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Night Out in the Parks launches 1,200 free summer events in every Chicago neighborhood

Look forward to movies, dancing, concerts, theater, and circus

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More than 1,200 summer programs and events, most of them free, will bring people out the Chicago parks this summer. Night Out in the Parks, a program packed with theater, dance, music, and art, kicks off its seventh year running.

Last year more than 250,000 people took part in 8,300 hours of entertainment, Chicago Park District superintendent Mike Kelly said at an announcement at Ellis Park in Douglas.

This season 140 artists and creative organizations are part of the summer series. Once again, the city brings back the popular Movies in the Park with more than 200 screenings and Summer Dance where attendees learn a number and dance the night away.

The programming runs the gamut from nature days for kids with snakes and turtles to DJs and art installations to celebrate queer pride. There’s a ton of music like Sam Trump’s series featuring songs from Nat King Cole, Millennium Park’s weekly music series at Pritzker Pavilion, and Pianos in the Park where residents can play a tune.

Chicago’s Year of Theatre initiative will bring a record 40 theater companies to parks all summer. People will be able to see Hamilton in Englewood, Shakespeare in Chatham, and other plays at Theatre on the Lake. A few highlights include live puppet shows from Jabberwocky Puppet Parade, spoken word performances Power in Pride from About Face Theater, and a modern hip-hop opera The Rosina Project.

To find out what’s happening in your park you can search through the city’s full schedule of events or download the My Chi Parks app.

Night Out in the Parks is about reinventing what a park is, the mayor said at the announcement. Of course, there’s baseball and basketball but parks can also have music, poetry, spoken word, circus, and theater all for free.

“Musicians, actors, playwrights, and poets can go and reclaim what a park can be,” he said. “That lawn chair you use for dibs in the winter? Bring it to the park where it can be used for free theater.”

This summer season of events is particularly special because it comes after an award for Social Equity Innovation from the National Recreation and Park Association. Winners of this are commended for their efforts to include people across demographics in park programming.

It’s also the park district’s 85th anniversary of when the 22 independent park systems merged into one. Under Kelly, the city has added more than 1,000 acres of parkland, along with 377 playgrounds in the past eight years. “LA and NYC can’t reach that number, we’re second to none,” said Kelly at a City Club of Chicago forum later on Wednesday.