A Float Party without a Float is Still a Party

River revelers toast the Chicago River at the After Float Party beer garden sponsored by Molson Coors.

On Sunday, a park full of river stewards, volunteers, elected officials, community organizers, and families gathered in Horner Park to celebrate the Chicago-Calumet River system and its return to health. With perfect weather and positive spirits, Friends hosted an After Float Party with filled with games, a beer garden sponsored by Molson Coors, food trucks, and music dj’d by 101.9 The Mix. The After Float Party was not only a success, but also a confirmation of the collective vitality and perseverance of water stewardship.

The float portion of the day was grounded because the City of Chicago and U.S. Coast Guard delayed approving event permits that had been applied for months before. The City assured us that we would get the permits but there is still systemic ambiguity as it relates to allowing river uses such as floating and swimming despite being protected by law. As a result, the Coast Guard declined the marine event permit only to reinstate it at the 11th hour after the float had been canceled.

“Friends started public recreation on the river in 1994,” said Friends’ Executive Director Margaret Frisbie. “At the time there were no boat launches and kayaking on the river then was as inconceivable our floating event seems today. We will continue to advocate for safe unfettered river access along the entire river system.”

The After Float Party, in the northeast corner of the park near the river, was a lively event highlighting Friends’ ongoing efforts to advocate for the open and just access to the Chicago-Calumet River system. “Friends and our allies have worked tirelessly to transform the river into a popular and vibrant natural corridor, teeming with wildlife and recreation,” notes Frisbie. “In an age of increasing privatization—of walled-off waterways and securitized natural resources—it is all the more critical and urgent that places like the Chicago-Calumet River system remain a commons for all peoples.”

With activities provided by 33rd Ward Alder Rosanna Rodriguez-Sanchez's staff, Communities United, Evanston Ecology Center and Friends, the After Float Party celebrated the continued commitment and collective efforts of Chicago-Calumet River system advocates and environmental justice organizations. Friends of the Chicago River is grateful to its Beach Ball Sponsor, Molson-Coors, Sandcastle sponsor, Performance Wealth, Water sponsor, Kadeya, and media partner, 101.9 The Mix radio. We are thankful for their support and sponsorship; without the enthusiasm and generosity of these organizations, the Float Party would not have been possible.

Friends’ pioneering tradition of putting people on the water as advocates for water health, access, and stewardship will persist, despite the frustrating setbacks of the 2023 Summer Float Party. With endless gratitude to our sponsors, supporters, partners, friends, colleagues, and Chicago River enthusiasts, we look forward to floating on the river next year.