Ask any Chicagoan if spring in Chicago actually exists, and you’ll get a range of responses.
Some say there’s no spring, it’s just winter and summer duking it out until summer delivers the knockout punch for the win. Others believe Chicago has a spring, but it’s sporadic with no advance warning. It might be thirty minutes on a Tuesday, wedged between a polar vortex and a stifling heat wave. And then there are those who are unsure because there are hot days in March and snow in May.
Regardless of where one stands on the hotly-contested issue, there are some hallmarks that usher in spring annually, weather notwithstanding. St. Patrick’s Day is the first major event to signal the advent of the elusive season. That’s the day Chicagoans emerge from hibernation, adorned with Shamrocks regardless of heritage, to flood the streets in search of green beer and debauchery. Winter typically voices some pushback to this tradition in the form of frigid temperatures and a wintry mix that will rain on anyone’s parade. But it’s never stopped the city from celebrating this beloved holiday and declaring that spring is unofficially here.
If the luck of the Irish fails to set the stage for spring, enter the kickoff of America’s favorite pastime. For many, the Cubs and White Sox home openers in early April mark the true start of spring. Though fans may be bundled in winter coats and shivering under blankets as the first pitch is thrown, there’s no denying baseball season is the bridge that leads to summer.
Weather-wise, anything goes in the weeks between braising and grilling season, but come mid-May, outdoor Farmer’s Markets begin popping up all over the city. Shoppers eager for fresh, local produce might find themselves appraising the selection of newborn asparagus and spring onions while frost lingers on the ground and vicious wind slices through bunches of baby greens huddled together for warmth.
While we’re dizzily alternating between cold, rain, heat, snow and wind, tulips begin to line Michigan Avenue, bringing bright and dazzling colors to an otherwise gray canvas. And folks start eagerly peeping the trees along the lakefront to see when the Cherry Blossoms will finally bloom. Don’t blink, because those beauties are here for a heartbeat, if rain doesn’t knock them down before they have a chance to see the light of day.
Whatever your take on spring in Chicago, rest assured. Winter will end. It’s just a matter of when.