The fight over the future of Riot Fest in Humboldt Park got a new player  Friday with a rally announcing a coalition of residents formed to kick the music festival out of the park.

Around 100 protesters gathered at the park’s field house, where protest leader Xavier Nogueras waved a stack of petitions and declared that in just 24 hours, nearly 700 residents had signed on to oppose the return of the punk rock and alternative music festival, scheduled for Sept. 11-13.

That puts Humboldt Park Residents Against Riot Fest on the same side as Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), who recently announced his mind is made up: Riot Fest must go.

“The alderman has heard the voices of the community and he has responded,” Raymond Figueroa, a former alderman and retired Circuit Court judge, declared at Friday’s rally. “We want the fifth floor [of City Hall] to hear us.”

Riot Fest, however, had previously pointed out that its 6,562-signature petition to allow Riot Fest to obtain its permits “now has more signatures than Maldonado had votes in the last election.” (Maldonado received 3,407 votes.)

Maldonado, in turn, cited damage caused to the park and the disruption to the neighborhood. Riot Fest responded by releasing “before” and “after” photos to support their contention that they were upholding their commitment to repair damage caused by the large festival crowd and exacerbated by heavy rains.

A spokeswoman for Riot Fest declined comment Friday on the residents’ rally, instead reiterating Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn’s stance  that organizers already had invested $152,000 in park restoration with $30,000 in further improvements on the way.

Going forward, Riot Fest is “preparing plans and dedicating additional resources” to make certain the 2014 damage will “never be repeated,” organizers said.

Those plans include having a landscaping contractor on site before, during and after the festival so damage can be immediately addressed instead of waiting until weeks after the event.

Other changes include: keeping the drainage system in and around the festival grounds cleared and maintained; modifying the Riot Fest layout to maximize open space and paved surfaces; and adding more protective fencing, ground cover, mulch and surfaces that can stand up to the wear and tear of a large-scale event.

Maldonado said Friday that the coalition was only publicly expressing what 26th ward residents have been telling him.

“I fully support the concerns and needs of the residents of this ward,” Maldonado said. “Unfortunately, Riot Fest has outgrown the limited confines of our small Humboldt Park community. I would be happy to work with Riot Fest to find it a new home where it can continue to grow and become one of the most successful musical fests in Chicago.”

His constituents also object to Riot Fest’s request to close nearby streets for nine days in order to better set up for the three-day festival, he said.

“The majority of the residents around Humboldt Park and throughout the 26th ward have expressed to me that the shutdown of the park for several days before and after Riot Fest and the serious damage to Humboldt Park that Riot Fest organizers did not even begin to repair until the following year have adversely affected their quality of life and their freedom to use the park,” said Maldonado.

But Riot Fest complained that Maldonado failed to attend “multiple walk-throughs” with Chicago Park District supervisors and project managers, who, according to Petryshyn, “expressed approval of the progress made thus far,” including approving the ball fields for use by the spring leagues.

Before-and-after photos posted online by Riot Fest organizers appear to support that contention.

But on Friday, Park District officials declined to weigh in on the controversy.

“Riot Fest has not requested a permit for a 2015 festival,” parks spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said.

However, sources said it is unlikely the district would approve a permit for a neighborhood festival where the alderman and residents are opposed.

 


Before-and-after photos posted online by Riot Fest organizers appear to support that contention.

But on Friday, Park District officials declined to weigh in on the controversy.

“Riot Fest has not requested a permit for a 2015 festival,” parks spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said.

However, sources said it is unlikely the district would approve a permit for a neighborhood festival where the alderman and residents are opposed.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

Resident Xavier Nogueras, shows a petition with over 700 signatures to remove the Riot Fest music festival from Humbolt Park. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun Times

Resident Xavier Nogueras, shows a petition with over 700 signatures to remove the Riot Fest music festival from Humbolt Park. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun Times