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The former site of Riot Fest at Douglass Park in Lawndale neighborhood, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Gabriel Soto lives across from Douglass Park and says tying the park up for weeks in the summer for Riot Fest takes green space away from kids who are out of school.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Residents near Douglass Park have mixed reactions to Riot Fest's move

Some residents and business owners are happy to see the traffic and noise leave and for the community to regain access to green space. Others are sorry to lose the excitement and crowds.

Riot Fest will play on this year, just not at Douglass Park on the West Side, and for some neighborhood residents that was music to their ears.

“We’re happy because there won’t be any more festival,” Ignacio Corral, 70, who lives across the street from the park, told the Sun-Times in Spanish. “For us, the community, we’ll be more comfortable.”

But others said they’ll miss having a summer attraction nearby that gave young people in the area something fun to participate in within the community.

“It didn’t bother me,” said Guadalupe Aguilar, who lives near the park, in Spanish. “Sometimes I would come and listen because I have kids who attended and they liked it. It was good because it left resources for the area.”

On Wednesday, festival organizers announced that the three-day event would be leaving Douglass Park after a 10-year run and head to SeatGeek Stadium, 7000 S. Harlem Ave., in Bridgeview for a new experience called RiotLand. It runs Sept. 20-22.

The mixed reactions to the move from area residents reflected the tension between the festival and the community in recent years. Community groups had fought to oust Riot Fest and similar events from the park — located near the border of North Lawndale and Little Village — calling the events nuisances that bar residents from open spaces and block traffic and disturb patients at two nearby hospitals.

douglass park

The former site of Riot Fest at Douglass Park in Lawndale neighborhood, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

Gabriel Soto, 50, who also lives across from the park, echoed those sentiments in applauding the change of venue.

“The kids don’t have any space during the summer, it’s almost always taken up by the festival, and then they take too long to repair the damages it causes,” he said.

Unete La Villita, a community group, celebrated the move, calling it a “win” for the area. The group credited the efforts of local organizations for the relocation.

“It’s powerful when neighbors talk to each other and organize their blocks, and the power that we built to ensure that our community was heard is the reason that Riot Fest is leaving Douglass Park,” the organization said in a statement.

The co-founder of the festival, Michael Petryshyn, placed the blame for the change squarely on the Chicago Park District.

The festival’s punk and rock offerings will be missed, said Emo Jones, 26, adding that people like him who enjoy those genres of music will feel left out because the new location is harder to get to.

“People who follow the aesthetic, people who are into rock and stuff like that, I feel like they’re going to feel like they’re missing a home, like they’re missing out,” he said.

RIOTSIDEBAR-061324-2.jpgEmo Jones a resident of the Lawndale neighborhood stands in Douglass Park near where Riot Fest would set up in Lawndale neighborhood, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Jones is disappointed that Riot Fest is leaving his neighborhood. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Emo Jones, 26, says moving Riot Fest to the suburbs leaves out fans of rock and punk like him.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Jones also saw the festival as an economic boon to the area that benefited locals. Nearby Mt. Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 2625 W. Ogden, would sell food for festivalgoers. Money earned allowed the church to put on community events and provide programming.

But Griselda Hernandez, manager of Teloloapan Grocery store, 2027 S. California, steps away from the California Pink Line stop near the park, didn’t see that same windfall.

“My sales actually go down during the fest,” said Hernandez, blaming the immense traffic during the festival for the dip. Festivalgoers “usually don’t come in here to buy drinks or anything, they look for alcohol, tobacco products or to use our bathroom.”

“I think it will be for the best,” Hernandez said of the festival leaving for the suburbs.

Residents aren’t the only ones affected by the Riot Fest move.

The Chicago Red Stars women’s soccer team’s Sept. 21 home game at Seat Geek Stadium will bumped in favor of the music festival.

“It is unfair and unfortunate to have our club put in this situation, shining a light on the vast discrepancies in the treatment of women’s professional sports versus men’s sports,” Red Stars president Karen Leetzow said.

“We are committed to ensuring our players and fans have a first-rate experience on and off pitch, and we are working diligently to find a solution that will ensure our Sept. 21 game is a success.”

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