The Great Chicago Fire Festival

Redmoon Theater

Funding Received: 2013
Chicago, IL
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
January 28, 2014

Redmoon's New Year's Party "Revolution"

As we move closer to the festival, things over at Redmoon seem to get more interesting. We extended our deadline for our RFP to February 6th, 2014 to accommodate busy schedules at community organizations during the holiday season. In addition to placing calls out to blogs and newspapers we also have been flowing up personally with community-based organizations that our partners have worked with in the past. Also, we are creating guidelines and criteria for our selection committee to choose the communities where we will be involved. Our selection committee consists of artists, city officials, sponsors, and members from our different partner organizations.

We have also continued progress on our Sidewalk Senates, Redmoon’s neighborhood engagement strategy for the festival. We are looking forward to prototyping our Chalk Talks with a parent group at Family Focus in the beginning of spring.

We have also advanced our designs for the Grand Spectacle, which will take place on October 4th. In our last entry we wrote about how we decided to standardize the basic structure of the Fire Sculptures. We created a storyboard of the spectacle, paying attention to ritual elements we want to include and some logistical constraints that we must deal with. For example, at first we hoped to rent large barges that would serve as performance platforms on the river, but that soon became a logistical problem because it would be difficult to reserve four barges for that date. Instead, we decided to have only one performance barge on the river and four smaller boats that would bring a torch from the bridges to the main barge, igniting the ritual on the river and the start of the festival.

Additionally, as we continued planning we wondered how we could make an event that was truly sustainable—one that could last beyond Redmoon’s involvement and truly become a beacon of the city. Our initial ideas of the Grand Spectacle focused primarily on building large new machinery that would be showcased on the downtown riverfront. However, we realized that to really create a signature event that encouraged community involvement, investment, and sustainability, we needed to make the Grand Spectacle more reflective of our community engagement strategy and the neighborhoods that we were involved in, versus Redmoon’s machinery. We decided to create Neighborhood Sites along the shore that showcased the Sidewalk Senates in different neighborhood throughout the spring and summer, as well as local talent and performances.

Recent Wins
Redmoon just threw a spectacular New Years party for the first time called “Revolution.” The event was a huge success; we had around 900 attendees and a spectacular array of performances and machinery to keep our guests entertained. We exceeded our projected ticket sales for the night and received rave reviews from our guests.


Executive Artistic Director of Redmoon Jim Lasko and I also spent a few days at Harvard working with graduate students in the architecture program to plan some of our designs for the Grand Spectacle. We made a lot of progress in thinking about the timeline, ritual aspects, and logistics of the Grand Spectacle.

In planning the logistics and designs for the Grand Spectacle, the staff at Redmoon has been thinking about the creation of a Signature Event. What goes into creating an event that is truly reflective of the city that it serves? How can we get community members to be invested in something new? How can we make an event that is spectacular, relatable, and sustainable?

The question of sustainability has been at the forefront of our thinking as we move forward with planning the festival. We have been asking how to have a sustainable presence in all of our endeavors, from our Sidewalk Senates and outreach in neighborhoods to the Grand Spectacle.