Drinking a beer at Maifest Chicago 2015

Festival Season.

Maifest Chicago, Do Division Fest, and all those festivals in Chicago.

It’s festival season in Chicago. At least, it is in theory. In reality the weekends have been cold or rainy or both, and every Chicagoan is waiting for consistent sun and consistent warmth. Not warm one day, cold the next. Not sunny all morning with a downpour at noon. Just warm, just sun. Summer. But in a city known to have all four seasons in one day, we might be waiting for a while.

Chicago is miserable in the winter, having the kind of weather that merits not-so-cute nicknames such as “snowpocalypse” and “snowmageddon” and “Chiberia.” But we brave those months in anticipation for summer. Summer: where we can hang out at the lake, where we can BYOB al fresco, where we can attend street festivals.

Every weekend in the summer there is a festival of some sort in Chicago, in some area of the city, often multiple at once. So after months of up-to-our-knees snow and bone-chilling negative degrees, after months of hibernating inside, we can all finally leave our apartments and enjoy all those neighborhoods we never see any other time of the year.

A week ago, despite the dreary weather, I spent much of the weekend at two street festivals — Maifest and Do Division — because it is festival season after all, whether the weather agrees or not.


Maifest Chicago

Lincoln Square’s Maifest Chicago is a traditional celebration of Chicago’s German heritage (think Oktoberfest but in May). I live just down the street from where it’s held so it was easy to brave the chilly weather, twice, to drink mugs full of beer ($13 for Hofbräuhaus, $11 for refills), to eat a Thüringer (a variation of a bratwurst), and listen to a few polka bands. I had meant to go all three days to meet up with different groups of friends, but a dreary, rainy, cold, Saturday kept everyone locked up indoors. I did manage to go on the Friday night and Sunday afternoon, though. But the weather was definitely not on our side: so few people went out that the festival had a surplus of condiments and brats so big they had to have a sausage sale afterwards.


Do Division Fest

Honestly, Do Division has never been my favorite festival. It’s pretty small, just a few blocks in West Town, and there aren’t that many food booths or shopping booths. I guess people go mostly for the concerts — there are two stages of bands throughout the day — but I never know who anyone playing is (though, that’s my own fault as someone not really hip to the music scene). I guess I just prefer fests that revolve around food or art. But there were a lot of cute men with beards. Which is always a plus. Though they mostly seemed to be there with girlfriends. Definitely a minus. It was hard for me to leave the comfort of Lincoln Square on such a dreary day, but my friends convinced me to trek across the city with them. Or the giant beers I had consumed convinced me. One of those things.


There are so many more festivals to look forward to this summer in Chicago. Ribfest — a festival devoted to ribs, if you couldn’t guess — is this weekend, and, with it, a ribs eating contest — the best competitive eating in Chicago all year. The weekend also brings Andersonville Midsommarfest (a Swedish festival) and Old Town Art Fair. And every weekend after that will be a festival in one of the many diverse neighborhoods. I’m looking forward to trying to get out of my neighborhood and explore all that a summer in Chicago has to offer. All the festivals I can.

If the weather cooperates, that is.


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What's your favorite summer festival (In Chicago or anywhere in the world)?

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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