This Weekend: Bughouse Square

By Sophie on July 26, 2011

TOURSDAILY

Is all the talk of debt ceilings and foxy Rupert’s phone-tapping scandal getting you down?  While our heroic public servants in the Capitol continue their nail-biting bargaining to raise the debt ceiling, the true spirit of free speech will be exercised this Saturday 7/30 at the annual Newberry Library Bughouse Square Debates, beginning at 1:30pm in neighboring Washington “Bughouse” Square Park.  In an age of sound-bite journalism and 140 character tweets, see the ancient art of oration, inflammatory rhetoric, and soapboxing come to life in a series of curated, public, open-air debates.  While you are encouraged to chime in and heckle speakers, you can also kick back and just listen, or enjoy local street food and a root beer.

The central debate for the event will be: “Collective bargaining and the public sector:” Is collective bargaining compatible with public service? The “soapboxers” will compete for the Square’s annual prize: a giant plastic Dill Pickle, in honor of the famed Dill Pickle Club, a cultural hub of the ’20s and ’30s where Sherwood Anderson and Carl Sandburg liked to hang out, drink illegally, and mix with all sorts of characters. 15 soapboxers will speak about topics including:

  • Why the Park District Hates Me
  • Why Jesus Alone Has the Qualifications of Being Both Savior and God
  • The American Dream of Hypocrisy
  • Clarence Darrow and the American Dream
  • In Praise of Shyness
  • And many others

In another feat of rare timing and circumstance, the final sigh and liquidation of Borders bookstores earlier last week does not have to be met with trepidation by Chicago booklovers.  The Newberry Library, which presides over the Bughouse Square Debates and houses some of the country’s finest rare collections of Americana in the form of maps, correspondence, books and other ephemera, is also hosting what we deem the finest independent used book fair in conjunction with the Bughouse square debates. And just about everything is priced under $2! Check out the Newberry  Library Book Fair before, during or after the Bughouse Square Debates this Thursday or Friday, 12pm-8pm, or Saturday or Sunday, 10am-6pm.

For previous Chicago Detours explorers on our Good Times Around Michigan Avenue architectural tour who want to see the characters who frequented Jack Jones’ Dill Pickle Club and the nearby Bughouse Square come alive, this is surely the place for eccentricity, unpredictability, and political passions to come to a Chicago summer boil.

— Nick Fraccaro, Tour Guide