To whom it may concern,
In response to Lewis Lazare's story entitled "Poi Dog's Ravinia Jam" in the September 12 Culture Club, I would like to relate my experience at the Poi Dog Pondering concert at Ravinia on August 23.
I am the president of the social club at Saint Michael's Church in Old Town. Our group had purchased lawn admissions to the show for 85 people (approximately ten percent of our membership). Our plan was to rendezvous at the Metra Clybourn platform and to take the 4:43 PM train to Ravinia. When I arrived at the station at 4:15 there were already hundreds of people gathered, and the crowd probably doubled by the time the train arrived. Many (perhaps the majority) of the people were unable to board the train, which had not been prepared with enough cars to accommodate the crowd. (Those who tried to board at Irving Park or any stops north probably never had a chance.) The next train did not arrive for an hour and 15 minutes; though I was lucky enough to get aboard, many of our group were not and thus were deprived of the opportunity to attend the concert. In hindsight, they were the lucky ones.
When we arrived at Ravinia, the people on our train and in the west parking lot were prevented from crossing the tracks and entering the Ravinia Festival grounds by the Metra train on the eastern of the two tracks, which arrived a few minutes before us and (for reasons I don't know) didn't depart for over ten minutes. As it rolled past, it revealed not a concert but a zoo, as thousands of people swarmed the entrance trying to find friends, purchase tickets, pick up tickets at will-call, etc. Due to the huge crowd at the Clybourn station, we were unable to connect with some of our members who had requested tickets, and with the commotion and confusion at the main entrance to the park, trying to find people was futile. We had no way of knowing if the tickets we left at will-call would be claimed, but we left them there just in case. Ultimately, we took a $200 loss on tickets that were never claimed, probably because those social club members could not get to the park.
Once inside, we had planned to sit together as a group, but the lawn had already been completely claimed long before we arrived, and there was no way that the few dozen of us who had managed to stay together to that point were going to find a spot to accommodate us all--it was everyone for themselves. Ultimately, I found myself on the far reaches of the north lawn with a few friends, unable to hear the music except when standing because the crowd noise overpowered Ravinia's PA system (which is probably optimized for quiet classical-music aficionados, not the party atmosphere of this concert).
The money our group lost on this event is an unexpected problem, but the greater concern to me is that Ravinia's management denied us the social experience we'd planned for our members. The experience was particularly unfortunate for those new to Saint Michael's (and the social club), who hoped that this event would provide them an opportunity to meet and socialize with fellow members of our parish community. To reiterate the opinion of Poi Dog's manager David Prince: "[Ravinia] cheated [Poi Dog's] fans out of a proper Ravinia experience....The lawn was a disaster." By not putting a limit on lawn admissions and by failing to alert Metra of the volume of passengers they would need to transport, Ravinia created and perpetuated a fraud which taints any organization associated with this concert--our group and Poi Dog Pondering included. I hope that all those who were inconvenienced (or worse) by this event lay blame where it is deserved--right on top of Ravinia management.
Dante A. Bacani