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Chicago Blues Festival kicks off a musical summer at Grant Park

Dr. John will headline the festival's closing day on Sunday, June 15th
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

As any reader of the Chicago Neighborhood Examiner knows by now, it’s just not a party in Chicago without live music. This weekend, Grant Park will herald in its summer of musical delights with the highly anticipated Chicago Blues Festival.

The largest free blues festival in the world and the biggest of Chicago’s many music festivals, Chicago Blues Fest brings 500,000 blues fans to five stages in Grant Park to enjoy the melodious stylings of some of the globe’s most famous musicians. The festival will start on Friday, June 13th and continue until Sunday, June 15th, running from 11am until 9:30pm each day. Another major appeal of this Chicago summer staple is its free admission, a huge bonus for those Chicagoans who wish to enjoy many, if not all, of the city’s music festivals on a budget.

Given that Chicago is the Blues Capital of the World, this festival attracts some of the most iconic singers of the blues. This year, the Chicago Blues Festival will kick off on Friday night with Billy Boy Arnold. Bettye LaVette will headline the festival on Saturday. Finally, the New Orleans legend Dr. John will close the three days of music on Sunday (fans of Top Chef will recognize him as the guest judge of the hot sauce Quickfire challenge on the latest season in The Big Easy).

While patrons are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages and barbecue grills onto festival grounds, blues fans can enjoy a variety of vendors and food trucks at the festival. Jerk, Giordano’s, and the Fat Shallot, among others, will ensure that festivalgoers don’t sacrifice their stomachs in order to please their ears.

Music lovers who can’t wait until Friday to start celebrating the Chicago Blues Festival can participate in the 17th Annual XRT Blues Breakers Blues Fest Broadcast on Thursday, June 12th from 6-7:30pm. This ninety-minute program, hosted by XRT’s Tom Marker and Shemekia Copeland, will take place at Buddy Guy’s Legends. Johnny Winter, “Big Head” Todd Park Mohr, and Ronnie Baker Brooks will perform live as a celebration of all things blues. While only guests who are age 21 or over can join XRT in person at Legends, anyone can enjoy the trio of artists live on the air. More information about this Blues Festival kickoff event can be found at

Chicagoans can celebrate the blues at other preview events on Thursday evening, such as performances at the Navy Pier Beer Garden by Theo Huff and Nellie Tiger Travis and a showing of the new documentary Big Bill Broonzy: The Man Who Brought the Blues to Britain at the Chicago Cultural Center. No one should have to deprive him or herself until Friday of some of the summer’s best music.

All information about the Chicago Blues Festival, from frequently asked questions to a map of the festival, can be found at

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