Windy City Smokeout turns eight

Sat. July 10, 2021 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

The country music festival Windy City Smokeout returned to Chicago in 2021 at the United Center parking lot, 1901 W. Madison Street. The successful street party, created by the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group, continues to thrive even during recent challenging times and added an extra day this time. 

For four days, July 8-11, the festival has a nice range of country music artists, some new ones such as the sweetheart Lainey Wilson, with only a few singles released so far, to Darius Rucker, who has had six studio albums under his belt as a solo artist, after lead singing for Hootie & the Blowfish. Grammy nominated Dierks Bentley headlines Saturday night and non traditional country crooner Jon Pardi finishes out the festival on Sunday night with a bang. 

As far as barbeque, the Smokeout has a lot to offer from the pitmasters. LEY's very own Bub City always has a massive set up and kicks things off in a big way in a trailer and local Lillie's Q always hits the spot. It is the out-of-towners that present some of the more unique tastings and be sure to pay close attention to their side items that will certainly add to the dish. 

Pappy's Smokehouse from St. Louis, Missouri was touted as one of the best onsite and the whole hog sandwich definitely did not disappoint. The amount of meat piled on wasn't too heavy as the light colored pulled pork just begged for some of that rich barbeque sauce, offered in squeeze bottles on the counter for patrons. 

For those that crave something different than pig, head to Sushi-San or Tallboy Taco for other choices. New Yorker's Big Gay Ice Cream came back once again to cool the crowd with ice cream sandwiches and fruity paletas. There is also plenty of booze to wash things down with fun pop-ups spotlighting Casamigos, Jim Beam and Maker's Mark. A large tented food hall was a welcome addition to this year's festivities with some rain predicted for the weekend. 

There are new rules for 2021 that everyone should be aware of. A negative rapid test is required or proof of vaccination. Smokeout has partnered with the Health Pass app by CLEAR, so if you download that ahead of time, you can show the workers at the entrance it and move through quickly. Also, try not to bring bags as they will be searched and it slows things down in a separate line. 

Sunday tickets are not sold out yet, so scoot over to to order yours today. VIP is strongly recommended as the crowds tend to grow large as the day rolls on and the better views are from above. Perks for this include more seating, private bathrooms and bars, plus a special separate entrance. Every year, the place grows more packed, especially after work on that Friday, so plan accordingly. 

Visit to add funds to your wristband as needed. The vendors are all cashless for drinks, food and merchandise. If you run into problems, try guest services near the front entrance. For bathrooms, instead of having the problematic porta potty's, the United Center has provided indoor bathrooms right on the property. 

Start planning for 2022, as the Windy City Smokeout will most certainly bring new delicious barbeque to the table and big entertainment on the stage once again!