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26th Ward Alderman Has Doubts About Welcoming Riot Fest Back To Humboldt Park

By Danette Chavez in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 30, 2015 5:40PM

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Crowd shot. Photo by ´╗┐´╗┐Jessica Mlinaric.

Last month, Riot Fest organizers announced their Chicago tour dates for 2015 (Sept. 11-13) but the location might be up in the air: Ald. Roberto Maldonado, 26th Ward, reportedly has serious doubts about allowing the festival to return to Humboldt Park this fall.

Maldonado told the RedEye yesterday that he was “exceptionally disappointed at the Riot Fest organizers for the mess they left at the park last year and their shallow and hollow promises to restore the park," and that he does not support the festival's return to Humboldt Park. This came as news to Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn, who shared the following statement earlier today in a press release:

We are extremely surprised with Alderman Roberto Maldonado's comments in today's edition of the Redeye as he's been extremely supportive of the festival since it's Humboldt Park inception in 2012. Due to the economic benefits Riot Fest brings to many 26th Ward businesses, the hundreds of thousands of dollars Riot Fest has donated to ward charities, our support in his reelection, and more importantly, job creation in a ward that has sorely lacked new job development, the Alderman and Riot Fest have been on the same page in shining a positive light on our culturally rich and magnetic neighborhood.

Riot Fest has steadily grown since its move to Humboldt Park in 2012 (it had previously been spread out at venues throughout the city): there's now a carnival element complete with amusement park rides. The park takes a bit of a beating every year, but 2014's high attendance and heavy rains left it exceptionally damaged. And last year's fest covered more ground than usual (about one square mile). Petryshyn, who called the park the"star of Riot Fest," vowed to restore it as quickly as possible and
organizers agreed to foot the $182,000 bill, which was triple the amount paid for repairs the previous year. They also expressed their dedication to Humboldt Park and its namesake neighborhood and started a foundation to give back to underserved communities throughout the city, this in addition to their Humboldt Park community outreach like their now annual turkey drive.

RF organizers declared the park repaired last November, but a walk-through earlier this month revealed that there are still missing patches of grass and Riot Fest was asked to re-do the aeration and seeding in those areas. Concert organizer Max Wagner told attendees at a recent Humboldt Park Advisory Council meeting that the fest is committed to seeing the repairs through but he cited winter woes as part of the hold-up. The advisory council has sent a letter to the Chicago Park District regarding their concerns about the park's current condition, as well as next year's post-event plans. The park district has not yet weighed in on any of these matters.

Early-bird ticket sales for Riot Fest have ended and it looks like "Humboldt Park" doesn't appear on any promotional materials yet. But Petryshyn is optimistic about holding his event in the park this year and working with Maldonado and neighborhood representatives "in the fashion we know best: as good neighbors."