David Kennedy may have one of the most enviable jobs in the industry. As the deputy director of the department of cultural affairs and special events for the city of Chicago, he has been instrumental in planning everything from the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks celebration parade to the FIFA World Cup in 1994.
While his job never comes easy (“The challenge, as in any big city, are the overlapping of events to plan all year-round,” he says), it’s always rewarding. This year alone, two hallmarks of his department have birthdays: The Chicago Blues Festival turns 30 and extends to four days; and the Chicago Jazz Festival will celebrate its 35th anniversary- no doubt in thanks to Kennedy’s leadership. So what’s his favorite Chicago event? The Chicago Marathon: “The city is transformed into an inspirational tourist hotbed for one long weekend.”
ILM+E: In your tenure with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in Chicago, what have been some of the accomplishments and the landmark events you’ve put together?
DK: The city has seen tremendous growth in the Chicago Marathon in the past 10 years. It has become one of the World Marathon Majors and has a great reputation as one of the best big city marathons. Other landmark events in Chicago have been planning and hosting an intimate Welcome Dinner for President Hu Jintao of China and assisting in the planning of the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Victory Parade.
ILM+E: How have special events in Chicago changed in the past few years, and how is our city better equipped now to handle larger events than say 10 years ago?
DK: The city of Chicago communicates more efficiently between city departments and event organizers. We have learned from our experience with special events to communicate more productively. Our interdepartmental communication helped the city of Chicago host a very successful NATO Summit in 2012.
ILM+E: What are some of the highlights of the summer event season this year?
DK: The 33rd Annual Taste of Chicago. This year’s event is July 10-14, and we are currently firming plans to make it one of the best ever. Other summer highlights are the music series in Millennium Park, the 30th Annual Blues Festival will kick off the large lakefront festival season June 6-9, and summer wouldn’t be complete without the 55th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show along the city’s lakefront Aug. 17 and 18.
ILM+E: Is there a dream event you’d love to see in Chicago in the future?
DK: The Super Bowl.