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Chicago Gets More Boring, One Cut at a Time

By Prescott Carlson in News on Oct 21, 2009 8:30PM

Original photo via City of Chicago
Amongst the hiring freezes, layoffs, and roundabout pay cuts in the current Chicago budget crisis are a number of smaller items being eliminated. Things beyond garbage pickup and pothole repair, they're collectively the stuff that helps give Chicago "character" -- you know, what we supposedly have in spades that should have made everyone want to come here for the Olympics in 2016.

We previously mentioned a few items -- Venetian Night, the lighted boat parade and fireworks display that attracts upwards of 500,000 each summer, is going bye-bye. There's also no money in the budget for the Outdoor Film Festival in Grant Park, nor for the Chicago Criterium. The Chicago JazzFest, which arguably features the most talented musicians of the city's music festivals, is being shortened once again. Celtic Fest, Country Music Fest, and the Viva Latin festival are being moved from Grant Park to the smaller confines of Millennium Park so the city can save money on portable toilets. The Mayor's Cup Youth Soccer Tournament is also on the chopping block. City arts programs will continue to take a hit.

But cuts to these kinds of items aren't new -- the city sponsored fun in Chicago has been slowly eroding without many noticing. Looptopia fizzled out before it could find its groove. The headliners at Taste of Chicago have actually managed to become even less inspired in recent years -- Naperville's RibFest draws bigger acts. "Chicagoween" in Daley Plaza has been whittled down from an elaborate month long affair to only a week. The State Street Halloween costume parade is also gone. Remember the CTA's "Haunted 'L'"? Hopefully you do, because memories are all that's left. The CTA's schedule for the "Holiday Train" remains ominously stuck on 2008. And there's the moving of the Christmas Tree lighting to broad daylight during a weekday. All that, and we're sure we're forgetting something.

Of course in a down economy, these kinds of "extras" need to have a lower priority -- but given the fiscal mismanagement in Chicago for so long now, it's an even bitterer pill to swallow. These events and programs -- despite how "trivial" some may deem them -- add to the overall quality of life for Chicago residents. The city needs to right its gaudily decorated and lighted financial ship and get things like Venetian Night back.