Lollapalooza Draws Sold-Out Crowd Despite Rain, Extreme Heat

Though Lollapalooza's outdoor location exposed it to pouring rain, stifling heat, and a few gate-crashers, some 225,000 music fans rocked on undaunted.

By Jenny Berg August 11, 2009, 11:29 AM EDT

Some 225,000 fans crowded into Grant Park during Lollapalooza.

Photo: Barry Brecheisen for BizBash

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Produced by C3 Presents, Lollapalooza—the music festival that overtook Grant Park from Friday to Sunday, offered performances from 130 bands, and drew a sold-out crowd of 225,000—had plenty of on-site brand activations. Sponsored stages throughout the park bore signage calling out companies such as VitaminWater and Budweiser; PlayStation had a tented structure housing its new games; and Honda sponsored a whole “Eco Zone,” where a display area showcased the company's 2010 Honda Insight hybrid vehicle. But rain ponchos needed no advertising to see a sudden spike in sales due to festival traffic.

As crowds headed to festival grounds during a Friday downpour, Walgreens and 7-Elevens locations downtown were wiped out of umbrellas and rain gear; and it was not uncommon to see concertgoers cutting up trash bags for use as cover-ups. But as bands such as Fleet Foxes, Ben Folds, and Of Montreal performed, the only weather-related inconveniences seemed to be sightlines impaired by a sea of umbrellas floating above fans' heads, and the occasional chilly guest—if that was the reasoning behind one girl's exclamation of “I want to crawl into your beard” during the Fleet Foxes show.

On Saturday and Sunday, dry skies and scorching temps—sometimes exceeding 90 degrees—prevailed, lending popularity to scattered misters and the Chicago Fire Department's mobile ventilation unit, which was topped with a giant water-spewing fan and stationed near the northern end of the park. Between sets from Tool, Snoop Dogg, and Jane's Addiction, festival attendees took a break from the heat by sprawling out in a shady area known as the Q101 “Hammock Haven,” while V.I.P. ticket-holders hung out in private cabana tents, which offered lounge furniture from Classic Party Rentals, Bliss spa treatments, snacks from Limelight Catering, bars, and air conditioning. 

On all three days, younger guests and their families occupied themselves at an area called “Kidzapalooza,” where bands such as Lunch Monkey and Care Bears on Fire performed, and activities included hula-hooping and rock-star hairstyling, a procedure that left several pint-size attendees with glittery, colorful coifs. In Liederhosen's Biergarten—an area more suited for those with proper I.D.—guests sipped beer at umbrella-topped tables and gazed up at a rotating statue of the St. Pauli girl.

Security patrolled several checkpoints throughout the weekend, warding off the would-be fence-hoppers who periodically took running starts at the high metal gates that formed a barrier between Grant Park and Columbus Drive. Security also took on tasks such as checking bags at the main Lollapalooza entrance and ensuring that concertgoers exited the festival at a few preselected points. Further safety measures included an area dubbed “Medical Row,” where emergency vehicles and medical tents stood in a curbside line.

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