Riot Fest fires back at alderman who wants it out of Humboldt Park

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Riot Fest fired back at a local alderman Thursday for saying he wants the three-day festival evicted from Humboldt Park because $150,000 in promised park repairs tied to last year’s festival have not yet been completed.

Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn said festival organizers were taken aback by the sentiments expressed by Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) after heavy rains and large crowds damaged the park during last year’s festival.

In an emailed statement, Petryshyn noted that the alderman has been “extremely supportive” of the festival since it put down roots in Humboldt Park in 2012.

“Due to the economic benefits Riot Fest brings to many 26th Ward businesses, the hundreds of thousands of dollars Riot Fest has donated to ward charities, our support in his re-election and, more importantly, job creation in a ward that has sorely lacked new job development, the alderman and Riot Fest have been on the same page in shining a positive light on our culturally rich and magnetic neighborhood,” Petryshyn said.

As for the damage left behind in Humboldt Park, Petryshyn agreed with Maldonado that “some areas needed additional maintenance” and that the work was continuing as late as Monday. But he turned the tables on the alderman.

“We must all be reminded that it was Ald. Maldonado’s direction and his final decision to change the footprint in 2014 to encompass low-lying parts of the park that we neither wanted, planned or needed during a July 2014 meeting” at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Petryshyn said.

“Unfortunately, that decision alone caused the displacement of the baseball leagues and park users on the entire east end and ultimately was the main culprit in the grounds being damaged during the rain. Nonetheless, between the support we have received from the mayor’s office, congressmen, state [legislators], county commissioners and the many aldermen in having Riot Fest’s permanent home in Humboldt Park, we are completely confident that any and all future concerns from Ald. Maldonaldo will be handled in the fashion we know best: as good neighbors.”

Maldonado stood his ground. He said he does not support Riot Fest’s return to the Humboldt Park area because local residents are fed up with the damage left behind that has yet to be repaired.

“After the first two years, there was no negative community reaction whatsoever. But after the third festival, because of the damage it created to the park and with the influx of additional people coming to the park in the thousands, it created a very uncomfortable environment for the residents. The condition the park was left was deplorable,” he said.

“There were so many people complaining through social media and expressing their opposition to them coming back. Even today, the park is not fully restored yet. Some of the leagues have not been able to start playing. It’s not what the community wants, and I have concluded they are right.”

Maldonado scoffed at the festival founder’s claim that site changes the alderman dictated triggered the problems.

“I am saddened they have to resort to lies. I don’t know why they would suggest that I am the ultimate culprit who changed the boundaries of the park for purposes of the fest. They know that I have nothing to do with it. It’s between producers, the Park District and the police — mostly the police,” the alderman said.

Chicago Park District spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said the park damage and follow-up repairs to Humboldt Park are no different what what happens every year at Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

“Any permit holder that hosts an event on Chicago Park District property is responsible for the clean-up and any necessary repairs,” she said.

The Park District has not yet issued a permit for this year’s Riot Fest, scheduled for Sept. 11 to 13 in Humboldt Park. But that hasn’t stopped festival organizers from advertising “early bird tickets” for this year’s festival on its website.

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