Hold the holidays, Chicago still has November in store

From the Saturday, Nov. 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

Hold the holidays, Chicago still has November in store


Nov. 5, 2011

Earlier this week, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook page that while watching TV he had seen his first Christmas commercial pop up on the screen.

On Halloween.


And so it begins again, the annual stampede to start celebrating December’s holidays before October’s has even expired – or perhaps in some cases (and stores), September’s.

Pre-Labor Day Christmas Sales, anyone?

As for myself, I prefer to honor the holidays in their proper succession. And so, now that trick-or-treating is done, it’ll be on to turkey – in a few weeks. Until then, though, there’s plenty going on in Chicago during the month of November. And, remarkably enough, not all of it has a holiday theme.

Here are a few of the more interesting events on tap for the Windy City this month …

Nov. 6: Battle of the Bhut

In the United States, it’s most commonly called the Ghost Pepper. But you can just call the Bhut Jolokia (pronounced “boot”) hot.

Really, really hot.

At 1 p.m. this Sunday, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, 41 E. Superior St. in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, will play host to the third annual “Battle of the Bhut.” During the event, competitive eaters will gather to devour hot wings made with Bhut Jolokia, named in 2007 by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s hottest chili pepper, 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

In 2010, the Bhut Jolokia was bumped from the record books by the Naga Viper pepper, which apparently scores more than 300,000 points higher than the average Bhut on something called the Scoville scale, which measures the spicy heat (or piquance) of a chili pepper.

Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that the Bhut is ridiculously hot. And, on Sunday, 2010 Battle of the Bhut champ, Erik “the Red” Denmark of Seattle, will attempt to defend his title of 35 hot wings and again beat last year’s runners-up, Chicagoans Pat Bertole (34 wings) and Gravy Brown (33).

Flame on.

Nov. 11: Found Footage Festival

The Found Footage Festival, created in 2004 by comedians Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, bills itself as a “one-of-a-kind event that showcases footage from videos that were found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and Dumpsters across the country.”

Think of it as a traveling roadshow of nonsense, and at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, it rolls into the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.) in Lakeview for a showdown with the oddball notes, lists and photographs collected by its cousins at Found Magazine.

According to Pickett and Prueher, they began collecting quirky videotapes in 1991 after stumbling across a training video entitled, “Inside and Outside Custodial Duties,” inside a McDonald’s break room. Thirteen years later, the duo said they “distilled a thousand hours of footage into just the most sublime spectacles, intriguing characters, and beguiling, if not insightful, looks into those who lived during the golden days of the VHS dynasty.

“We had found 90 minutes of needles in a thousand haystacks. We called it Found Footage Festival.”
Tickets cost $13 and can be purchased online at

Nov. 19: Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Five days before Thanksgiving on Saturday, Nov. 19, Chicago gets its first official celebration of the Christmas season (this timing I’m OK with) as the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, billed as the nation’s largest evening holiday event, takes place.

Beginning at 11 a.m. with music and other events for kids, the event culminates with Mickey and Minnie Mouse leading a street-lighting procession featuring more than 1 million bulbs down North Michigan Avenue followed by a fireworks show over the Chicago River at 6:55 p.m.

For more information, visit