Mike Lag and his wife Kim had planned on spending the second day of their trip to Chicago on Saturday relaxing with a good book at the Chicago Park District’s Promontory Point, off 55th Street in Hyde Park.
Those plans were derailed, however, as the popular lakefront park was closed to the public for the wedding reception of Star Wars creator George Lucas and Chicago businesswoman Mellody Hobson.
The Carol Stream couple said they were unfazed by the lack of access.
“I’m a huge George Lucas fan,” said Mike Lag, 43. “He can do what he wants.”
The lavish wedding reception caused a stir in the normally serene park better known for its picturesque views of the city’s skyline than the bank of TV cameras and cameras flashing while an A-list of celebrity guests arrived.
More than 50 people, many nearby residents, flocked to the corner of 55th Street and South Shore Drive, where an army of stretch golf carts waited to shuttle guests through the pedestrian tunnel under Lake Shore Drive and into the reception.
The crowd cheered at the entrance of Robin Williams, who mugged for clicking cameras and bowed. Al Roker strolled in later, as did Rev. Jesse Jackson, dressed in a tan suit and appearing serious days before his son, former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., was scheduled to be sentenced in a federal corruption case. Several in the crowd buzzed about the rumor that Prince would be performing.
Bobby Ray, 38, lives at just across South Shore Drive from the pedestrian tunnel. He said he planned to grab a bottle of wine, open his window and “steal a Prince concert.”
Tony Berkley, 47, made a three-hour drive with his three children from their home in Kalamazoo, Mich., all in the hopes of seeing the man behind his kids’ favorite film.
“I estimated I’ve spent $3,500 on Lego Star Wars,” he said. “I want a glass of champagne.”
Armed with toy light sabers and a Star Wars backpack, Berkley’s children said they wanted to see some of their favorite movie characters, especially Harrison Ford.
Several nearby residents said they were pleased with the positive attention given to Hyde Park, as well as the fresh coat of paint and landscaping work done in advance of the event.
“Hyde Park still gets a bad rap,” said Stephany Contrella, 26, who joined friends for a barbecue across Lake Shore Drive from the point. “I think it’s cool the park down here gets recognition.”
But not everyone was happy with the party.
Dan Goldman, 70, said he was upset his plans to sit and take pictures at the park were blocked by the large, white temporary fence and security team surrounding the park’s western edge.
“(Lucas) should be embarrassed,” Goldman said. “President Obama I would accept. But a Hollywood director? This is just crap. The city should not do that.”
Earlier in the afternoon, curious passersby ventured through the freshly painted Lake Shore Drive underpass and up to a white fence between the park and the lakefront bike path.
Some stopped to ask what was happening, while others marveled at the large, tent-like structure where guests would likely party the night away.
“When I woke up Monday morning and saw them setting up, I thought it must be something for Obama,” said Steven Platzer, 62, who passed by on his bicycle to get a closer look at the set up. “They must have paid a bloody fortune.”
What went on inside? Only the newlyweds and their guests knew.
As the party began, Chicago police on bicycles closed off public access to the underpass and kept people on the bicycle path from stopping to check out the action.
“It’s kind of like our little spot,” said Roger Eichorn, 35, a Hyde Park resident, about Promontory Point. “Now, it’s been taken over by the 0.1 percent. Or, the 0.01 percent, or some small percentage.”
Tribune reporter Antonio Olivo contributed.