Chicago residents voice concerns over Douglass Park events

Riot Fest leaders say since 2015, they’ve paid $12 million in city taxes, $1.6 million in park district rental fees, and $1.2 million in local jobs.

Now, some Lawndale residents say they’ve yet to see that level of financial impact hit home.

In about three months, Douglass Park will be filled with hard rock lovers from all over the country. But not everyone is too thrilled about it.

"It’s not just the three days. The noise, setup, cleanup can go on weeks at a time," said one Lawndale resident. "No mega fests in Douglass Park."

That was the message Monday from about two dozen residents, business owners, and community leaders.

Among their complaints, noise, traffic and congestion. Mt. Sinai and St. Anthony’s hospitals are in walking distance from the main stage.

"It’s always a problem. You have First Responders and EMT’s …when they’re trying to get though the traffic, even with a safety plan it’s not adequate enough," said Princess Shaw, Lawndale Connector.


Riot Fest, now in its 8th year, is also scheduled the same weekend as Mexican independence festivities. Not having enough police patrols is a major concern.

"We know police are short-staffed. We heard concerns from residents and police about being able to handle both events at the same time," said Jennifer Aguilar, Little Village Chamber of Commerce.

Business Owner Denita Robinson said the festival is good for economical access and development.

"It allows that money to boost our community and businesses," she said.

Last week, Riot Fest leaders participated in a virtual community engagement meeting to answer questions from the public, but some residents say it’s not enough.

Santino Casas lives in Lawndale and is a die-hard Riot Fest fan.

"I feel that in large part, people here feel shut out. A lot of investment not happening with the community," he said.

To address the community engagement part, Riot Fest leaders have launched "Beyond the Fest." It’ll include community vendor workshops, for business specifically in Lawndale and Little Village. From that, they’ll offer free booth space to 10 businesses that participate in the workshop. There will also be an annual job fair and youth mentorship program.

Additionally, the fest plans to feature artists from the neighborhood.

On Wednesday, Riot Fest is looking to have its permit approved by the park district board.