featured three model houses on the Chicago River between the Trump Tower and Michigan Avenue. The houses were literally and symbolically lit on fire as a narrator told the story of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that tragically destroyed much of Chicago back then and resulted in the shaping of the city’s plan to what it is today. 30,000 Chicagoans (!) gathered on one of the first bitter nights of Fall to witness the spectacle. The plan called for the houses to burn to near ruins and reveal images of the Chicago flag, firefighter ladders, and a skyscraper. Unfortunately, technical issues of failed ignition within the houses kept these empowering images unforeseen and it caused a lengthy, stagnant delay. Redmoon executive art director, Jim Lasko said Sunday that, “We had been building up anticipation of those houses burning. It’s not an unfair expectation that they should have burned and burned spectacularly…” And more via the Tribune:
It appeared, however, that the heavy rains over the last week “tripped up” some of the electrical connections to light the pilots, Lasko said. “The houses didn’t burn, and that was sad,” he said. “It’s hard not to feel like we’re being challenged to embrace our message, which is to have grit and resilience and come back and do it better.”
Technical issues aside, it helped from my perspective that I had no expectations of what the spectacle would entail, and namely, how much fire we would be seeing. I was honestly in awe of the fact that there were houses on the river on fire at all and representing such a historical moment for our city. Thanks to Redmoon, we not only got to see a show on the Chicago River, which is next-level in itself, but we also got to experience a 4th of July-esque firework display on the Chicago River! Those who stuck around until 9:30 pm saw booming and magnificent fireworks just feet away, fizzling overhead and amidst the city’s classic architecture. Maksim caught some clear video of them (on that iPhone 6+ flow). To me though, the beauty of the night wasn’t defined by a small fire that should have burned harder or that amazing fireworks display. Rather, it was 30,000 people coming together to celebrate its hometown and create a cultural experience you can’t fully get anywhere else. After all, the last time I walked through the Trump when it was packed like last night was the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship Rally in 2010. That alone made it worth going. And I’ll gladly come back next year when the performance will undoubtedly be executed more smoothly. Another beauty of the night was simply the term “1st annual”.
Thank you to everybody, all 30,000 of you, who came out to the river last night for the inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival. Thank you for coming and sharing in our passion, belief and vision to make an event of this scale with Chicagoans, for Chicagoans.
While the houses didn’t burn as we hoped, we still lit up the river in celebration of Chicago’s grit, greatness and renewal. Here are some of our favorite shots from the night!