Lincoln Square to celebrate spring and German tradition

Spring is here and with it comes a tradition that is part Lincoln Square, part German heritage: the annual May Fest celebration.

This four-day celebration, which runs Thursday through Sunday, is one of the first Chicago festivals of the year and typically packs the intersection of Lincoln and Leland Avenues where Lincoln Square's Maypole stands.

Reinhard Richter, president of the German Mardi Gras Association, one of the event's sponsors, is expecting a crowd.

"I would venture to say we have well over 50,000 attend over the four-day period."

Richter says that the festival centers around the Maypole, which stems from a traditional and lively competition in German towns.

"The towns compete to have the tallest and most beautifully decorated Maypole," says Richter, "The Maypole also symbolizes the first sign of spring."

Festivities begin Thursday with a "Rock the May Fest" preview party from 5-11 p.m.

Friday brings the official opening ceremony including the crowning of the May Queen and a traditional keg tapping.

"It is the first keg of the season," Richter says. "During the tapping, a lot of beer and foam shoots out. If you are brave enough to get up close, you might get a little more beer than you bargained for!"

Saturday's events include live music, entertainment and an open mic. The festival will be open from noon until 11 p.m.

Sunday's events include the Maypole dance and performances by the Ethnic Program, which is made up of traditional German dancers and a guest appearance by Prince Karneval Eric I and his princess Esperanza I. Sunday's festival will run from noon until 10 p.m.

Festival goers can enjoy German cuisine and beer, dancing, and live music all days of the event. Admission is free.