Chicago summer festival

As Chicago reopens to the public (and eager students), three Roosevelt University professors are offering a quintessential Chicago summer experience with the return of Sounds of Summer: Chicago Festivals.

Sounds of Summer: Chicago Festivals provides students with festivals, festivals and more festivals. Not only do students attend the events, they learn the nuts and bolts of planning festivals, as well as the role that festivals play “as revealers of cultural identity, class identity, demographic trends and nostalgia,” said Professor Sandra Frink.

Frink teaches in the Roosevelt history program. She says that studying Chicago summer festivals from multiple, intersecting perspectives is an exciting approach “to critically examining festival culture.”

Sounds of Summer: Chicago Festivals starts August 9. Roosevelt students can register at RUAccess.

Frink, who has taught the class before, explained that Sounds of Summer draws Lakers together to explore public events in new ways and sharpen their critical thinking. Students in the class act as participant-observers and create a digital ethnography of their visits.

“We will discuss a whole range of topics, from touring and the experience economy, to ethnography, to destination marketing, to the history and current Pride Parades, to the use of space, and to the creation of community through the attendance of festivals,” said Frink. “We cover a lot in two weeks!”

Professor Stephanie Salerno teaches musicology in the Music Conservatory. She and her students will discuss performance, space and audience engagement. But, according to Salerno, students don’t need a musical background to get the most out of the experience.

This summer, students will visit events across the city:

  • Printer's Row Lit Fest.
  • Millennium Park Summer Music Series (A Night of Healing, Truth and Restorative Love).
  • Grant Park Music Festival (Family Night: Carnival of the Animals and Schubert Mass in G Major).

Students will also choose from weekend options like the Edison Park Fest, the Bud Billiken Parade, the Wells Street Arts Festival and more.

Frink expressed her own excitement for the Taylor Street Festa Italiana, one of many ethnic festivals in the city. “These have a long history, but in many cases, the immigrant community that sparked the creation of the festival no longer lives in the area.” Frink said this brings up “questions of identity and belonging that are really interesting to explore.”

Hospitality and tourism professor Steve Migacz says that students can grow from interacting with their classmates in different majors. “It broadens thinking and allows students to think things through more thoughtfully,” he said.

This year, students in the class will have the new experience of seeing and understanding festivals from the perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have to be prepared for situations where live events simply aren’t safe or responsible,” said Migacz of the industry and his students. “Moving forward, we have to anticipate that these events will remain, and we learned the lesson that we need to be prepared for when live events are not possible.”

Lakers can choose to attend the class in-person or remotely and may participate in online festivals to explore how being remote affects the festival experience.

“This new mode of ‘attending’ festivals online emerged this past year, so it will be interesting to see how that affected people’s experiences,” added Frink. “We’re also excited to survey people about their experience at the Grant Park Music Festival this year to see how they feel about being back in public.”

Written by Sophia Peters, Roosevelt University psychology student and virtual office assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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