The 25th annual wreathing of the famous Art Institute of Chicago lions, apparently a holiday tradition for some, was a chilly spectacle yesterday morning. At 10 am on Black Friday, hundreds gather on the steps and sidewalks in front of the Art Institute to participate in the annual rite. Until this year, I had never been one of them, but when I saw notice of the event pop up in my Facebook feed I thought it sounded like a good reason to get out for an early morning downtown stroll since it’s now right around the corner from me.
The event was billed as “emceed by the Chicago cast of Hamilton,” the Broadway phenomenon of the year, but indeed my suspicion that the cast would not perform any numbers was well-founded. Three or four were present, but instead we were treated to the energetic gospel-fueled tunes of Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago. The talented youngsters and their charismatic leader (presumably Walt) performed one Christmas song, a Chicago history number (“from the top of the Willis Tower to Lower Wacker Drive”), a gospel crowd-pleaser, and Pharrell’s ubiquitous smash-hit Happy.
It was great to be in a mash-up with a bunch of happy Chicagoans and tourists – we swayed and clapped and generally had a lovey time. There were rumors of free hot chocolate, but I was too late and too far back and under-motivated to shove through and conquer for the free beverage.
As to the main event – the iconic 1893 Edward Kearneys lions were actually pre-wreathed, but the powers that be made a production of pulling off special coverings that draped the Institute’s guardians….5-4-3-2-1….yippee!
The wreathing of the lions (or unveiling of the pre-wreathed lions) was 20 minutes well-spent.
Thanks for reading.