June 07, 2016

A Picnic in the Cosmos

Creative Chicagoans are invited to recruit their friends, choose a team name, pack a festive picnic and show off their clever, elaborate and imaginative feasts in the fifth annual Grant Park Music Festival Picnic Contest on the Great Lawn of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

The contest takes place on Saturday, August 6 at 6 PM before the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus take the stage at 7:30 PM. to perform the world premiere of American composer Michael Gandolfi’s The Cosmic Garden in Bloom and Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor.

The program will be led by the Festival’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar with guest soloists Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, Janai Brugger, Hoss Brock and Daniel Eifert. Admission for the contest and the performance is free.

Teams are encouraged to pitch their blankets, adorn their tables, maybe coordinate some costumes and show off their impressive spreads. And concertgoers are invited to get in on the fun by circulating the Great Lawn and checking out the magnificent tableaux. 

This year’s contest theme, A Picnic in the Cosmos, is inspired by the 30-acre private Garden of Cosmic Speculation in the Borders area of Scotland, designed by Charles Jencks as a joining of nature and modern physics, along with Mozart’s large-scale and sweeping Great Mass in C Minor. Contestants will be judged on how they incorporate the theme, as well as their creative menu, imaginative décor and presentation of food and drink into their picnic.

Last year’s winner, Harpreet Khera, advises contestants to just have fun. “Whether you win or not, you’ll enjoy a delicious picnic with your friends under the stars with the world’s greatest skyline as your backdrop and world class live classical music as your soundtrack.”

Meegan Scovell, whose team Cuckoo for Beethoven won in 2014, advises contestants, when possible, to listen to the music in advance and get an idea of the setting and story that the composer had in mind. “Utilize these clues,” she says, “and be creative.”

Anyone can participate in this free contest, but pre-registration is required. Fill out the registration form at gpmf.org/dining by August 1.

Official Picnic Sponsor

1st Prize: $100 Macy’s gift card, plus a custom gift basket from Macy’s Stonewall Kitchen, dinner for four at Columbus Tap at the Fairmont Chicago, and a two-gallon tin of caramel, cheese, and butter popcorn

2 Runners Up: $50 Macy’s gift card and a two-gallon tin of popcorn each