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THE BIG 5: SUMMER FESTIVALS EDITION

They're fun, they're fascinating and, best of all, they're free.

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1. CHICAGO BLUES FESTIVAL

June 13–15, 2014
Grant Park

The world's largest free blues festival hits Grant Park in June with three days of fret-bending performances on five stages — but it's not just about music. The whole city celebrates with lectures, films and tours. Opening night kicks off with Billy Boy Arnold and many others, and the great acts continue with headliners Bettye LaVette on Saturday and Dr. John on Sunday.


2. CHICAGO GOSPEL MUSIC FESTIVAL

June 27–29, 2014
Chicago Cultural Center and Ellis Park

Gospel got its start in Chicago in the early 1900s in the Bronzeville neighborhood. The annual gospel music festival honors the tradition, as the best local, national and international gospel singers bring their talents to various stages across Chicago.


3. TASTE OF CHICAGO

July 9–13, 2014
Grant Park

"The Taste," as locals call it, is the nation's premier outdoor food festival. Let groups sample everything from local classics such as the Chicago-style hot dog to international eats such as Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches at this fun foodie fest, complete with cooking demos, celebrity chefs and live music.


4. CHICAGO AIR AND WATER SHOW

Aug. 16–17, 2014
Lakefront – North Avenue Beach

Defying gravity and performing jaw-dropping aerial stunts, daredevil pilots mesmerize crowds that line along the lakefront for this can't-miss spectacle. Each year, the show is headlined by either the Blue Angels or the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, as well as the Army Golden Knights parachute team.


5. CHICAGO JAZZ FESTIVAL

Aug. 28–31, 2014
Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park

Summer in Chicago goes out with a bang — and some bebop, funk and skat as well — at this event, the oldest of Chicago's free lakefront music festivals with nearly 50 diverse live sets across its carefully-curated four days (and even more jazz showcases in the neighborhoods leading up to main event). Catch headliners like Terence Blanchard, Sun Ra Arkestra and Rufus Reid, among many others.

 

Find more annual events and festivals here.


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