Chicago, Illinois set to fully reopen Friday as festivals, event plans emerge

Fiesta del Sol to return to Pilsen from July 29 - August 1

Friday, June 11, 2021
Illinois, Chicago ready to reopen Friday
Illinois, Chicago ready to reopen Friday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On the eve of Illinois' and Chicago's full reopening, plans are popping up across the city for the return of all kinds of events as businesses gear up for full-capacity crowds.

As all of Illinois fully reopens, large gatherings of all sizes will be allowed and restaurants, retail stores, convention centers, and other venues can return to full capacity.

Masks will still be required for everyone in certain places -- like on public transit, in schools, and in health care settings. And they might be mandatory in other locations, too. Businesses can enforce their own stricter rules.

RELATED: Illinois face mask rules: Where masks are still required in IL

It's not the World Series, but in Wrigleyville, there's a feeling that we've made it to the post season.

The Cubs are calling Friday "Opening Day 2.0." For the first time since 2019, some 40,000 fans are expected at the Friendly Confines. All capacity limits will be lifted. There will be no physical distancing in the ballpark, and no pod-style seating.

Wrigleyville bars will also be at full capacity. For Sluggers, it's more than about the revenue.

"We will be back to what we've always known and what we know it's like, and back to normal business and normal numbers, normal amounts of fun," co-owner David Strauss said.

A lot of business owners said they almost didn't make it to this moment. But now, on the eve of Phase 5 reopening, there's a real sense of relief.

At Flossmoor Station restaurant and brewery, they've endured the ups and downs of the pandemic like thousands of other businesses. They plan to take a measured approach to full reopening. The outside patio will be at 100% capacity, but inside, the owner plans to keep things around 75% at least initially to make sure all customers are comfortable.

"We're excited, but we're cautiously excited," owner Carolyn Armstrong said. "And I don't want to just put a bunch of, cram a bunch of tables together. I want to kind of ease into it."

"It's been hard on everyone, and as a village we know that, so we've implemented steps to help our restaurants and to get them through this, so we're real proud of everyone," Flossmoor Village Trustee Jim Mitros said.

WATCH | Suburban businesses prepare for full reopening

At Flossmoor Station restaurant and brewery, they've endured the ups and downs of the pandemic like thousands of other businesses.

Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement Thursday: "I invite all Illinoisans to feel the hope and joy of this moment while also recognizing that this pandemic is still very present for the world at large... As we take this next step forward, let's do so with a renewed commitment to empathy, to community, and to making each day together count. You did it, Illinois."

The state reporting 764 COVID patients in Illinois hospitals, the lowest number ever reported. Hospitalizations have fallen 45% in the past two weeks and new admissions are down 39%. But there's a word of caution ahead of reopening

"Even if you are vaccinated, and there is really good protection, it is not 100%. And so I think that is one thing. COVID is still out there, so you still want to be choosing wisely when you're going to be around others," said Dr. Susan Bleasdale, Medical Director for Infection Prevention, UI Health.

Many people across the city and suburbs said they feel like we've reached that light at the end of the tunnel.

Milano and Miranda said the past 15 months have been a challenge. Milano's business had to shut down briefly due to restrictions, and Miranda and her partner Mason Reyes have been in tight quarters. Next up for them after reopening? Music festivals!

"Just like the small ones in Grant Park and then Lolla," she said. "I kind of missed all of that chaos over the summer."

Andy Philipsborn said he's cautiously optimistic, but wants more people in the city to get the shot.

"We're a little cautious. Vaccination rates aren't as high as we'd like them to be around the city but we'll take what we can get," he said.

WATCH | Fiesta del Sol will return to Pilsen this summer

The Pilsen neighborhood will once again host Fiesta Del Sol July 29 to August 1.

The Pilsen neighborhood will once again host Fiesta Del Sol July 29 to August 1. The change from a partially-virtual event to an in-person event was made official Thursday.

"Cases are drastically decreasing we will take all safety measures to insure a safe festival for everyone not only patrons but our own volunteers," event co-chair Alex Garcia said.

The four-day outdoor festival that draws one million people will have a few changes.

This year, masks will be encouraged and they will have a food court at Allport and Cermak to try and discourage visitors from eating and drinking while they walk.

"We are still living through a pandemic and just to be mindful to eat and drink in the designated food court," Garcia said.

Vaccinations will also be offered at Alivio Medical Center's Pilsen location. People can make appointments in advance, but they can also decide at Fiesta - and there will be some incentives.

"If you get vaccinated at Alivio's here at the vaccination site, you will get a free ride at the amusement activities at Fiesta," said Esther Corpuz, CEO, Alivio Medical Center. "That's one incentive we are going to have, some other raffles."

"This is another opportunity to encourage our families especially working in coordination with CPS to have more of our families vaccinated," said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward.

Fiesta organizers and community leaders are urging anyone 12 and older to get vaccinated if they have not to keep themselves and the community safe - and to allow schools to safely resume in-person in the fall.

You may notice changes at other outdoor events this summer, like the Old Town Art Fair this weekend, which recommends pre-registration. Lollapalooza will require proof of vaccination. But other events like Taste of Randolph Street will skip another season and plan for 2022.

RELATED: Chicago reopening: Puerto Rican People's Day Parade to return to Humboldt Park

And a week from Saturday, another neighborhood tradition will return. Division Street in Humboldt Park will again come alive for the Puerto Rican People's Day Parade.

"The joy and the celebration and our culture will be at the forefront as always, and we're going to have flags everywhere," "said Xiomara Rodriguez, with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

The parade will be Chicago's first since the start of the pandemic.

Salon DJ Hairtography in the West Loop is ready.

"We are ready to see what our capabilities are, you know, our team is strong, our technicians are so incredibly talented and we're just really excited to get moving again," Salon DJ Hairtography Manager Amy Geister said.

WATCH | Hilton Chicago reopens to guests

On the eve of Illinois' full reopening, details on festivals and even a parade are emerging.

The Hilton Chicago is a historic hotel that has been closed due to the COVID pandemic.

But on Thursday, the hotel will start allowing guests to check back in, as the city and the state get ready for the big day Friday.

That means it's finally back to work for doorman Mark Prokuski, who's spent 25 years welcoming guests downtown.

"You can only have coffee so many mornings with my wife, and I'm like, 'OK, but I miss being here; I miss people from the neighborhood, my coworkers, my team members,' and it's great to be back," he said.

Other businesses are preparing to get closer to normal, and many employees just returned to work for the first time in over a year.

Salon DJ is keeping some mask restrictions in common areas, but letting vaccinated customers take them off for their service.

Their pandemic cleaning protocols won't change, and dividers will remain up. But, now, instead of waiting outside for your appointment, the waiting area will fully reopen.

"We can have a standard waiting room as we always do, and, you know, bring friends and family if you like," Geister said. "Our limitations for that have been lifted a bit."

In celebration of restrictions lifting for the state of Illinois and officially entering Phase 5 on Friday, Jet's Pizza will offer free Detroit-style slices of pepperoni and cheese pizza on Thursday, while supplies last, walk-in only, the company said.