On eve of Illinois, Chicago full reopening, details on festivals, parade emerge

CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago’s and Illinois’ full reopening is Friday, and the downtown Hilton Hotel opened Thursday morning.

Meanwhile plans are popping up across the city for the return of all kinds of festivals and events. Many say they feel like we’ve reached that light at the end of the tunnel.

The Hilton Chicago is a historic hotel that has been closed due to the COVID pandemic.

But on Thursday, the hotel will start allowing guests to check back in, as the city and the state get ready for the big day Friday.

That means it’s finally back to work for doorman Mark Prokuski, who’s spent 25 years welcoming guests downtown.

“You can only have coffee so many mornings with my wife, and I’m like, ‘OK, but I miss being here; I miss people from the neighborhood, my coworkers, my team members,’ and it’s great to be back,” he said.

Other businesses are preparing to get closer to normal, and many employees just returned to work for the first time in over a year.

Chicago and the entire state of Illinois are now less than 24 hours away from fully reopening.

RELATED: Illinois COVID Update: IL reports 408 cases, 23 deaths as state, city prepare to fully reopen

“On Friday, we will be the largest big city in the country that’s fully open,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Navy Pier event Wednesday night.

Under “Phase 5,” restaurants, bars, theaters, ballparks and other venues will be able to operate at 100% capacity.

This weekend, the return of the Old Town Art Fair will usher in Chicago’s festival season, and a week from Saturday, another neighborhood tradition will return.

Division Street in Humboldt Park will again come alive for the Puerto Rican People’s Day Parade.

RELATED: Chicago reopening: Puerto Rican People’s Day Parade to return to Humboldt Park

“The joy and the celebration and our culture will be at the forefront as always, and we’re going to have flags everywhere,” “said Xiomara Rodriguez, with the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

The parade will be Chicago’s first since the start of the pandemic.

Salon DJ Hairtography in the West Loop is ready.

“We are ready to see what our capabilities are, you know, our team is strong, our technicians are so incredibly talented and we’re just really excited to get moving again,” Salon DJ Hairtography Manager Amy Geister said.

Salon DJ is keeping some mask restrictions in common areas, but letting vaccinated customers take them off for their service.

Their pandemic cleaning protocols won’t change, and dividers will remain up. But, now, instead of waiting outside for your appointment, the waiting area will fully reopen.

“We can have a standard waiting room as we always do, and, you know, bring friends and family if you like,” Geister said. “Our limitations for that have been lifted a bit.”

Meanwhile, in the suburbs, Ravinia is teasing its summer calendar ahead of next week’s ticket sales.

Ravinia is planning to continue some social distancing.

WATCH: What are Mayor Lightfoot’s, Gov. Pritzker’s grades for handling COVID?

“Our plan all along has been to be a very comfortable first experience for people to return together after the pandemic,” said Jeff Haydon, president and CEO of the Ravinia Festival.

Lockport’s Old Canal Days starts Thursday at a new location: Second Street and Canal Road. It includes a carnival, artisan market, live music, a beer tent and a parade.

As for the guidance on masks, they will still be required in some places, like public transit, airports, schools and daycares.

The Diocese of Joliet said fully-vaccinated churchgoers will no longer have to wear masks as of Friday.

In celebration of restrictions lifting for the state of Illinois and officially entering Phase 5 on Friday, Jet’s Pizza will offer free Detroit-style slices of pepperoni and cheese pizza on Thursday, while supplies last, walk-in only, the company said.

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