Ravinia canceled: Music festival's 2020 season silenced by COVID-19 pandemic

Saturday, May 2, 2020
Ravinia's 2020 season silenced by COVID-19 pandemic
Ravinia has been silenced for the first time since the Great Depression.

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Because of COVID-19, summer fun will look entirely different this year, especially when you considered outdoor events like Ravinia's 2020 season are now canceled.

At Ravinia Friday, the gates were locked, parking lots empty, and there was only one light shining on the stage. It's how Ravinia will look the entire summer.

"Ravinia is such an institution in Chicago. Silence is going to be deafening. It's going to be really a pretty traumatic thing," said David Cunliffe, a cellist who is part of Lincoln Trio, a classical piano group that was scheduled to perform July 19th.

In fact, Cunliffe and his wife Desiree Ruhstrat both play for Lincoln Trio. This year was expected to be their 11th season performing.

"It's so upsetting for the artists and, of course, all the staff, the wonderful staff at Ravinia that have put all year into their summers to produce the world's greatest festival," Ruhstrat said.

Every year, thousands of music lovers make Ravinia a summer tradition. With COVID-19, however, the decision came down to people's health.

"Ultimately, did we really want to take the risk of putting anybody at risk - audience, staff, musicians? At the end of the day, none of it made any sense," said Welz Kauffman, Ravinia's president and CEO.

And it's not just Ravinia. Every week, there are new cancellations, especially when it comes to music festivals. One of the latest cancellations is Spring Awakening 2020. The music fest sent an email to supporters, postponing the event until 2021.

Other festivals, like Wicker Park Fest, and the biggest music event of the Summer - Lollapalooza - have not made final decisions.

Governor JB Pritzker emphasized Friday that a state order is still in place that prevents gatherings of more than 10 people. It's currently expected to stay that way through May 30, but the governor stopped short of restricting large events past May.

"I can't tell you what July or August will look like yet," Gov. Pritzker said Friday. "Decisions will have to get made either my municipalities or by the promoters of those concert venues or large gatherings at this point."

For those who treasure Ravinia, like the Goldberg family of Highland Park, the grounds have been a place of great memories.

"It's just a nice time eating the food, having fun, talking, chatting, playing games - even if it's not music I like, it's still awesome," said Drew Goldberg, a 10-year-old riding his bike near Ravinia.

Goldberg's mother put the news into perspective as well.

"Given all that's going on and how hard people's lives are right now, I can't lament too long about it," said Michelle Goldberg.

So now we wait for Summer 2021.

"We will come out of this. We will be stronger. We would have practiced for a year for starters," said Cunliffe, adding a light-hearted moment as he looks ahead to the 2021 season.

Ruhstrat, his wife, added with a smile: "We'll have way more practice time."