Emanuel inauguration festivities begin this weekend

May 14, 2011 6:47:46 AM PDT
Festivities begin Saturday as part of the inauguration of Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. Most of the events this weekend and Monday will be free and open to the public.

That makes sense in this era of doing more with less. The inauguration of Chicago's 46th mayor is designed to usher in a new awareness of public service. That's why, not unlike his former boss, President Barack Obama, Emanuel is making getting involved in the community a hallmark of his ascension to City Hall.

The preparations are taking shape on Chicago's "front lawn" to welcome the Rahm Emanuel era. Butler Field will host a free family concert beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday, featuring Chicago singers, actors and other performers -- and the Pritzker Pavilion will be the backdrop for the mayoral swearing-in Monday at 10:30 a.m.

But, ahead of that, the buzz centers on dozens of public service projects -- such as cleaning up an urban farmscape in a place called "Bee Park," or picking up litter where the city celebrates Chicago's diversity. Everyone is invited to participate in something.

"It is a huge opportunity, and we want to work with the city and get to know them, and this is a great introduction showing what they care about," said Margaret Frisbie, Friends of the Chicago River.

Emanuel has subtitled his transition "Chicago Together." The focus is on asking people to give more of their time and treasure to a city buckling under deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars is no coincidence.

"So the groups that provide for the homeless, feed the hungry, help the blind, assist senior citizens, do daycare for children , make the community work as community organizations, our parks, that is partly going to be voluntary labor now," said UIC professor Dick Simpson.

If Simpson is correct, Emanuel will not have the money for high-profile civic projects such as beautification through flower planting. But Chicago Cares, whose volunteers have completed more than 1.1 million hours of service through more than 25,000 group volunteer projects and have Bee Park and other projects on the go for inauguration weekend, is convinced being part of the celebrations says something about the mayor's hopes for his term

"Person by person, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, we can we all need to pitch in to make Chicago better," said Bridget Altenburg, Chicago Cares.

The public is invited to shake the new mayor's hand at 2 p.m. Monday in his new digs -- the mayor's office, up on the fifth floor. All inaugural events are funded through private donations. Those donating -- City Hall lobbyists are barred -- are going to a big reception Saturday night and a private party Monday night.

ABC7 will have live coverage of Mayor-elect Emanuel's inauguration. You can watch it Monday starting at 10 a.m. on ABC7 TV or live on this website, ABC7Chicago.com

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