By Bridget Doyle
8:37 PM EDT, May 14, 2013
Circus performers and Shakespearean actors helped Mayor Rahm Emanuel announce Tuesday that the city is doubling the number of performances and cultural events at its parks this summer.
Amid lush greenery and newly bloomed flowers at Garfield Park Conservatory, Emanuel said there will be more than 750 cultural activities planned at parks in all city neighborhoods — including some new programs and expansions of existing summertime programs.
Residents across the city will now have a chance to enjoy "the cultural experiences usually reserved for the few who can afford" them, the mayor said.
"All families, regardless of where you live, regardless of what your ZIP code is, will have a night out at the park that will be safe and family-friendly," Emanuel said.
A few of the new programs highlighted include an Eye on India Festival with Bollywood movies, dance lessons and yoga; Grant Park Music Festival choral performances; and Juicebox music, dance, theater and puppet performances for children.
The existing Shakespeare in the Park program is expanding this year and will feature free performances of "The Comedy of Errors" in 18 Chicago parks. The traveling stage will unfold as far north as Loyola Park in Rogers Park and as far south as Ridge Park in Beverly.
Dance in the Parks, an event bringing professional dance performances to Chicago parks, is hosting seven free shows this summer in Humboldt Park, Irving Park, Edgewater and other neighborhoods.
Other nighttime events include concerts, theater, outdoor movies, jazz and circus performances in local parks. Some of the programs will be free; others will have a participation fee.
Funding for the programs will be augmented with $750,000 of the $2 million in NATO Summit legacy funds Emanuel previously said would go to neighborhood and cultural programs.
Michael Kelly, CEO of the Chicago Park District, and Michelle Boone, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, joined the mayor Tuesday morning on the West Side. Both credited the mayor's cultural plan announced last October for the increased programming and funding.
Kelly said the events are targeted at night and weekend hours to give more residents a chance to attend with their families.
At the conservatory, Emanuel talked with costumed Shakespeare performers and joked with Boone and aldermen. Boone told the crowd that Emanuel was her "favorite dancer."
The mayor also talked about the city's goal of having each child within a seven-minute walk to a park and discussed redoing about 350 playgrounds across the city.
For more information, go to nightoutintheparks.com.
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