Grant Park Music Festival Salutes July 4

(Published June 18, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Grant Park Musical Festival presents “Independence Day Salute” on July 4, at 6:30 p.m. in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.

The orchestral presentation, performed by the Grant Park Orchestra and conducted by Christopher Bell, will feature classic patriotic music including “1812 Overture,” Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the “Armed Forces Salute” and more. The performance will feature Grant Park Orchestra principal flute Mary Stolper and Grant Park Chorus baritone John Orduña.

Free seats are available on the lawn or in most of the seating bowl. For those who wish to purchase reserved seating, one night member passes are available. Call 312-742-7647 or go online at to get a pass.

Millennium Park requires extra security for all its Pritzker Pavilion concerts and bag checks will be conducted.. No outside alcohol is allowed at this performance, but beer and wine will be available for purchase at concession stands inside the park. Lines open at 3:30 p.m.

For those that cannot make the performance, it will be broadcast live on 98.7 WFMT and online at Also, a free rehearsal performance will take place at the Pavilion at 10:30 a.m. on July 3.

Mt. Joy, Rayland Baxter open Millennium Park free concert series

(Published June 12)

By Bob Oswald

Kicking off the Millennium Park Summer Music Series, indie rockers Mt. Joy are looking forward to the June 13 show at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

“It feels like we have played in Chicago as much as anywhere else in the country,” singer Matt Quinn said. “It is truly one of our favorite places in the world.”

The California band, with origins in Philadelphia, built up an online following after the release of the song “Astrovan.”

“We had an EP written and just felt good about ‘Astrovan’ so decided to throw it on Spotify first,” Quinn said. “It got added to a couple of playlists and performed really well and the whole thing kind of snowballed. It was surreal. It put us in a position to build out the band, quit our day jobs, tour and write.”

And then they hit the road.

“We have toured pretty continuously for the past two years,” he said. 

“It has been an amazing experience. I think we have all grown so much as musicians, but I am probably most proud of how close we are as a group.”

Quinn said the constant travel takes a toll so it’s important to have a strong support system.

“It’s a crazy ride and it’s so much fun,” he said. “The highs are some of the best times of our lives, but there’s really no way to live like this without people taking care of each other.”

The group, made up of Quinn, his Philadelphia high school buddy Sam Cooper, Michael Byrnes, Sotiris Eliopoulos and Jackie Miclau, released their self-titled debut album last year.

“I’m proud of the first record,” Quinn said. “It was recorded extremely modestly and made a lot of beautiful things happen.”

But Quinn said there are parts of the album he would change.

“That’s where the live show becomes important,” he said. “A lot of the songs on the record are played pretty differently live, which keeps us sane.”

And Quinn is bringing that energy to the city.

“Every time we play [in Chicago] the shows are memorable,” he said. “It’s a city that cares deeply about music, and there’s obviously an amazing amount of history to support that.”

Also performing Thursday will be country singer and Nashville native Rayland Baxter.

The Millennium Park Summer Music Series lineup

All shows are free and begin at 6:30 p.m., according to City of Chicago.

Thursday, June 13

Mt. Joy

Rayland Baxter

Monday, June 17

Cory Henry and the Funk Aposties

Liniker e os Caramelows

Monday, June 24

Chucho Valdes & Jazz Bata

Fareed Haque + Casseus

Thursday, June 27

Flora Cash


Monday, July 1

Car Seat Headrest

Naked Giants

Monday, July 8

Brent Cobb

Lydia Loveless

Thursday, July 18

Orchestral Interpretations of J Dilla–Directed by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson

Kenny Keys

Thursday, July 25

Los Amigos Invisibles

City of the Sun

Monday, July 29

Rev. Sekou

Cha Wa

Monday, Aug. 5

Love Love Love – Chicago Celebrates the Music of Donny Hathaway

Thursday, Aug. 15

Jupiter & Okwess

Noura Mint Seymali

For information, visit

Architecture Biennial draws visions of an improved city from students

(Published June 1, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

In May, the Chicago Architectural Biennial announced the winners of the BP Student Ideas Competition at a ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center. The competition challenged Chicago students to re-imagine how they might use abandoned or empty properties in their neighborhood for greater public good.

In one of his last acts as mayor, Rahm Emanuel congratulated the students for their ideas.

Emanuel kickstarted the Biennial five years ago and he said it remains one of his proudest accomplishments. He said the challenge is intended to get high school students from across the city and across backgrounds to see the city as theirs.

“My test of this city of Chicago is that if a child in Ravenswood and a child in Roseland and a child in Edgewater and a child in Rogers Park or in Wildwood, if they all can look to the city and see the image of all of ourselves in the skyline against this natural beauty which is lake Michigan and if they have the same perspective that that’s my city and that’s my home, then New York City, Boston, London, Berlin and Beijing, watch out. Chicago is coming for you,” Emanuel said. “But if a child looks at the city and thinks it’s a whole different place, even though it’s five miles away, we will never be what we can be.”

He said the Chicago Architecture Biennial is intended to inspire young people to write the next chapter of the city’s story. In total, 171 students, from 49 schools and 42 ZIP codes, reimagined vacent lots. Ideas ranged from replacing empty lots with gardens and libraries to homeless shelters and public medical facilities.  

Jessica Chaidez, a 10th grader from Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago was the first-place winner. For her entry, titled Blackwell Hospital, she design a community hospital for the Ashburn neighborhood.

As part of her entry, Chaidez argued that many in the neighborhood are unemployed and a community hospital could lower mortality rates.

“Ashburn’s mortality rates can go down by providing a hospital in the community according to the British Medical Journal,” Chaidez wrote. “The distance from a hospital plays a life or death situation. If it’s close, you will have a greater chance of surviving. Ultimately, having a hospital in your community offers great job opportunities to the people and can reduce the number of unemployed.”

Ultimately, Emanuel said all the projects gave him hope for the future of Chicago.

“This, in my view, makes sure it’s a legacy that pays dividends for our future and that’s why I am so proud of this event,” Emanuel concluded.

Chicago Architecture Biennial Executive Director Todd Palmer said the program is more important than bricks and mortar.

“What is architecture,” Palmer asked. “It’s of course buildings, but we think it’s also ideas, including landscapes, buildings and projects that work to solve homelessness. Architecture is for all of us and we can change Chicago for the better in a global context.”

The finalists’ projects are on display through August on the third floor of the Chicago Cultural Center building, 78 E. Washington St.

Animals and beer mix during Lincoln Park Zoo’s ‘Craft Brews’

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Lincoln Park Zoo will host beer lovers after hours for its annual Craft Brews at the Zoo event.

The June 14-15 gathering is set to include more than 70 breweries, offering 150 different beers from across the state, amid 200 breeds of animals at the zoo. The event runs 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20 and go to $79, with premium tickets allowing access 30 minutes prior to the official opening.

According to the zoo’s director of events Josh Rupp, it’s also a great opportunity to see the animals after hours.

Most buildings and grounds will be accessible to guests as they try various beers,” Rupp said. “This is a limited capacity, after-hours event at the zoo so your experience will likely be much different than that of a normal summer afternoon during the day – with the 21 and over age restriction. Plus there is a wide assortment of beer!”

For the zoo, this is more than a beer festival—it’s a fundraiser. Rupp said the zoo is free and open to the public, so this event is important to maintain that.

“When you attend events at Lincoln Park Zoo, you support state-of-the-art animal care and worldwide conservation, and help keep the zoo free and open every day of the year,” he said.

And when it comes to beer festivals around Chicago, Rupp said this one is different.

“What is most unique about this beer festival is the venue,” he said. “Lincoln Park Zoo offers an incredible space to travel through the gorgeous gardens, explore animal buildings and even get the opportunity to interact with our Learning team through several different programmed chats.”

Lincoln Park Zoo is at 2200 N. Cannon Drive. Get tickets at

CrossFit gym first to offer unique fitness program to Streeterville

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Frank Dowie, owner of MagMile CrossFit, likes to think his new CrossFit gym has something for everyone and every part of everyone can get fit.

Since the gym opened in late April at 7 E Illinois St., Dowie has seen a steady stream of various clients.

A traveler can lift kettlebells or do calisthenics in the morning, as a trio of business travelers from Mexico did one recent morning for less than $30. For the locals who love workouts, there’s a $240 option offering unlimited access to the facility and courses. There’s an $80 a week option or for $100 users get five classes.

Dowie’s gym is as versatile as CrossFit, a branded fitness program that aims to work out the whole body, combining fitness philosophy with community. Greg Glassman developed CrossFit in 2000 and in the last 20 years, the workout has developed a dedicated cult following.

“A big part of CrossFit is, CrossFitters love CrossFit,” Dowie said. “They don’t want to go to a traditional gym. It doesn’t scratch that itch.”

Dowie said he got into the CrossFit program in 2011, and fell in love with it. CrossFit doesn’t include many machines. Rather, it may involve lifting weights or throwing weighted balls and other activities that combine aerobics along with muscle development. But it’s also about mutual support and interacting with other people. Dowie said people don’t workout at a CrossFit gym wearing earbuds, and there are no mirrors on the wall, so members don’t focus on themselves. It is about other people.

“CrossFit is built on community,” Dowie said. “These people become your friends. This isn’t the kind of thing where you put your headphones in. You encourage each other. It’s a very positive environment and I loved that aspect of it.”

Dowie said many gyms—including his—do regular charity drives. In May, MagMile CrossFit raised money for local veterans and in June, he has hopes to raise money for a local gay pride nonprofit.  

Dowie, a Streeterville resident, said he opened MagMile CrossFit in the community because there’s not another CrossFit gym in Streeterville.

“I’m a resident here and I love this neighborhood,” he said. “I’m excited to bring our community to the community. I think it would be a benefit to the neighborhood.”

For more information, visit, email or call 312-577-9669.

Johnny Anderson, The Buckingham

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Johnny Anderson has been the doorperson at The Bunckingham since July 10, 1999.

The Buckingham, 360 E. Randolph St., is one of the original residential towers in New Eastside and it remains popular, with 305 units and, Anderson estimates, about 650 residents. He works the afternoon shift, starting at 3 p.m. and wrapping up at 11 p.m. Anderson said he likes the long day.

“I like that shift because I’m almost 70,” he said. “I’m 69, and I hate to get up early in the morning so I can sleep in late and if I have to do some errands, I can do them in the morning and still get to work.”

Anderson said he helps residents with packages and deliveries and, of course, he opens doors for people. But during those long evening hours when few people are coming or going, he enjoys singing praise songs. Anderson is a born-again Christian and, alone in the lobby, he said he sings to God when no one else can hear him.

“People come in here sometimes and they say the building feels anointed,” he said. “It’s because I’ve been singing praise songs when nobody is around. I can’t do it when people are present because I don’t know what they believe, but I do like to give praises to the Lord at all times and when it’s slow, I like to give God a praise.”

Anderson said he loves working with people, even through the trauma of life.

“Well, I am a Christian a born again Christian and so there was a time when there was a lady who lived here, and she was diagnosed with cancer,” Anderson said. “She was told she had cancer throughout her body. She was told she only had six months to live and so she came down and she wanted to talk to me about Biblical things. And I had to do it because I felt bad for her soul and I wanted her to know something about the Bible. I witnessed to her and gave her some material to read and I told her the Bible means Biblical Information Before Leaving Earth. I gave her all the information I could and she loved it, and after accepting Jesus Christ as her savior, she lived another year and a half and when she finally did die, her husband came to me and told me that when she died she was smiling and no one in the hospital could figure out why she was smiling. And when I heard that from her husband I started crying. I love to be able to help people when they’re going through something.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

How one realtor helped build the neighborhood

(Published on May 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright for Sheetal Balani

New Eastside residents know what a gem the neighborhood is. But years ago, before Magellan developed the area, Compass realtor Sheetal Balani was asking her prospective buyers to have faith in her and the future of the area.

Balani has been selling in New Eastside for 13 years, and she recalls bringing clients to the developer’s trailer on Upper Wacker  Dr. to look at scale models and floor plans.

“The sales staff would make their pitch and I’d hold buyers’ hands as they took a leap of faith,” she said. “For most folks there was definitely a lot of uncertainty over what it would ultimately become and what the community would look like.”

With the units stil two to three years away from completion, Balani saw the vision of what could be, and made the sales. Over time, she helped build the familial community.

“Those early buyers, a lot of them are still in the neighborhood and they attract other family members and friends,” she said.

Balani knows the story well. She sold a unit to her in-laws, who moved from the suburbs and she watched their stress melt away.

“They used to always enjoy going to the theatre but the distance between the city and the suburbs was too daunting,” Balani said. “Now they frequent shows two-to-three times a month.”

While Balani could understand the appeal of raising kids in the suburbs, the community of New Eastside allowed her to have a neighborhood and be in the heart of the city–it was the best of both worlds.

“Having lived in the city and moved to the suburbs, wanting to come downtown with two kids, it was clear to me that Lakeshore East was an oasis in the city,” she said. “It felt comfortable and welcoming to a young family.”

Balani knows firsthand the biggest selling points of Lakeshore East.

“My kids learned to ride their bikes around the perimeter of Lakeshore East Park,” she said. “We walk to Mariano’s several times a week and we can walk to work in just minutes.”

Whether you’re raising young kids and want a city meets neighborhood experience or your kids are off at college, Balani knows the ins and outs of New Eastside and can help make it your home.

Grill Out, Chicago: The best public places to get grilled

(Published May, 29, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

For grill masters and amateurs, there are several public parks and beaches that allow grilling.

“Grilling must be confined to enclosed metal containers and may only take place within dedicated grilling areas,” according to the Chicago Parks website. The parks also stress all hot coal must be watered and any remains should be disposed of in designated red receptacles.  

Some of the nearby parks and beaches that allow grilling:

Oak Street Beach

1000 North Lake Shore Drive

North Avenue Beach

1601 N. Lake Shore Drive

Montrose Beach

4400 N. Lake Shore Drive

Loyola Beach

1230 W. Greenleaf Ave.

Riis Park

6100 W. Fullerton Ave


$50 fee to grill, must bring own grill.

Burnham Park

Promontory Point

5491 S. Lake Shore Drive


Public fire pits or bring your own grill in designated areas.

Humboldt Beach

1400 N Humboldt Drive

For more information about the parks and beaches, visit

Several options available for fresh, local vegetables

(Published May 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

With summer comes fresh, local produce.

In Streeterville, this means the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents’ (SOAR) annual farmer’s market which will return June 4 and continue through the end of October, opening every Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s front plaza.

But, even if Tuesday’s are inconvenient, residents can now get fresh, home-delivered produce thanks to a new and customizable straight-from-the-farm delivery service, courtesy of Angelic Organics. That service will begin June 24.

John Peterson is a farmer who owns Angelic Organics, one of the very earliest community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in the area. The farm is located in Caledonia, two hours outside of Chicago.

Angelic Organics relies on “shareholders” to sign up for weekly fresh produce boxes and Peterson said he’s happy to pack and substitute whatever clients want.

“We’re now doing customized boxes,” Peterson said. “People choose ahead of time the vegetables they like and they don’t like and they don’t get what they don’t want. That’s a breakthrough for community agriculture.”

Peterson said his boxes are filled with the same range of vegetables available at a farmer’s market.

Peterson hopes to  begin June 24. Shareholders get 20 weekly deliveries or 10 bi-weekly deliveries of a ¾ bushel box, which Peterson said is about 1.5 paper grocery bags filied with vegetables. Each deliver is $40, though there is an extra $12 for home delivery service.

There are no pickup sites in Streeterville or New Eastside, though the delivery service does deliver to the neighborhoods.

To find out more, visit the website,

In the meantime, if residents can’t wait until the end of June to get fresh veggies, SOAR president Deborah Gershbein said all the vendors from last year are returning to this year’s market.

“We have about 45 tents out on the plaza with a variety of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables and herbs and baked goods and prepared foods and beautiful flowers,” Gershbein said.

Gershbein said as the months continue into fall, the produce will change so residents should check out the market each week.

“As the season warms up then we get asparagus, onions and those types of things, and then we get into strawberries,” she said.  

This year will also feature chef demonstrations. On June 25 the chef from SPACE 519 will prepare a dish made of market ingredients. While the market will open the first Tuesday of the month, a season opening ceremony for the market’s fifth season is set for noon, June 18.

“We will celebrate with a huge Eli’s Cheesecake, topped with fresh locally grown strawberries,” Gershbein said.

Kaliflower restaurant launches on Michigan Ave.

(Published May 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Next month New Eastsiders will see a new restaurant in Kaliflower, a fast-casual spot that offers healthy options packed with flavor.

Owner Ben Arnstein said his 333 N. Michigan Ave. restaurant is a passion project for him and his fiancee. Arnstein, a former management consultant, travelled a lot with his fiancee and, by necessity, they ate out a lot. He said, it was awful.

“We’re eating out almost every meal and we’re travelling a ton and there weren’t a lot of options that were flavorful and had spices and warm options that were also healthy options,” Arnstein said.

The tired of eating salads or settling for burgers and pizza for every meal either. From that, the idea of Kaliflower was born.

The restaurant will offer bowls and salads as well as sides, like daalafel, a baked lentil dish with chickpeas, cilantro, parsley and a hint of jalapeno. It will be served with a side of cucumber and mint yogurt.

The bowls are equally flavor-packed. One of the offerings is the path to enlightenment bowl, which includes daalafel, roasted carrots, marinated lentils, cucumber and red pepper salad, marinated kale, creamy avocado yogurt, finished with chopped cilantro and lemon garlic vinaigrette dressing.

The bowls and salads are $11.50 and all of it, Arnstein said, will be fast and ready to go for area residents and professionals.

“It is fast casual, so there will be almost no seating,” he said. “It is designed to take away. We’re really focusing on quality food and a good value price point.”

Arnstein said he designed the menu himself with a chef advisor, and the selections combine flavors he and his fiancee are familiar with.

“My fiancee is first generation Indian on her mom’s side,” he said. “The spice road type flavors are something I grew up eating.”

Arnstein said Kaliflower is still under construction and he doesn’t have an opening date yet but is hoping to launch in mid-to-late June.

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