Chicago Blues Festival returns in full force, expects over 180,000 attendees

Known as the largest free Blues festival in the world, the Chicago Blues Festival, kicked off Thursday as part of a jam-packed weekend in the city.

Held from Thursday, June 8 to Sunday, June 11, the four-day festival is expected to draw more than 180,000 people.

"I mean, it’s Chicago, blues is in our DNA, this is an amazing forum, we have amazing weather this weekend, and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate our culture," said Carlos Tortolero, program manager, Chicago Blues Festival.

While the festival returned last year on a smaller scale after a hiatus due to the pandemic, this year's festival is back in full swing.

Many of the blues lovers who are jukin' into the weekend are from out of town. An estimated 32 percent of guests in attendance come from outside the city to attend – and that includes global visitors.  


Over the course of the weekend, guests can look forward to three stages where 50 bands will be featured – the main stage at Pritzker Pavilion, the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage in the South Promenade, and Rosa’s Lounge in the North Promenade.

"And it’s all free," said Tortolero.

At Pritzker Pavilion, approximately 4,200 seats are available on a first come, first served basis, with additional room for seating in the grass.

"About 75 percent of the lineup is Chicago-based, obviously Chicago blues," said Tortolero.

That includes Wayne Baker Brooks, who opened the entire festival on Thursday.

"Aw man, I feel like the grand marshal right now, we about to party and get this festival going. Biggest happy hour Chicago has ever seen," Brooks said.

Son of legendary blues musician, Lonnie Brooks, he's performed on main stages with his father before, but this was his first main stage performance with his own band.

"To be able to have my band, have my expression, portrayed out to my hometown, man, I can’t even describe it, I’m getting emotional right now," said Brooks.

It also hits close to home for many in attendance.

"This is a tradition for me," said Helenena Washington-Clopton. "This is what I grew up on in the West Side, listening to blues."

For others, it's a first, but certainly not the last.

"I love it, I love it, love being outdoors, I love the music, it’s great," said Christine Hydel. "A night with old friends, and new – enjoyed among fans of all ages.

"Everybody’s getting along, greeting each other, I mean it’s a great community, it’s a great feeling of fellowship," said Paula Partin.

"Look at it… all these people, a melting pot," said Washington-Clopton. "This is home. Sweet home Chicago."

Guests can enter the park at main entrances, including on Randolph and on Michigan Avenue, where bag checks will be conducted.

For the festival’s full lineup, CLICK HERE.