Illini Fest debuts
More than 5,000 alumni, friends and fans of the University came together on July 18 at the Park Grill in Chicago’s Millennium Park for the University’s first Illini Fest, a celebration of all things Illinois.
Spearheaded by the offices of Chancellor Robert J. Jones and Chief Marketing Officer Eric Minor, ’87 ENG, the event called on the participation of nearly every facet of the University, from academics to athletics to campus activities.
“We were excited to bring the many amazing University of Illinois experiences— from athletics to science to performance art—to Chicagoland where we have over 150,000 alumni!” Minor says. “It was fantastic to see the tremendous response from our Chicago alumni, students, fans and friends.”
Notable Illinois ambassadors included Chancellor Jones, Provost Andreas Cangellaris and Athletics Director Josh Whitman, ’01 BUS, JD ’08. They were joined by football Head Coach Lovie Smith, members of the Fighting Illini, the men’s a cappella group (The Other Guys), performers from the Krannert Center’s Lyric Theatre and yes, even Alma Mater herself.
In addition, attendees received salsa dancing lessons from noted dancer and Illini basketball player, Giorgi Bezhanishvili.
Ads touting the event flooded social media and graced Chicago-area public transportation and electronic billboards. Demographically, the turnout ranged from recent graduates to baby boomers.
Even the city got into the act. As dusk settled, proud Illini couldn’t help but notice that the spires of the Willis Tower were lit up in bright Orange and Blue.