CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s surge in violence is causing safety concerns at the city’s well-known neighborhood festivals.
Just last month, two people died after they were shot hours after the Puerto Rican Parade. This weekend, as CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek reports, police stepped up their patrols near the Great Colombian Fest.
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The first day of the festival wraps up at 11 p.m. Saturday, and will continue on Sunday. During the festival, Chicago Police officers were patrolling just about every stretch of the area in Humboldt Park.
The festival’s director said, after what happened at the Puerto Rican Parade last month, CPD stepped up patrols significantly.
The past year has been tough for Jorge Ortega.
“We got hit sort of twice. You know, we were feeling all the deaths and souls that we lost to COVID, and then turn around and have such a violent spring and summer in Chicago,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the epidemic of violence in Chicago were very much on the mind of Ortega as he made plans to bring the Great Colombian Fest back to Humboldt Park for the first time in two years.
“We took a risk and a gamble. You know, we needed this event sort of to give people a little bit of normality, but also to unite our people,” he said.
While holding the festival might be a risk, Ortega made sure it was a calculated one.
When it comes to the issue of violence, Ortega estimated his security team inside of the gates is 60% larger than it was two years ago.
He also estimated Chicago Police presence outside of the gates was 90% more than 2019, saying there were more officers than ever before in festival history.
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“It’s just hard, you know? I’ve been to a couple of vigils,” he said.
As for COVID-19 safety, the festival does have protocols in place; encouraging, but not requiring, either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test.
For two festival goers, Vickie and Molly, attending a festival again is exciting, but feels kind of strange.
“I am comfortable being outside, and with my close friends who I’m comfortable with, but being in like a closer group setting, I’m not really into still,” Vickie said “But this is nice, this is really spread out.”
“You can see mostly everyone’s unmasked. I feel pretty okay if we’re like this, open-air, and trying to not be close to people,” Molly said.
Hiram Padilla lives in Humboldt Park, and said he hasn’t been vaccinated for personal reasons, but looking around, he said he feels everyone is being more careful about things this year.
“You know what? People are alive, and people are doing what they’re supposed to do, but we’re being more careful this time about things,” he said.
Ortega said he went back and forth about whether he should hold the festival this year. For him, both the festival and the pandemic are personal, after losing his father to COVID-19 last year.
“It’s tough, but my dad and my mom, my mom’s with us today, and you know, it’s like in show business, you know, the show must go on,” he said.
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Ortega said the festival will hold a memorial for his father and other COVID victims on Sunday. Ortega’s father was considered a pillar of the festival.