Gladys Knight returns to Ravinia Festival for an Aug. 18 concert, part of the 2021 summer lineup. // Associated Press

Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, Train: Ravinia announces summer lineup, COVID-19 protocols

Ravinia Festival in Highland Park announced the lineup for its 85th season Thursday with a strong mix of classical, jazz, pop, rock and all the favorites.

It may be sporting a shorter season, but Ravinia is officially back.

Thursday, organizers announced the summer lineup for the Highland Park outdoor venue. And with 64 concerts planned starting July 1, the season looks to be the mix of classical, jazz, rock and Broadway performance-starved Ravinia fans are craving.

The full season schedule — built around the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s six-week residency — focuses on Ravinia’s core commitment to classical and chamber music, but with concerts by Willie Nelson, Gladys Knight, Train, The Beach Boys, Indigo Girls, Ben Folds, Ziggy Marley, King Crimson, The Zappa Band, Andrew Bird and more, it presents a strong mix of offerings. The Joffrey Ballet will also return to Ravinia for the first time in a decade with a performance Sept. 17.

New to the programming this year is the inclusion of casual evening Carousel Concerts, a series of jazz, bluegrass and folk music presented at the North Lawn rotunda with lawn seating.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people will gather, and Ravinia’s new policies for this season are a prime example of what the new normal may look like for a while.

“The experience will be a little different than in the past,” said Jeff Haydon, Ravinia President and CEO, “but our science-based approach to carefully reopening the park puts safeguards in place so that audiences can again enjoy live performances.”

Pavilion seating will be sold in socially-distanced groupings of two and four seats. Guests in the South Lawn can purchase reserved and distanced seating for two, four or six people with a dedicated screen showing a live feed of all performances. North Lawn seating will include spaced-out first-come, first-served admission limited by current health guidelines.

Masks will be required by patrons and staff throughout the park. Hand-washing and sanitizer stations will be available throughout the grounds. Digital ticketing and touchless payment procedures have been put in place to reduce contact. Guests must attest to their health when purchasing tickets, but vaccines or negative tests are not currently required for entry.

Guests can check Ravinia’s health policies to keep up with the park’s current protocols.

As in past seasons, guests are invited to pack a picnic for the show, but the Ravinia Market also will be open for mobile ordering and contactless pickup. Indoor and outdoor dining will be available in the dining pavilion restaurants.

Also, in a new partnership with Ravinia, Metra is offering free train rides on the Union Pacific North line to park guests who show a paid e-ticket on concert days this summer.

Tickets will be sold in two phases: Concerts scheduled for July 1 through Aug. 15 will go on sale June 16; any concerts after Aug. 15 will hit the box office on July 21.

Visit for tickets, pricing and park updates throughout the season.

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