Every summer, Chicago folks dive into festival season like kids into a ball pit and the season, in turn, swallows us whole. Art festivals fill our weekends. We plan family vacations around music fests. We loosen our belts and swim in rivers of pork at rib fests. Since our winters are long and torturous, it’s understandable that we embrace this time with delirious fervor. But when does fervor need to be curtailed? I’d say, when it breeds absurdity.
One specific festival could write the book on absurdity. It would be titled “Heard but Never Seen: The Festival Ravinia Story”. We call it a festival, but Ravinia is essentially an outdoor concert series of the most peculiar sort. The entire experience is similar to bringing an iPod to a park, sitting on the grass, and enjoying your music under a starry night sky. The difference? Ravinia can cost you anywhere from $15 – $40 (not including parking).
If you absolutely must see the performer, you’re more than welcome to shell out $75-$90 for a seat inside Ravinia’s open-air pavilion, which is half-circled by the lawn. Yea. You’re more than welcome to do that.
Confession: I greatly enjoy Ravinia and often return to the festival multiple times throughout the year. I understand the social aspect that makes this tradition so enjoyable. Overlooking the great swindle that is taking place around us, I am happy to, instead, focus intensely on consuming copious amounts of assorted cheese and wine, brought from home.
In fact, the real problem with Ravinia isn’t the view, or lack thereof. It’s not even the prices, which have been steadily climbing for years. The real problem with Ravinia is –
Wait, maybe I should prepare you for what I’m about to say. Are you sitting down? Good. We’ve been needing to have this talk for some time.
The real problem with Ravinia is you, Chicago. You’re what’s wrong with the entire experience. What happened to the practical Midwest folks of weekday commutes and polite happy hours? The compact lawn chair toting people of Movies in the Park and opera nights in Grant Park? Who are these dining room table dragging drunks that cover the lawn of Ravinia every year?
Definitely, we all are not members of this brigade. For those who proudly go too far, however, I address you now exclusively.
Please stop bringing your dining room furniture to Ravinia. At least 17 people could be sitting in the space just one of your tables is taking up. You are not being the most considerate person in the world right now.
Secondly, candelabras are for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. You observe neither. Don’t buy one just for this moment. They provide neither warmth nor repel insects. Therefore, they are completely useless at Ravinia.
Thirdly, do you drink this much wine at home? Let’s talk about that later.
For the audacious who are cleverly relocating chairs and trying their hardest to make the people around them uncomfortable enough to move, no one can see the stage unless you’re in the pavilion. There is not some secret spot on the lawn that you must fight for if someone else beats you to it. If Maxwell doesn’t show up and Ravinia decides to pump his last “unplugged” album through the lawn speakers, we’d all be none the wiser. Don’t fight for a spot on the lawn. Just don’t.
Ravinia is a unique way to enjoy warm and fleeting Chicago summers in a novel setting under the trills of our favorite artist. The entire experience, however, would be much more enjoyable if we added some consideration to our coolers.