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PHOTOS: Chicago Prepares for the 'Great Chicago Fire Festival,' a Flamboyant Celebration of the City’s Rebirth after 1871

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Sep 30, 2014 07:02 PM EDT

The Great Chicago Fire Festival will culminate in a grand public spectacle on Saturday, October 4 at 8:00 p.m., involving fire cauldrons, a fireworks display and replicas of three 1871-era buildings set ablaze on the Chicago River.

"Together with the City of Chicago, we hope to create a unique event for Chicagoans that captures the world's imagination," said Jim Lasko, Executive Artistic Director of the Redmoon Theater Company.

Redmoon, the City of Chicago and the the residents of many Chicago neighborhoods have been working together for months to stage this free public festival, which celebrates the creative energy unleashed in Chicago in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

[Author's Note: Photos at the end of this article show the progress of the three enormous Fire Festival Houses as they are towed into position on the Chicago River.] 

The festival will also celebrate the rich diversity of neighborhoods that have arisen since the fire's devastation.

On Saturday afternoon, the River Bazaar will feature 15 of these Chicago neighborhoods, each with their own designated area to sell crafts, food and goods. The Bazaar will be held along Chicago's newly developed riverfront between State Street and Michigan Avenue. 

From 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., two busking stages will feature local performers in a lead-up to the Grand Spectacle performance. Featured acts include local musicians, poets and an Urban Dance Battle involving some of Chicago's top hip-hop, breaking and footworking crews.

At 8:00 p.m., the main event will begin when Grand Marshals Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney, stars of the hit television drama Chicago Fire, ignite a fiery cauldron on the Michigan Avenue Bridge, which will be lowered to watercraft waiting on the river below. A total of 15 Fire Cauldrons will be ignited and lowered to spark the performance spectacle.

Preparations for the festival moved into high gear this week as the three enormous Fire Festival Houses were towed up the Chicago River to their final destinations. The photos below document the Houses' progress:

The Fire Festival Houses float past the Civic Opera House between Washington and Madison Street.

Bridges are raised to allow the Fire Festival Houses to pass by.

The Houses float by Marina City toward their final destination on the Chicago River just east of State Street.

Performers in kayaks will pull 22 of these "fire buoys" during the spectacle.

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TagsGreat Chicago Fire Festival, Redmoon, Jim Lasko, Chicago, Chicago Fire, Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, Photos, 1871