The Humboldt Park-based music festival, Riot Fest, was recently named the best music festival according to readers of USA Today and 10Best. The festival, which took place in September, hosted over 100 bands spanning three days, as crowds gathered in rain and shine, and even more rain.
But all of the rain, mosh pits and large crowds created a devastating impact on the park, leaving it in bad condition with patches of grass still missing throughout the park.
Despite the music festival calling Humboldt Park its home since 2012, Ald. Roberto Maldonado, of the 26th ward, along with other community members have been attempting to get the festival out of the park.
A community organization, Remove Riot Fest from Humboldt Park, have created a petition to ban the yearly festival, and currently have over 1,200 signatures on Change.org. The petition cited that Riot Fest has caused unrepaired damage and has denied the community access to the park, which is central to their neighborhood.
“Not only were residents, sports groups and local park vendors denied access to the entire park, the set-up and breakdown of the festival caused major disruption of traditional events and access for residents for almost three weeks,” a statement on the petition page said.
In a press statement, Riot Fest founder Mike Petryshyn wrote about the support the festival has been receiving to keep it in Humboldt Park, and described it as “overwhelming.”
Throughout the press release, Petryshyn noted the support of Ald. Joe Moreno of the first ward and the popularity of the ‘Residents for Riot Fest’ Facebook page.
Petryshyn also mentions the popularity of a petition, created on Change.org, to support the music festival in its attempt to keep Humboldt Park its home. The petition was started by Riot Fest, and has over 7,000 signatures.
The park hasn’t always been the home of the punk festival, though. For seven years, the festival spanned multiple venues throughout the city such as the Metro, Double Door, Congress Theater and the Subterranean, and fans would buy tickets to one or multiple concerts throughout the week, as opposed to a weekend pass. Riot Fest moved to Humboldt Park in 2012.
While the state the park was left in after last year’s fest was a major complaint of Ald. Maldonado and the residents of Humboldt Park, they also complained about the way they were treated by attendees of Riot Fest.
“The people weren’t friendly coming into our neighborhood,” Elizabeth DeJesus, a Humboldt Park resident, said. “There were too many people, and not enough police. It was just too much.”
DeJesus also complained about the length of the festival, stating three days is far too long for Riot Fest to take over Humboldt Park.
“One day is way too long,” DeJesus said, sarcastically.
She also echoed the sentiments of Ald. Maldonado by agreeing that the festival left the park in poor condition and created a huge mess.
Elizabeth Cheong, a senior at DePaul, has interned for Riot Fest and thinks that the festival has positively contributed to the neighborhood.
“Riot Fest definitely took the park and the entire neighborhood into consideration when planning the festival,” Cheong said. “I saw them put a lot of work into the Puerto Rican community by being present at the festivals and offering help to the children there.”
One of the positive aspects of Riot Fest being located in Humboldt Park is the fact that it exposes people who wouldn’t normally venture to the West Side neighborhood.
“Before the festival I had never been to Humboldt Park,” Vince De Lio, a DePaul senior, said. “I had heard from it, because of its rich Puerto Rican culture.”
“It’s really hard to say they’ve done any harm to the neighborhood when you see all of these amazing efforts into bringing more traffic and money into the area,” Cheong said. “Working with (Riot Fest) got me to venture to neighborhoods like Humboldt Park and appreciate them more.”
Riot Fest has invested heavily in both the park that gave the neighborhood its name, as well as the neighborhood. According to the press release, they hire 400 community members each year to work at the festival and have donated $249,000 to charities in Humboldt Park, including the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, among many other contributions to the neighborhood.
“I would be devastated if they banned Riot Fest (from the park),” De Lio said. “It’s one of the true music festivals I look forward to.”