Oprah closes Michigan Ave. Monday for party

Some businesses to close, commuters concerned
September 6, 2009 2:22:59 PM PDT
Oprah Winfrey will be shutting down a stretch of Chicago's Magnificent Mile next week as she hosts a free party to celebrate the kickoff of the 24th season of her television show, and thousands of people are expected to attend. The city says three blocks of Michigan Avenue will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Monday through 5 a.m. next Wednesday, although sidewalks will be open.

Megan McDonald, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events, says people will still be able to get where they need to go, but some commuters on Michigan Avenue today were not so sure.

Phyllis Medrano of Aurora said her office will more or less shut down. And Lyndsey Adams of Chicago said her commute home will definitely be affected, but she sees the event as a plus for Chicago tourism.

Police plan to shut down Michigan Avenue between Wacker and Ohio just after 12 a.m. on Monday. It won't reopen until 5 a.m. on Wednesday, September 9.

A spokeswoman says Harpo Productions will pay for police, paramedics, sanitation and other security, a point the mayor emphasized several times Tuesday.

"She's going to pay for all of it. See? You can report that," said Mayor Daley. "Oprah is going to pay for the entire cost. That's number one. It's filming, it's filming, it's open to all ages. She's going to pay for it. Now aren't you excited?"

The taping includes a performance by the Black Eyed Peas.

Admission is free.

The gates at Michigan and Ohio will open at noon on Tuesday, but camping out overnight is not allowed.

Read the press release about the event here.

"When they contacted us obviously it was something the city was very excited about," said McDonald, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events. "This was approved on the condition that they must cover all city service fees the city would bare."

Harpo Productions will hire its own security team inside the event, some with metal detecting wands. Chicago police will patrol the perimeter and outside the event, McDonald said. She said the number of officers necessary would depend on crowd size.

The Winfrey event is a smaller scale than other, larger, events the city hosts annually, including the Chicago Marathon, Taste of Chicago and the Lollapalooza music festival, McDonald said.

"This is a great thing we're doing, I wish we could do this every day in the city of Chicago," Daley said Tuesday morning. Harpo announced the event Monday evening.

"People will still be able to get where they need to go," McDonald said. "That was a priority for us. That was critical."

However some commuters on Michigan Avenue said Tuesday that they foresee transportation hassles come next week.

"Our office is basically shutting down," said Medrano, 57, as she waited for the bus. "But it will be good for businesses because people will shop."

Adams, 28, of Chicago said her commute home that day would be affected, but she sees the event as a plus for city tourism.

"People love her," Adams said. "It's very common for women to have girls' trips. It's a good excuse for a group of women to get together."

Winfrey's celebration comes just weeks before the International Olympic Committee will announce if Chicago will have the winning bid to host the 2016 Summer Games. In April, Winfrey attended a dinner for visiting members of the IOC at the Art Institute of Chicago.

And during last year's season premier of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," 6,000 fans crammed into Chicago's Millennium Park as Winfrey celebrated more than 170 American Olympic medalists from the Beijing Games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Load Comments