The Great Chicago Fire Fest experiencing technical difficulties
  • Brian O’Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media
  • The Great Chicago Fire Fest experiencing “technical difficulties”

After its pathetic fizzle last Saturday, I thought I’d never again have to write about the Great Chicago Fire Festival. A failure like that speaks for itself.

Especially when there’s a crowd of 30,000 chilled witnesses, including the governor and a clearly chagrined mayor, waiting, waiting for the heavily hyped, multimillion-dollar, jaw-dropping spectacle that never happened.

And the rueful evidence—the three little slapdash houses that wouldn’t burn—still sitting on the river.

I figured the Great Chicago Fire Festival was as dead as Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. Safely buried, like the misguided Olympic bid that had been its genesis.

But as the week wore on, I saw that I was wrong. The Fire Festival, like some unholy ghoul, was rising from its watery grave, resurrected by a different kind of spectacle, the Great Chicago Spin Machine.

Just like those steampunk contraptions that Fire Festival producer Redmoon Theater is famous for building, the Great Chicago Spin Machine is a self-contained, human-powered, larger-than-life device that is capable of changing public spaces—and the things that happen in them.

Get it going and an ill-conceived plan, executed with such mind-boggling incompetence that it squandered $1.35 million in tax dollars and made a fool of the city, can become something else entirely. Something much more acceptable, like “a learning opportunity” and the sort of thing we should “give another try.”

That’s how Cultural Affairs commissioner Michelle Boone, who had championed the festival, described it on WTTW earlier this week. Instead of an embarrassment to its sponsors and a reason for someone to lose his or her job, Boone said it was a chance for all of us to exhibit “the Chicago spirit.”

Redmoon artistic director Jim Lasko, who’s ready to “step up” and “make a better show,” said he’s “really excited about how much hunger there was for it to happen.”

And at City Hall yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said “the event will need to be reviewed,” but he believes “this is something we want to continue to do.”

We might not have known that. We might have been thinking it was a colossal fuckup. But that’s the magic of the Great Chicago Spin Machine.