Updated 8/4/2012 at 11:20 pm
Lollapalooza, the massive music festival taking place in Grant Park on Chicago's lakefront this weekend, evacuated at around 3:30 pm Saturday in advance of "serious weather." WBEZ reporters on the scene said festivalgoers were calm, yet disappointed. Many made plans to continue their festivities in area hotels; many other sought refuge in nearby restaurants.
Festivalgoers were told to take shelter in nearby parking garages, which are serving as emergency evacuation shelters. The shelters are located at Grant Park North, Grant Park South and East Monroe streets.
Before thunderstorms hit with full-force, few seemed in a hurry to go underground, because, as one man said, "It's hot down there."
But many attendees, security staff, and OEMC staff brought in to direct traffic told WBEZ reporters that they were unaware of storm shelters or specific evacuation routes. Movement out of the park was slow, as additional exits took time to open and people took to climbing over fences to get out. The extra 8-foot tall "black fence" was installed this year to thwart people forcing their way into the festival.
"I saw on the [Lollapalooza] app that the park was closed and then everyone was just roaming around. It was kind of crazy," said attendee Katie Karrasch. "We didn't know for awhile to go downstairs [into the parking garages], and we went down and there was barely anyone there."
"We wanted to see FUN. and we hope that they show," her companion Eric Fillip added. "And she wanted to see The Weeknd...so we hope that they extend it or they still let the bands play."
The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning until 4:30 p.m; the evacuation lasted until 6 p.m., at which point people were allowed to reenter the park. The Chicago Transit Authority tweeted that train service appeared "normal" throughout the storm and the aftermath.
"Our first priority is always the safety of our fans, staff and artists,” said Shelby Meade in a statement. Meade is the communications director for C3 Presents, the promoter behind Lollapalooza.
“We regret having to suspend any show, but safety always comes first.” C3 also said that "Lollapalooza officials are continuing to coordinate with the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) to monitor weather conditions and determine when the park is safe for festival-goers to return."
After the event was reinstated, Charlie Jones, a partner of C3 Presents, said in a statement, "We want to thank the tens of thousands of festival goers, staff, and artists who calmly and safely exited from Grant Park today. We also applaud and thank the City of Chicago for their cooperation and commitment to making Lolla a safe and enjoyable experience for all. Once again Chicago has come through and we’re proud to call the city our partner.”
Several acts were canceled during the two-plus hours the park was closed, including B.o.B and Alabama Shakes; the latter tweeted, "Sorry Chicago, we were really pumped to play for you all but the storm had other plans. We will be back to make it up for you!" Other shows were pushed back, and headlining acts were scheduled to wrap up at 10:45 p.m. instead of 10 p.m as planned.
"For anything that goes on in the city of Chicago that doesn't get bumblef***ed like the city of Chicago usually does, is pretty great," said attendee Geoff Upjohn as he watched crowds stream back into the park (wristbands were barely checked this time around). "They're handling it pretty good, people are getting let back in, it's not a problem, there's really not a big cop presence. So actually, for the city of Chicago, they're doing a wonderful job right now."
The festival has been under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks by the Chicago Tribune and our own Jim DeRogatis for not publicizing it's emergency plan in advance.