Posts Tagged ‘fire jam’

July 2012 – A Wicked Week


July in Chicago always counts as my favorite time of the year.  Friends return to back to Chicago like salmon to their spawning grounds.  How did I kick off my July?

Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam

Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam

Step 1: Head to the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam.

Why go to the jam? It is a cultural and artistic experience worth checking out.  Everyone go to the Fire Jam!



Step 2: Grill some meat.

The annual summer cookouts in Chicago will always be beefy.

Winnemac Park

Winnemac Park

Step 3: Watch stuff blow up in Winnemac Park

I thought I had seen it all in Chicago, especially watching Fourth of July in Pilsen one year. This pyrotechnique display was easy on the eyes and exciting to see so many things blow up.  I feel sorry for whoever had to clean it up.

@CountingCrows at Navy Pier

@CountingCrows at Navy Pier

Step 4: Watch your favorite high school band live

Nothing like a Groupon-organized concert providing for tickets for $49 and all you can drink.  I ended up crashing the VIP section and helping myself to an extra bottle of whiskey.  Fun times.

West Fest 2012

West Fest 2012

Step 5: Get to West Fest

Legends like John Simmons, Jesse De La Pena, DIZ, Derrick Carter get thousands of people dancing in Chicago’s #1 street fest.

While I am sad the week went by, it was spectacular and there is no week in the year that will be its equal. Summer is here!

More on the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam


One of the things I enjoy about The Chicago Bucket List is getting reader feedback and expanding my knowledge on Chicago. One reader has been kind enough to share his insights and give us a broader view of the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam and what it stands for:

“In 2004, approximately a dozen burners gathered one evening to celebrate a friend’s birthday who lived in the area, by having a pig roast and doing a little fire spinning. The local police arrived soon after…and once they realized we were good people who meant no harm, we were actually ENCOURAGED by the beat officers to return; at that time nobody went to the lakefront after dark, as that area was rather gang-infested. The police felt that such a fire jam would bring more people into the area, and discourage the gang activity. So, the decision was made to come back every full moon the weather would allow, and the Full Moon Fire Jams were off and running.  Ever since, the size of the jams have grown exponentially every year. What started out as a small group of twelve people has now grown into the jam you witnessed last week, with well over 700 people in attendance! 🙂

As the size of the jams has grown, so too have the organizational and safety efforts been stepped up – the caution tape and solar lights are a relatively new development. The overall “ethics” behind the Full Moon Fire Jams come directly from The Burning Man Festival in Nevada; namely:

radical self-expression
radical self-reliance
respect/protect the community
ask first
leave no trace.”

This reader has shed light on one of the most uniques events that you’ll get to see on the lakefront on full moons during the year. The Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam does not support the public consumption of alcohol and respectfully asks that any spectators leave all alcohol away from the Fire Jam. Being a lifelong Chicagoan, sometimes a mentality is developed that having a great time necessarily includes overexuberance, but I would have to agree here that drinking and breaking the law is not what the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam stands for. If you plan on attending the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam in June, please do not bring alcohol or any other contraband. After all, how would you feel if you were the one responsible for putting an end to this amazing display of skill and artistry?

#38 The Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam


Being on short rest and typing away at the laptop, I received a text message from a friend telling me that there was a full moon fire jam at Foster Beach from sunset to 10:30pm.

“What’s a fire jam?” I texted.

“Google it,” my friend fired back.

Googling it directed me to the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam website with a full calendar of fire jams for the remainder of the year. Pretty cool stuff, I remember the first time I witnessed fire spinners at a fundraiser organized by the Leftist Lounge where there were amazing bellydancers, capoeira performers, and fire spinners. I still remember that fundraiser since it was the best entertainment I’d seen in years and I think if you live in Chicago long enough, you’re going to run into fire spinners. Even with the precautionary safety measures taken by the fire spinners, from the outsider’s perspective, it always looks like someone’s going to loose grip and throw fire at you.

Given the spectacle and the fact that I hadn’t seen a friend since he packed for LA, I jumped at the opportunity despite severely short sleep and hopped on the bus. On the bus, there were people talking about the fire jam, but I found them to be a bit off kilter since they were missing a few teeth. They decided that they would wait ten minutes for the bus to round about from Foster and Broadway to Foster and Sheridan. I got off the bus and beat them to the lake, but didn’t see any fire jam.  Another friend decided to meet me down at Foster Beach and we started walking down the astroturfed soccer field. The flickering through the trees and the sound of drums was enough to let us know we were in the right place. Conveniently, someone had already put in the fire jam as a foursquare location and I checked in for an ungodly amount of points after my marathon day.

We walked into a crowd, and people were dancing to the beat of Djembes and trombone and trumpet. The fire constantly flickered from afar, but as we approached the flames transformed to giant arcs of instant combustion. Some people sat, others leaned closely to snap pictures and many a flash went off trying to capture every moment. Unlike most crowded venues and concerts, I had no hard time getting to the caution tape line that surrounded the fire spinners and was happy to not find stiff elbows as my reward. Some people brought their kids while others were in wheelchairs and the diversity of Chicago shined at the fire jam. In the distance, aspiring fire spinners took turns spinning hula hoops while still dancing.

Spinner after spinner lit their poles, bolos, and hoops and as quickly as the fire jam appeared, it was gone. Chants of, “Leave no trace!” filled the air and people picked up their garbage, bags, chairs, and started dispersing. The moon finally made its appearance over the treeline and the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam made a new fan. Next round about, I will make sure to bring others to indulge in the spectacle of highly skilled fire spinners.