'More space to have fun': Fans pack Spring Awakening festival, assess the suburban location

  • The eighth annual Spring Awakening Music Festival was held in a new, more spacious location in Hoffman Estates this year to accommodate the growth of the three-day event.

    The eighth annual Spring Awakening Music Festival was held in a new, more spacious location in Hoffman Estates this year to accommodate the growth of the three-day event. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • About 25,000 attendees are expected to attend the Spring Awakening Music Festival on Friday, the first day of the weekend-long event.

    About 25,000 attendees are expected to attend the Spring Awakening Music Festival on Friday, the first day of the weekend-long event. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • A festivalgoer vapes as she listens to Axilon on the first day of the Spring Awakening Music Festival.

    A festivalgoer vapes as she listens to Axilon on the first day of the Spring Awakening Music Festival. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • St. Charles residents Chloe Frankowski, left, and Lindsey Choate, both 19, sport some glitter during the first day of the Spring Awakening Music Festival, held outside the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates.

    St. Charles residents Chloe Frankowski, left, and Lindsey Choate, both 19, sport some glitter during the first day of the Spring Awakening Music Festival, held outside the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Marcos Herrera of Des Plaines wears a mask as he listens to electronic dance music Friday at the Spring Awakening Music Festival.

    Marcos Herrera of Des Plaines wears a mask as he listens to electronic dance music Friday at the Spring Awakening Music Festival. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comGirls bang their heads during day one of the Spring Awakening Music Festival in Hoffman Estates Friday.

    Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comGirls bang their heads during day one of the Spring Awakening Music Festival in Hoffman Estates Friday.

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comThousands flocked to Hoffman Estates Friday for day one of the Spring Awakening Music Festival.

    Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comThousands flocked to Hoffman Estates Friday for day one of the Spring Awakening Music Festival.

  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comSabrina Mella of Libertyville sports some glittery jewelry on her face during day one of the Spring Awakening Music Festival in Hoffman Estates Friday.

    Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comSabrina Mella of Libertyville sports some glittery jewelry on her face during day one of the Spring Awakening Music Festival in Hoffman Estates Friday.

  • Brian Shamie/bshamie@dailyherald.comDJ Jason Ross entertained a crowd during the first day of the Spring Awakening Music Festival on Friday in Hoffman Estates.

    Brian Shamie/bshamie@dailyherald.comDJ Jason Ross entertained a crowd during the first day of the Spring Awakening Music Festival on Friday in Hoffman Estates.

 
 
Updated 6/7/2019 9:21 PM

Cheers erupted as the gates opened Friday afternoon for the Spring Awakening electronic music festival and fans -- many dressed head-to-toe in glitter and brightly colored garb -- spilled into its more spacious Hoffman Estates location this year.

The 27-acre site outside the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates offers a somewhat different vibe than the previous Chicago locations, festivalgoers said, but it doesn't change what they enjoy most about the event.

 

They came to dance. They came to enjoy the weekend with their friends. And they came to experience the festival's lineup, stocked with some of the world's biggest DJs and electronic acts.

"I'm so in love with EDM," said 18-year-old Sabrina Mella of Libertyville. "I've been dreaming of going to Spring Awakening since I was 12, since my older sister went. I love live music."

The growth of the festival, now in its eighth year, prompted Chicago-based organizer React Presents to relocate from the 10-acre Addams/Medill Park on Chicago's Near West Side to the larger suburban space. Crowd estimates project roughly 25,000 people Friday and Sunday, and about 30,000 on Saturday.

"The venue is so much bigger now," Mella said. "Last year, I heard it was very packed, so I'm glad that they moved it here."

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The first day of the festival was sunny and warm, but recent rainfall caused a slight delay in getting the Hoffman Estates grounds ready, organizers said.

As the gates opened, construction equipment was still on site moving mounds of mulch and dirt. The hiccup resulted in the temporary closure of the Solstice Stage, though the festival tweeted just after 4 p.m. saying it was "back in action."

The new venue is closer and more convenient for suburbanites like Chloe Frankowski and Lindsey Choate, both 19 and from St. Charles. They were excited about the site's spacious layout, which includes several stages, Ferris wheels, food trucks and various other vendors.

After traveling from Iowa City to experience his second Spring Awakening, 21-year-old Guy Turi said he preferred the Chicago setting. At Addams/Medill Park, there was plenty of grassy space to relax and wait for the next set, he said, whereas the Hoffman Estates site is all pavement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The suburban location is more of a hassle for Chicago residents Mara Williams, 20, and Francesca Plantz, 21, who arrived early Friday to score a front-row spot for Zedd. But they embraced the venue change by booking a hotel nearby and getting out of the city for a night.

In the eyes of Chicago DJs Brian Boncher and Alex Peace, the suburban site offers an elevated experience for musicians and fans.

Born and raised in the area, they performed at last year's Spring Awakening and had no doubt React Presents could put on a high-quality festival anywhere. But the duo welcomed the idea of a new venue -- and what it says about the event's success.

"The fact that it moved to the location it's in now is a benefit to the festival," Peace said. "There's more space to have fun, creatively and physically."

It also might make things a bit easier for those attending, they said. There are more transportation and parking options. Hotels in the suburbs are typically cheaper than those in the city.

And it's only a 15-minute drive to Drink Nightclub in Schaumburg, where Boncher and Peace's label, Tru Musica, is having an unofficial after-party Friday night.

"As artists and label owners, we're doing our best to take advantage of all the good things the fest can provide for a local artist," Peace said.

"You reach so many people from all over the world," Boncher said. "The sheer amount is just amazing to play for."

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