Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Fire’

The Great Chicago Fire Festival Recap


The Great Chicago Fire Festival took place last night on an unseasonably cool night marked with the third earliest snowfall in Chicago history.  This artistic homage to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 featured buildings on floating platforms and much anticipation for a flaming tour de force that fell flat in its execution.

Arriving to Wacker Ave. at 7pm, chaos reigned as onlookers gathered on the Lower Wacker Riverwalk and the various bridges.  Security and police tried to clear spectators from the bridges due to safety concerns as fireworks were scheduled to begin later in the evening but the police changed their mind.  This left me to fight my way down to Lower Wacker Drive where all of the prime viewing spots had already been taken.  People lined up precariously on stairwells and some resorted to standing on muddy slanted hills to try to get their vantage points.  A man with a lit up Home Run Inn Pizza placard walked around to pass out coupons to all passers and maneuvering through the endless sea of people soon became a fruitless endeavor.

Eventually we settled into a spot under Wabash Bridge only to notice that the bridges had not cleared with thousands of people still standing on them.  Was this a legitimate safety threat?  Had police and security lost all control of public safety?  All of this reminded me of the much maligned Looptopia circa 2007-2008 that was subject to the same public mass disorganization.

Eventually the PA systems turned on to announce the schedule of events and explain the backdrop of the event.  Students did help assemble these great looking floating platforms and there were various community leaders and political big wigs ready to help with the lighting of the everything.  Trendy music popped in and the narration of the history of the Chicago Fire made us remember those fateful Chicagoans who had to deal with a mean southeast wind that would set their city ablaze.

Floating Building Platform

The anticipation of the setting of the fires was met with bemusement and prolong confusion as no fires were lighting up the buildings.  Music and the audio sounds of fires popping kept repeating on the loud speakers but it was clear that a certain element was missing:  fire.  Soon the crowd burst into chants of, “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE” which reminded me of Chicago Fire chants, but no capo to lead the cheering was to be found.  Eventually an announcement was made to admit defeat and capitulation as the gatherers were informed of the electrical malfunction and that now we would be setting the fires via manual mode which inevitably meant more delays.

At this point, the crowd began to thin out as disappointed onlookers were not willing to remain braving the cold for a partial glimpse of buildings on fire.  This gave me a much better vantage point to start shooting pictures, but there wasn’t much to shoot.  From Lower Wacker, you could see Marina City Tower residents gathered on their balconies trying to catch a view of the impending flames below, but the waiting continued.

At last - a fire?

At last - a fire?

Eventually the buildings were set ablaze with much cheering and applause.  The high winds did not help with the flames and we soon realized these buildings were fizzling out, much like the spirit of the event.  At this point, a vast majority of the people started fleeing the scene in an effort to avoid the inevitable public transportation logjam that would ensue.  An announcement soon proclaimed that the fireworks show was soon to begin!

Chicago Fire Fireworks!

Chicago Fire Fireworks!

At last, something to watch with awe and to think about.  Fireworks boomed from all bridges (with people still on them) and the greatest boom came from Michigan Avenue bridge which was just a bit too far out of site.  It was a fun fireworks show to watch and even more fun to take pictures of.  Execution here was great, but the lackluster never was blaze served as a great disappointment on a personal level.  Having been to a Red Moon event before, I was expecting flawless execution and an amazing show considering the $2M spent and considerable newspaper coverage.

The purpose of the event was to unite the city with its various communities being represented as well as to draw in people from all over the city to enjoy our seldom used Riverwalk.  I commend everyone who worked hard on the event and feel terrible that the inclement weather of the last few days resulted in less than perfect execution.  The idea was thought out and the considerable effort showed and I hope for more great city events in the future.

#47 – Experience the Chicago Fire


The aftermath of the World Cup left me sadly without soccer that I had waited for in two years since EuroCup 2008. Sad and with vuvuzela but no where to play, I turned my attentions to the domestic game. What was I going to do? Was it time to start becoming a fan of the Chicago Fire? I hadn’t really thought about attending since I hadn’t gone before and never got a big pack of friends to go, but that was all about to change.

The opportunity to watch some Major League Soccer presented itself when it was soon announced that one of my favorite players, Thierry Henry signed for the New York Red Bulls and he was coming to Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire on August 20th. I really didn’t hesitate to scoop up a ticket on Section 8 Chicago since I had friends who went to the games often and also the ticket was so cheap. After watching so much soccer over the past month, it was just a logical decision. Fortunately for me, I had some friends who knew the ropes.

Spending time now talking about Chicago Fire games with friends, the entire scene seemed frightening but an adventure all the same. Standing room only with chanting and singing all game? It sounded dreadful but the comforts of a $10 round-trip beer bus sounded even better and the price was right! I knew that I was rooting for the Chicago Fire, but I also wanted to see Thierry Henry have a good game! It was a situation that soon resolved itself quickly.

The beer bus at Small Bar Fullerton was waiting and I rushed from yet another Cubs defeat and barely made the bus. On the bus, Pabst Blue Ribbon flowed like chi and we were starting off the evening right. I was joined by @zorandra and two other friends and we all cracked open our beers like kids opening their Halloween candy. Two guys next to me found out it was my first game and pulled out a small flask of Smirnoff and I drank some to celebrate. With everyone drinking on the bus, it made the traffic on the expressway fade away and a short time later we made it to Toyota Park.

Getting off the bus, the first thing I noticed was the army of kids running in the parking lot playing soccer games. The games were well organized and we walked by game after game to the ticket booth. There were cars with their trunks open and people sitting in chairs grilling food and drinking beer. Unlike Cubs games, there was no line at the ticket booth and I quickly snatched up my ticket to the game.

Not too far away, we found the Section 8 Tailgate which featured a big crowd of people gathered around for some serious tailgate action. For a $5 donation, you could have a drink from the keg and there were guys busy grilling up burgers and dogs for all to eat. It really was cool, tons of people standing around talking about soccer and forgetting about the mugginess for awhile. @raulito brought some chairs and we were all able to hang out as @greenmind0428 appeared along with @alabenheim and the mister.

After the tailgate, there was a stream of red shirts beginning to gather to march into the stadium. The overhead clapping and yelling of, “Chicago Fire!” became the only sound that existed. People were marching with their flags, scarves, and all yelling, “Chicago Fire!” It was awesome and I don’t think I’ve ever seen any fans so dedicated to their team, surely not the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, or White Sox!

We got to our section and everyone was standing on the riser. I heard a snare drum along with a bass drum non-stop beating. Two guys near the bottom of the section were leading on the chanting, cheering, and singing while everyone joined in. I started joining in since it was easy enough to pick up and no one cared if I messed up. The flags and scarves started breaking out as the crowd kept coming in. The Fire picked up Nery Castillo and Freddy Ljungberg so there was heightened anticipation along with Thierry Henry’s showing.

The Red Bulls cranked it up a notch and were going past Chicago’s defenders, I couldn’t believe how many wide open shots they were getting. Thierry Henry got free but lucky young Sean Johnson held down the fort and had a steady game all night with a dizzying nine saves! New York’s attack was relentless and I couldn’t see any way how the Fire would win, let alone tie – but I was also yelling and chanting all game along with everyone else in Section 8. I stopped caring what Thierry Henry did and it didn’t matter after half time since he injured his groin, but Johnson continued stymying the Red Bulls at every opportunity.

Sometime after half time, someone decided to let out flares which sent a cloud of smoke and red light into the crowd. It looked like some kind of crazed cult and I was in the heart of Section 8 singing and yelling like everyone else. The game ended with a 0-0 draw, but I was happy we averted a grand disaster as Sean Johnson’s steady goalkeeping was impressive enough to warrant Man of the Match. My first Chicago Fire game was over, and it was awesome!!! Section 8 is a great organization and make the whole stadium atmosphere one that is festive but also great for the family. When you’re out there with everyone else in Section 8, the noise makes the game that much more intense. If you haven’t grabbed tickets to go see the Chicago Fire left, there are still seats for the rest of the season. Maybe you’ll be lucky and see me amongst the mob yelling, “CHICAGO FIRE!” For $25-$35 you won’t want to miss it!