Stories by Patty Wetli

UIC, Kennedy-King Among Chicago Institutions Celebrating Windfall Donations From MacKenzie Scott

University of Illinois at Chicago received $40 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. (University of Illinois Chicago / Facebook photo)

The philanthropist announced $2.7 billion in donations Tuesday to 268 organizations, including a number of Chicago-area institutions. The University of Illinois at Chicago received $40 million, the largest gift from an individual in school history.

House Music Heading Back to ‘Hoods Where It All Began, As City Announces New Summer Series

House music is returning to its neighborhood roots in 2021. (Courtesy of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events)

As part of the city’s reopening celebrations, a nine-part House City series is bringing free events to the Chicago neighborhoods where house music got its start. 

Taste of Chicago is Kinda-Sorta Returning With Pop-ups

Pop-up food and music events will replace Taste of Chicago in 2021. (Courtesy of Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events)

A “reimagined” series of pop-up food and music events will take place across the city in July, including a one-day reuniting of Taste of Chicago stalwarts, Eli’s Cheesecake and Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs.

Chicago Bringing Back Fourth of July Fireworks

(Heiko Stein / Pixabay)

Chicago is reopening with a bang. Details are still in the works, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced Monday fireworks will light up the sky to celebrate Independence Day.

June is Off to a Scorching Start, With Record-Setting Heat


Rockford’s weather station recorded a record-setting number of days reaching temperatures of 90 degrees or above in early June. Chicago’s average temperature for the month is more than 8 degrees above normal. 

Chicago Jumps to Fifth in Annual Ranking of US Park Systems, With Equity Added to Metrics

Ping Tom Park, exemplifying Chicago’s motto of “City in a Garden.” (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Chicago gets high marks for access, with 98% of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park versus the national average of 55%.

Mount Recyclemore Sends a Message to G-7 Leaders About the Towering Problem of Electronic Waste

Mount Recyclemore G-7 leaders: Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Yoshihide Suga of Japan, Emmanuel Macron of France, Mario Draghi of Italy, Justin Trudeau of Canada, Angela Merkel of Germany and Joe Biden of the U.S. (Courtesy of musicMagpie)

The towering sculpture, constructed near the site of this weekend’s G-7 summit, sounds the alarm about the growing problem of electronic waste.

Buying Native Plants? Brush Up on Your Latin and Watch Out for ‘Nativars’

Nine species of echinacea are native to the U.S. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

There are natives and then there are plants known as “nativars,” and wildlife can tell the difference.

Monty & Rose Continue to Amaze. The Piping Plovers Are Expecting Again

Monty & Rose are pinning their hopes on an egg laid in their second nest attempt. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Just a week after losing their first nest to a skunk attack, Monty and Rose have produced a second nest and laid one egg, the Chicago Park District announced. 

Missed Thursday Morning’s Solar Eclipse? You Weren’t Alone

Partial solar eclipse, June 10, 2021. (Bill Ingalls / NASA)

Chicagoans’ view of Thursday morning’s “ring of fire” solar eclipse was over before most people were awake.

Night at the Museums: Field, Shedd & Others to Stay Open Late Friday as Chicago Reopens Fully

Shedd Aquarium’s Wild Reef shark habitat exhibit. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

To coincide with the reopening of Chicago, a number of museums will stay open late on Friday for an after-hours experience.

Blocking Neighbors From Douglass Park for Riot Fest a ‘Slap in the Face,’ Some Say

Riot Fest is set to return to Douglass Park in September. (Riot Fest / Facebook)

Where some see the return of Riot Fest as a step in the right direction for Chicago’s reopening, others say closing their neighborhood green space for a “riot for rich people” is a “slap in the face” to communities traumatized by COVID-19.

Urban Forestry Advisory Board Wins Key Committee OK, Headed for Full City Council Vote

The thousands of trees damaged during 2020's powerful derecho storm demonstrated the vulnerability of Chicago's tree canopy. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

“Trees need care like streets need repairing,” said Malcolm Whiteside, deputy commissioner for Chicago’s Department of Forestry, who threw his support behind the creation of an Urban Forestry Advisory Board.

Night Out in the Parks Makes Splashy Return in 2021 With Hundreds of Events

Night Out's kid-friendly programs include Kerfuffle’s “Goose and Gert," pictured. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

More than 450 free programs are scheduled this summer at parks as a way for Chicagoans to reconnect with the city's arts and culture offerings in their own communities.

Illinois Is a Natural Beauty in New Exhibit ‘Picturing the Prairie’

Artist Philip Juras painting at Somme Prairie Grove in Cook County. (Credit Robin Carlson)

Artist Philip Juras spent more than five years visiting prairie remnants in Illinois, capturing the beauty of the state’s signature landscape past and present. An exhibit of his paintings is now on view at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Monty and Rose Lose Eggs to Skunk Attack

Monty and Rose lost their 2021 clutch of eggs to a skunk. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

The latest chapter in the saga of Chicago’s beloved plovers, Monty and Rose, is a sad one, with wildlife officials reporting the couple’s 2021 clutch of eggs has been lost to a skunk attack. Plover monitors are hopeful the couple will build a second nest. 

FDA Warns People to Just Say No to Eating Cicadas if You Have a Seafood Allergy

Periodical cicadas are identifiable by their red eyes. (Dan Keck / Pixabay)

Spicy popcorn cicadas, anyone? Not so fast, the Food and Drug Administration warns, if you have a shellfish allergy. The insects are related to shrimp and lobster. 

Illinois Now Has an Official State Microbe. Why?

An Illinois lab played a key role in the development of penicillin. (Konstantin Kolosov / Pixabay)

Though it may have been one of the quirkier bills passed by the General Assembly, the designation recognizes the role Illinois played in the development of one of the world’s greatest wonder drugs: penicillin.

There’s an Avian Gender Gap and #FemaleBirdDay Is Out to Change That

Showier male birds dominate bird counts and scientific research. (Pixabay)

To counter a pervasive, if unconscious, bias toward male birds within North American ornithology and hobbyist circles, a group dubbed the Galbatross Project launched Female Bird Day, now in its second year, running Memorial Day weekend.

How Well Do You Know Chicago’s Beaches?

Lane Beach is five-star worthy. (Alexandra Silets / WTTW News)

For three months out of the year, Chicago’s every bit as much of a beach town as Los Angeles or Miami. As we kick off summer 2021, here are some things you might not know about the city’s sandy shore.

Maggie Daley Park, New Arboretum Exhibit Among Outdoor Attractions Ready for Summer

One of the "Human+Nature" sculptures at Morton Arboretum. (Courtesy of Morton Arboretum)

Along with the kick off to beach season, a number of other outdoor attractions are opening up in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend.

Plover Scare Prompts Warning About Dangers of Balloons, And Not Just to Monty and Rose

Piping plover eggs at Montrose beach in 2021. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Surveillance cameras recently captured images of a mylar balloon bumping up against the nesting site of Chicago’s beloved pair of piping plovers. Wildlife advocates have long been critical of such inflatables and the dangers they pose to birds and other animals.

Chicago Airports Tell Memorial Day Travelers: Mask Up

A passenger waits in line at O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (WTTW News)

More than 1 million travelers are projected to pass through O’Hare and Midway airports over Memorial Day weekend, and the Department of Aviation wants people to know that masks are required.

Welcome Back, Beaches! Mayor Officially Announces Return of Beach Season in Chicago

(WTTW News)

The city’s lakefront beaches will officially open Friday for the first time since 2019, with lifeguards on duty and concessions returning. 

Lack of Rain Causing a Different Spring Shower: Elm Seeds Are Falling Like Crazy

Elm seeds are blanketing lawns and sidewalks. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The unusually high volume of seeds falling from trees this spring, especially from the city’s elms, is indicative of drought, said Jeff Brink, senior forester with the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse Putting on a Show — Just NOT in Chicago

A lunar eclipse. (dexmac / Pixabay)

Chicagoans aren’t in the right place or time zone to see Wednesday’s lunar eclipse at its peak. Just when the show gets interesting, the moon will sink from view.