Lollapalooza reopens after rain delay, Grant Park evacuation
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK, RUMMANA HUSSAIN and THOMAS CONNER Staff Reporters August 4, 2012 3:37PM
Lollapalooza fans leave Grant Park after the evacuation order was given because of approaching storms Saturday. | Lauren FitzPatrick~Sun-Times
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:34AM
It wasn’t a total washout, but organizers pulled the plug on the Lollapalooza music festival for a few hours Saturday afternoon as a storm rolled through the region.
About 3:30 p.m. — before the heavy rain, wind gusts and lightning began — concert organizers suspended the music and Grant Park was evacuated, triggering confusion and complaints from music lovers who just wanted the show to go on.
“All of a sudden the music stopped,” said Kevin Dwyer, who’s from North Carolina. He estimated about half an hour went by with no music before he heard any notifications.
While the concert promoter, C3 Presents, had said it would tell people to go to three underground garages for shelter and provide visual announcements with details, many concertgoers said they were never informed where to go, only told to leave through the nearest exit.
But in a prepared statement, a spokeswoman for C3 Presents said public service announcements were made at each of the festival’s eight stages and bands performing at the time also announced the evacuation.
“In all, more than 60,000 festival-goers and nearly 3,000 staff, artists and vendors were safely evacuated in 38 minutes,” spokeswoman Shelby Meade said in a prepared statement.
In addition, the statement said, messages went up on the screens and were sent out on Lollapalooza’s Facebook page and Twitter account. Subscribers to the Lollapalooza app also received text messages that aimed to direct those visiting from out of town to Michigan Avenue and garage locations.
The evacuation was largely peaceful as thousands of people packed local businesses and hotels, looking for shelter from the wind and rain. Authorities reported five arrests at the concert venue, but it was unclear whether any of those were related to the park closing.
One Chicago Police officer, leaning casually against a fence along Michigan Avenue, quipped: “There’s no place out here for 100,000 people to go.”
At a Starbucks at Michigan and Balbo, employees ordered everyone out of the packed coffee shop, even customers who had beverages in their hands.
Some concertgoers sat under shelters at bus stops and store awnings, and many could be heard screaming obscenities as they were escorted north of Grant Park.
Others said they would have preferred to tough out the rain while listening to some music.
“We can handle the rain. We’re Irish,” said Amy Adair, 21, standing with a group of college friends who flew in from Ireland earlier this spring to work in Chicago for the summer.
George Shapiro, who drove in from Cleveland, said he would still be able to “party” in the rain. “We drive all the way over here and they kick us out for the clouds?” he said, sitting on a curb outside the venue. “The fun is dissipating.”
Two locals, Sarah Daley, 40, and her 30-year-old niece, got a room at the Hilton across the street. Still, they were livid they were asked to leave before even one raindrop had fallen.
“We’re furious beyond belief,” said Daley, of Berwyn.
Two men who were reluctant to leave explained why they were hanging around one of the stages.
“For those who spent $250 on tickets, we don’t want to leave. Hopefully, it’ll be quick,” said Matt Colello, of Woodstock.
Added Donald Stephens, of Chicago: “And on the off chance this becomes a huge mud-pit dance party . . .”
Indeed, Colello got his wish. The skies cleared and the gates were reopened about 6 p.m. The music started up again at 6:30 p.m.
And, yes, there was mud.
At the south end of the venue, concertgoers splashed happily through the muddy mess while others dived into the puddles.
The rain delay also meant that several acts were canceled including, Alabama Shakes; B.o.B.; Temper Trap; Chairlift, and Chicago’s Empires.
The National Weather Service is predicting a nicer day Sunday, with mostly sunny skies and highs in the lower 80s.
Contributing: Emily Morris, Josh McGhee