CHICAGO The Parkways Foundation, the Chicago Park District's nonprofit partner, kicked off Lollapalooza weekend Thursday night with its opening-night benefit, Galapalooza, at the Petrillo Band Shell. For the second year running, the organization, which worked with Lollapalooza producers C3 Presents on the event, utilized outdoor lounge environments, with sleek furniture, bottle service, and rolling dinner carts as its main draw. “We had a real hit with the lounge atmosphere last year,” said Parkways Foundation's executive director Brenda Palm. “We've seen other charities model their events after our idea.”
Galapalooza gives guests a glimpse of the setup taking place in Grant Park for Lollapalooza, which features 120 acts on eight stages over the course of three days. A V.I.P. reception that took place before the event offered a look at the evening's other purpose—raising funds to restore Chicago's 80-year-old Buckingham Fountain. The reception took place near the fountain and featured open bars serving the event's signature cocktail—a Grey Goose pomegranate martini—as well as passed hors d'oeuvres from Limelight Catering.
Tricked-out golf carts shuttled guests between the V.I.P. reception and the main event at the band shell. (Some guests clutched their drinks for dear life as the carts moved quickly on the gravel-covered grounds.) Once at the Petrillo, guests could partake in mini manicures provided by Be, a Chicago-based nail-care company, or participate in circus-inspired activities with CircEsteem, a group that teaches circus arts to young people. (Some female guests even held their skirts while spinning on a giant wheel.) DJ Bald Eagle, a Lollapalooza performer, set a musical backdrop of alternating slow numbers and dance tunes.
Silent auction items took a musical bent befitting the festivities. On the docket were items such as a signed lyric sheet from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and passes to a live performance at WXRT's studios. “We really tried to make the silent auction items 'priceless,'” said Palm. “Galapalooza is for people who love music but wouldn't necessarily go to Lollapalooza."
Once guests were stationed at their open-air lounges (featuring contemporary ottomans and low tables designed by Lounge 22, a Los Angeles-based furniture company), they found chilled bottles of vodka and white wine awaiting them. Roving dim sum carts provided dinner. There was also a food station set up under a tent on the grounds. “We make sure that the food is diverse and fun,” Palm said. “We want our guests to say, 'Oh, I ate something really cool at Galapalooza.'” To that end, Limelight provided a medley of Asian- and Latin American-inspired dishes.
Perry Farrell, lead signer of Jane's Addiction and the founder of the current version of Lollapalooza, which has been a Chicago-only affair since 2005, took to the stage to introduce the evening's headliners—Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, a high-energy funk, soul, and R&B band that had the crowd up and dancing within a few songs.
The evening wrapped after the concert around 10 p.m., and guests left with reusable cloth bags filled with Chicago magazine's “Best of the City” issue and other goodies. According to Palm, planning for next year's event begins immediately. “We're already thinking about '09,” she confirmed.