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Buckingham Fountain will flow, beaches to reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend

The fountain and beaches were closed last summer due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.
Crews will begin testing the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park this week to prepare for Saturday’s ceremony when the fountain will officially be turned on. It had been shut down last summer due to COVID-19 concerns.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Chicago is taking more steps toward summer reopening plans — just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

On Saturday, the city will host a celebration to turn on the world-famous Buckingham Fountain after the fountain had remained off last summer due to pandemic-related restrictions. Although it has largely remained off since 2019, crews have been testing the fountain in recent days.

Officials are promoting Saturday’s event as a virtual celebration, with a contest winner chosen to flip a switch to turn the fountain back on, according to the Chicago Park District website.

Officials did not say whether the fountain’s previously nightly light and music show will resume. More details on the switching on event will be announced soon.

The city also plans to reopen its Lake Michigan beaches on Friday, May 28, Mike Kelly, Chicago Park District superintendent, said earlier this week.

The beaches also were closed last summer due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The fountain is located at Columbus Drive and the lakefront. An official Chicago landmark, the fountain was donated to the city by Chicagoan Kate S. Buckingham in 1927 in honor of her late brother Clarence, a renowned art enthusiast. It was designed by architect Edward H. Bennett, with the sculptural elements designed by French artist Marcel Loyau based on fountains at the Palace of Versailles in France. It was officially dedicated on Aug. 26, 1927.