The heart of the city is in the heart of the city: Millennium Park.
Chicago's crown jewel isn't a tourist trap Chicagoans avoid. Sure, out-of-towners stop at the iconic Bean to marvel at their own reflections and snap photos. But Chicagoans also are lured there by the park's breathtaking views of Chicago's majestic skyline; the lush, well-manicured garden; acoustics from the state-of-the-art sound system of Pritzker Pavilion; and the interactive water feature Crown Fountain.
When Millennium Park opened 10 years ago , it was intended to be the "people's park." And the people of Chicago have visited the park countless times.
They touched the Stanley Cup there. They tasted delicious samples at the Chicago Gourmet foodie event. They watched the premiere of Kanye West's video there. They admired clothes at runway shows. They shared in civil union and wedding vows. They went ice skating.
They attended numerous festivals, listened to free concerts, packed picnics for movies in the park, exercised during workouts and splashed water around the fountain.
Throughout the past 10 years, Millennium Park has served as a place to play and relax. A place to escape from the stress and hassle of daily life. A place that has captured special moments. A place where residents from all over the city have come together for one reason or another.
HOW DO CHICAGOANS USE THE PARK TODAY?
Models and designers walk the runway during the finale at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's fashion show, The Walk, at Millennium Park in Chicago on May 2, 2014. (Chicago Tribune)
Anna Hovet, 28, Old Town
Hovet moved from North Dakota to Chicago to go to the School of the Art Institute in 2003, just as the park neared completion. She made many fashion memories there, such as showing her collection on a runway at the park as part of Fashion Focus Chicago.
"It was so wonderful and professional. The tent space was beautiful. It was like a New York tent. There's not another place in Chicago where you can do a New York style fashion tent other than Millennium Park," she said. "It really felt legitimate, and being a designer here and being able to show on the stage validated what I was doing."
Millennium Monument at Wrigley Square, Millennium Park on June 15, 2004. (Chicago Tribune)
Carmen Jones, 28, Hyde Park
Jones sat in the shade on the lawn at the Wrigley Square as she unpacked cheese sticks for her four young charges. "It's a nice family place to be. You can bring a picnic basket," she said. "It's great, especially when the weather is good."
During their four-hour stay at the park, the kids checked out the Target Family Fun Festival tent with singalongs, dancing and storytelling. "This is nice to do in the summer," Jones said. "When it's fall, you can't do much, so we try to take advantage of it."
Visitors enjoy the cooling water trough near the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune)
Audra Lewicki, 31, Rogers Park; and Joan Pinnell, 30, Logan Square
Both work at the Chicago Board of Elections
The two walked three blocks from their office to enjoy an outdoor lunch in the Lurie Garden.
Being surrounded by flowers and plants allowed Lewicki to "be inspired and relax on my lunch break." Lewicki, who runs an urban farm business Dirt Doll, sat on the hardwood footbridge and dipped her toes in the shallow water to cool off.
"This garden is constantly changing. It's really fun to watch and it's so cool," she said.
Eating lunch in a space that looks like "Edward Scissorhands ran amok" is a welcome break from staring at the computer screen, Pinnell said. Pinnell likened the park to a "mini-Ravinia in the city limits" where she has attended concerts and events like the Frankie Knuckles tribute.
"It felt communal, uplifting, and who doesn't like house music?" she asked.
The RedEye staff on July 11 went to Millennium Park to film a "flash mob"-style dance to interact with visitors to the Bean in celebration of Millennium Park's 10-year anniversary:
An 'engagement ring' at Millennium Park on July 14, 2014. Some people get engaged or married at the park and photographers often capture the moments. (Lenny Gilmore / RedEye)
Kenny Nakai, 34, Avondale
The picturesque Millennium Park is often the backdrop for engagement and wedding photos.
"Sometimes people have certain shots in mind they like. Some people like the Bean or they like being downtown," Nakai said. "For me, I try to keep people away from the typical cliche photos taken in Millennium Park."
Instead of having the couple pose in front of the Bean, Nakai steers them to the well-maintained Lurie Garden, where the trees change colors in the fall, or the Nichols Bridgeway by the Art Institute to incorporate Chicago's architecture in the background.
Charmarjae Bass, 9, of Chicago, waits for a shower at the Crown Fountain Wednesday, June 25, 2014 in Millennium Park. (Chicago Tribune)
Gloria Robles, 23, Humboldt Park
Robles' 1-year-old son crawled on the floor of the wet granite reflecting pool as his cousins stomped on the ground, splashing water nearby.
"He loves the water," she said. "We come here with the kids and walk around the park, take pictures with the flowers and the Bean."
After a long day at the park, she said the baby is tuckered out and easily goes to sleep upon getting home.
Abbey Dye, 16, laughs after falling on the ice rink while skating with friends visiting from Michigan on a sunny winter day Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 at Millennium Park. (Chicago Tribune)
Lauren Stanciel, 14, Bronzeville
After School Matters participant
Aside from painting lanterns for garden sculptures during the week under the After School Matters tent, Stanciel said she often rides her bike with her family to the park to listen to music at the pavilion.
"Sometimes in the winter, me and my friends will go ice skating on the ice skating rink," she said. "And then a lot of times I come here and hang out after going to the Art Institute because there's a bridge that takes you to the park, or like during the Taste of Chicago I often get food and then come and eat over here because it's less crowded."
Instructors, teachers, mentors
Visitors begin to gather for a free concert in Millennium Park Thursday, June 5, 2014 featuring the Civitas Ensemble and Christopher Willets as part of the Loops and Variations series. (Chicago Tribune)
Ellie Terrell, 25, Albany Park
Co-instructor for the After School Matters' Redmoon Theater program
Under the white tent sitting on the park's promenade, more than 200 teens work more than seven weeks on glass mosaics, furniture painting, and jewelry, skateboard and hat design.
Terrell is guiding 45 students in building garden installations for the upcoming Great Chicago Fire Festival.
"I really love being in Millennium Park. We're able to go and do an activity in the pavilion in the morning, throw a Frisbee and then we come back here. There are so many opportunities and places to visit during our little lunch and so many people to get inspired by," she said.
A woman poses in a yoga pose at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on July 14, 2014. ( Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
Alice Zhang, 27, South Loop
Zhang rolled out her yoga mat on the Great Lawn for a peaceful start to her day. She made it to the free yoga class Wednesday morning. Yoga, tai chi, Zumba and Pilates also are offered Saturday mornings.
"I feel like it's a sanctuary away from the busy city while in the city," she said.
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