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The Good, The Bad And The Hairy Of The Internet Cat Video Festival's Chicago Debut

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 21, 2013 9:30PM

#CatVidFest producer Scott Stulen introduces the festival. (Photo by Katie Karpowicz)

Considering the fact that Chicago has festivals devoted to essentially everything under the sun, it's about time that cats got in on the game.

On Saturday the Internet Cat Video Festival made its Chicago debut at the Irish American Heritage Center in Albany Park. Initially a Minnesota affair, the crowds have grown so large that its backers, the Walker Art Center, decided to take it on the road. The fest touched down in Chicago last weekend with help from Chicago Cat Rescue and Tree House Humane Society. Tickets from the festival benefitted both causes.

Unfortunately, when we arrived the one thing that seemed to be noticeably absent was, in fact, cats. We later learned that cats weren't actually allowed inside the building—a bit of an oversight for a cat-focused festival—and that the chilly weather had all but eliminated plans for an outdoor adoption center.

Despite the fact that signs posted throughout the venue and announcements during the screening indicated that Crepes and/or Rocky—the local cats of "Catalogue" fame—were around to take pictures, no one seemed to know their whereabouts all afternoon.

The actual cat video screening, however, had us delighted. Capping off at just over an hour, dozens of cute, comic, endearing and ridiculous cats crossed the screen in a non-stop montage which was shown five times throughout the day. Personally, our favorite was a Funny Or Die-produced mockumentary detailing the grizzly underworld of the cat video business:

Will Baden, owner of eternally existential cat Henri, and Love Saves The Day author Gwen Cooper were on hand to meet fans. Local comedians entertained crowds in between screenings but live music, as was originally scheduled, was also absent. A handful of local vendors were on hand to sell their cat friendly merchandise and the overall mood was cheery.

We hope to see the Internet Cat Video Festival return next year, perhaps with a few less hiccups or (dare we say) hairballs. A change of venue and expanded between screening programming might up the liveliness and make this festival a mainstay in Chicago.