With the debt limit deal complete, even as it has been vigorously criticized by both sides of the political spectrum, President Barack Obama is due to arrive in his hometown Wednesday evening for a fundraising concert and dinner that is being billed as a celebration of his 50th birthday, which is Thursday.
Tickets for the celebration, as NBC Chicago reports, run the gamut from $50 for a concert, featuring Chicago natives Jennifer Hudson, Herbie Hancock and OK Go at Uptown's historic Aragon Ballroom, to as much as nearly $36,000 per person for a private dinner with the President the same evening. The event marks the president's first hometown fundraiser since April.
(Scroll down to see some of Obama's favorite Chicago hangouts.)
Republicans both locally and nationally have expressed frustration with Obama's birthday fundraiser. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted early Tuesday: "@BarackObama celebrates his 50th bday & collects $35,800 checks but IL is struggling due to his failed policies." The tweet also features a link to a video titled "Obama Isn't Working: Chicago," which includes footage of an empty Grant Park as well as daunting unemployment and home sales statistics.
The notoriously obnoxious Tea Party-aligned conservative pundit William J. Kelly and his "Kelly Truth Squad" will be hosting a so-called Jobs Bash reception at the Green Mill, across the street from the Aragon beginning at 3 p.m. Kelly has called for "the unemployed and underemployed to bring their resumes" to the event and "call on the President to own up to the high U.S. unemployment figures."
"Barack Obama is only concerned about one job and that is his own," Kelly wrote in a description of the event on his website. "He is in town for a birthday fundraiser after sending a debt limit deathblow to American businesses."
In preparation for the event, Uptown Update reports that trucks have been spotted unloading equipment in front of the theater for several days and "a lot of guys in dark suits [are] keeping an eye on the 'hood," which will experience some inconveniences to drivers, pedestrians and commuters alike on account of the commander-in-chief's appearance.
According to Uptown Update, street congestion is expected to be high as Lawrence Avenue and surrounding streets will be closed for much of the evening. Train delays along the Red Line near the Lawrence stop are anticipated. Beginning around 4 p.m., the blog added this morning, pedestrians looking to access their residences on otherwise blocked-off parts of Lawrence Avenue will be required to show identification.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told WBEZ that the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington led to the cancelation or postponement of 10 fundraisers involving Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley over the course of the last month. Those cancelations mean his campaign is expecting to raise several million fewer dollars this summer compared to the amount it raised in the spring.
If you weren't able to snag tickets to the fundraiser or dinner, it might be worth a shot to check out some of the president's favorite hangouts in town (highlighted below) for the off chance that he sneaks away from the festivities before he skips town once again.
Obama's barber Zariff first began cutting the President's hair more than 15 years ago. Zariff claims he first cut the President's now-famous super-short style for the 2004 Democratic Convention. The barbers at this South Side staple must know what they're doing--they've also done trims for the likes of Mohammad Ali and Spike Lee. 5234 S. Blackstone Ave.; 773-493-6028
Obama has been a member of this prestigious fitness club since 1994. When it town, he likes to stop in and get his competitive juices flowing with some pick-up basketball. If you happen to be a member, watch out for this lanky left-handed guy who's known for his speed and deft fake-outs. 500 N. Kingsbury St.; 312-527-5800
The POTUS must love Italian because he and the First Lady have been repeat customers at this swanky downtown spot. Along with Michelle, Obama actually celebrated his election to the presidency in 2008 there and then their anniversary the following year. It was reported that on one Valentine's Day, the couple spent $700 on an eight-course meal. 980 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-280-2750
Obama's love for this soul food spot led him to mention it in his book, "The Audacity of Hope." Word on the street is that he especially loves the turkey legs and dressing. Perhaps Obama also appreciates the fact that MacArthur's gives ex-inmates another chance through employment at the cafeteria-style restaurant. 5412 W. Madison St.; 773-261-2316
The Obamas have been known to dine at this award-winning Mexican restaurant on occassion. Owner and TV personality Rick Bayless has been invited to the White House before to act as a guest chef, and during an October 2010 visit to Topolobampo Bayless tweeted photos and details about one of Obama's meals. In case you were wondering, Obama ordered scallops and lobster with tomatillo-corn sauce and sweet corn tamales with ricotta and nettles. 445 N. Clark St.; 312-661-1434
For more casual eats, the Obama clan heads to R.J. Grunts in Lincoln Park. Whether it's the tasty burgers, huge salad bar or sweet milkshakes and malts, the Obamas have plenty of options for keep both themselves and their daughters happy. 2056 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-929-5363
Another one of Obama's favorite cafeteria-style restaurants is Valois in Hyde Park. The affection appears to be mutual given that Valois offered their customers breakfast on the house the morning after Obama's election to the presidency. Additionally, the restaurant boasts a "President Obama's Favorites" section on the breakfast menu that includes steak and eggs. 1518 E. 53rd St.; 773-667-0647
Another favorite of Obama's near his Hyde Park home is Italian Fiesta Pizzeria. Obama loves the pizza so much that he actually flew the owners of this restaurant to D.C. to make their signature thin-crust pies for his inauguration. Obama first learned about this food spot from the First Lady, who loved the pizza as a child. 1400 E. 47th St.; 773-684-2222
Much to the chagrin of Cubbies fans to the north, Obama has often stated his love for the Sox and this Southside stadium. In one interview, he told ESPN's Stuart Scott, "I'm not one of these fair weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball." 333 W. 35th St.; 312-674-1000
The whole Obama family loves to visit this Hyde Park book store on occasion. The First Lady told the Chicago Sun-Times, "The variety of titles, the programs for kids and the neighborhood feel make it a wonderful place to take a walk to and browse around." As a branch of the Seminary Co-op, this shop offers a 10% discount to members. 1301 E. 57th St.; 773-684-1300