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Post-Lollapalooza cleanup begins in muddy Grant Park

Grant Park Monday after Lollapalooza. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Grant Park on Monday after Lollapalooza. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

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Updated: September 6, 2014 6:12AM

With only hungry seagulls for spectators, crews slopped through the mud early Monday at Grant Park in one of the nastiest post-Lollapalooza cleanups in memory.

“Really, the biggest issue is trying to get the labor to work through mud, pick up through mud — because we detail every last bit of the park before we leave,” said David C. Mayer, director of business development and sustainability for VenueSmart, the cleanup company in charge at Grant Park.

Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District, said she can’t put a dollar figure on the damage done to Grant Park and the bill that must be paid by festival organizers until later this week.

“We don’t assess damage until equipment and staging is moved out,” Maxey-Faulkner said.

“After the load-out [of equipment], there’s a walk-through with both parties. That’s when we assess the damage.”

Under the contract between the Chicago Park District and Lollapalooza organizers, an “independent third party” determines the cost of repairing and restoring the area to its “pre-Festival condition.”

The organizers pay the Park District that amount, and the Park District arranges for the work to be done.

City officials have been asked for details on arrests and injuries at the festival but had not responded as of Monday afternoon.

The day after Lollapalooza ended, discarded water bottles, flattened beer cans and even the occasional beach ball could be found in the slop.

By the end of the week, crews will likely have carted off 250 or so tons of trash — about 60 percent of it destined to be recycled or composted, Mayer said.

Along with bottles and cans comes “drugs, tampons, vomit — you name it,” said Mayer, who was 25 hours into his current shift.

Crew member Robert Lambert was still fresh after his third 14-hour shift.

“I love the energy that Lollapalooza brings,” he said. “And when the crowd gets jazzed up, it’s a wonderful thing to see.”

It also was a wonderful sight to Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy. He said the 10th anniversary of Lollapalooza was the “best yet” in terms of minimizing damage to Grant Park.

“All the gardens and bushes were fenced off and secure, so people couldn’t run through those,” O’Neill said Monday after riding his bike through Grant Park.

“The only damage that was done was to turf, which is the easiest to correct.”

And O’Neill said every year, music fans appear to get “more respectful” of Grant Park.

“It’s a luxury to have that festival in a downtown site. Nowhere in the world do they get that beautiful and prominent a space along the waterfront with the skyline and beautiful landscaping. It works both ways. If the park looks good, Lollapalooza looks good and vice-versa.”

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