Despite reopening talk, Frontier Days organizers stand by cancellation

  • With crowds upward of 20,000 during some of Frontier Days' busiest nights, organizers of the annual festival in Recreation Park in Arlington Heights doubled down on their decision to cancel the event again this year.

    With crowds upward of 20,000 during some of Frontier Days' busiest nights, organizers of the annual festival in Recreation Park in Arlington Heights doubled down on their decision to cancel the event again this year. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2012

 
 
Updated 3/17/2021 6:29 PM

Despite recent talk of more summer events in conjunction with a further loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, organizers of one of the largest festivals in the suburbs on Wednesday stood by their cancellation decision made only a week ago.

"It just came down to: with the uncertainty, we're sticking with our decision. We think it's the best thing for us right now," said Lars Ohrstrom, president of the nonprofit volunteer board of directors that oversees Frontier Days in Arlington Heights.

 

Board members met again Tuesday night after state and local health officials indicated they could ease limitations on activities in the coming days. Also Tuesday, Ravinia Festival in Highland Park announced plans to reopen for concerts in July.

Ohrstrom said he's analyzed Ravinia's plan, which calls for distanced seating in its pavilion and lawn, and smaller numbers of performers on stage.

"I don't want to sound like a schoolteacher, but to try to have the (Frontier Days) festival with restrictions on it like we believe there's going to be -- our business model doesn't work that way," Ohrstrom said. "It would just be difficult for us to have a setup like that and to keep control like that."

In addition to health and logistical concerns, much of the board's decision can be chalked up to financial considerations, Ohrstrom said.

Organizers were pushing up on deadlines to ink contracts for entertainment and other vendors for the annual five-day event in July. Those costs are funded by proceeds from beer, food and carnival game sales.

Ohrstrom contrasted Frontier Days with the government-run summer concerts in Elk Grove Village, which pays for bands through a mix of hotel taxes, video gambling revenues, tobacco license fees and sponsorships. Mayor Craig Johnson declared last week the popular concert series would take place this July.

"Some of the bands are in the midlevel five figures to come, and what business you need to flow through your park to pay for that," Ohrstrom said. "Somebody like Cheap Trick is a minimum $80,000. That's a lot of beer."

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