Coronavirus update: Chicago cancels major spring, summer events, festivals

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With the peak of COVID-19 still weeks away in Illinois, the city of Chicago has canceled several major spring and summer events.

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced the cancellation of the Memorial Day Parade as well as the Gospel, House and Blues Festivals.

The events, which normally attract tens of thousands of people downtown, were scheduled for May and June.

Permits for filming and special events will not be issued through May 15, and the opening of the Chicago City markets has also been postponed until after May 15.

According to the DCASE website, the city is partnering with the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund, which provides financial relief to workers and organizations in the creative industries impacted by the coronavirus.

Farmers markets are also moving online, and businesses that bank on a busy lakefront are hurting.

Chicago's shimmering lakefront is as serene as it's ever been - and as silent. Beachfront and harbor vendors are shuttered, yet sort of preparing for an uncertain change of seasons.

"I'm partially working, fixing up the place," said Chef David Aviles, owner of Del Campo Tacos. "Getting ready, hoping that they open it."

But no one really knows when, or worse, if that will happen.

"I wish they would just give us an exact date," Aviles. "People want to come out. People are getting frustrated."

Little spots like Del Campo's Tacos are seasonal staples along the city's lakefront and beachfront cafe openings are Chicagoans' summer reward. Mayor Lightfoot locked down the lakefront late last month and has said COVID could keep it that way into June.

"I understand, I understand where the mayor is coming from on this, but as a concession we're not like a restaurant," Aviles said. "We can't have people come over and pick up. It's very hard."

"Our season truly doesn't start until Memorial Day weekend," said Josh Schoenfeld at Caffe Oliva. "So our impact will be minimal for the month of May. But if it goes beyond May, then we'll see some significant losses, significant impacts."

Indoor farmers markets forced to shut down have quickly pivoted to produce delivery.

"The farmers are still only making a small fraction of what they would actually make if they were at the market," said Melissa Flynn, executive director at Green City Market.

Even if summer outdoor farmer's markets can open, perhaps belatedly, Flynn said they will "probably start as a pick-up only market."

"It's going to look really different than it has in the past, knowing we do need to follow CDC guidelines and social distancing," Flynn added.

"I think it's really important to remember that a farmers market is an essential business," said Abby Schilling, owner of Mick Klug Farm. "It's what a lot of Chicagoans rely on to grocery shop, to get their food."
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