Mayor Rahm sure loves his festivals

The city ties fishing for venture capital to Lollapalooza, and adds another big, costly fest to the calendar

November 6, 2013

As this blog often has pointed out, city government has embraced the festival model in a big way—despite the mixed results in terms of profits from the retooled Taste of Chicago, and absent any objective economic impact study weighing the negative fallout from, say, Lollapalooza on the local music business, versus the possibly-inflated boon in tourist dollars.

Nevertheless, the Emanuel administration has announced two new initiatives in recent days, both underscoring the vision of festivals as the best potential money-makers this side of speed cameras (and to hell with what residents think of them).

The administration has tried to use Lollapalooza, the biggest, baddest fest of all, as a magnet for entrepreneurs before, as Forbes noted in July. Now it’s looking to build on and formalize the idea that people with entrepreneurial spirit and big bucks can be lured to bringing both to Our Town while getting drunk as the Cure or Rage Against the Machine headline in Grant Park.

During a press conference a few days ago announcing that Purdue University is launching an executive MBA program here, the mayor tacked on the news of a new “two-day venture capital summit this summer… scheduled to precede the Lollapalooza music festival, [and taking] ‘the best companies we have and show[ing] them to the best [venture capitalists] in the country,’” according to The Chicago Tribune.

“The investors summit is an extension of Think Chicago: Lollapalooza, a program organized by the mayor's office that invites 100 technology and computer science university students to the city to meet with startups and attend the three-day concert series,” the Trib adds.

As always when mentioning Rahm and Lollapalooza in the same sentence, it is worth noting that his brother Ari’s Hollywood Talent Agency owns 50 percent of the massive lakefront concert.

Meanwhile, word also recently broke of a new festival being launched by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events at a cost of approximately $1 million in city funds.

“The Great Chicago Fire Festival” will take place on the Chicago River next fall, featuring performances by the local Redmoon Theater company and culminating in flaming floats being… um, floated… down the sickly green waterway.

“Redmoon plans to work with artists and community groups to ‘imagine the thing they most want to be rid of in their lives’ and create floating sculptures symbolizing those impediments that will be torched in a ‘huge public ritual’ with ‘cathartic’ power,” wrote Fran Spielman in The Chicago Sun-Times.

But what if what we’d like to get rid of is festivals themselves?

Follow me on Twitter @JimDeRogatis or join me on Facebook.