By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS)– Northalsted Market Days kicks off in the Boystown neighborhood Friday night.

The festival returns as COVID cases in Chicago and the entire nation are rising.

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CBS 2’s Mugo Odigwe tells us how festival organizers are making COVID safety key to this weekend.

Organizers said this is a community that understands the importance of safety and getting vaccinated.

So there ae some rules and expectations in place if you plan to attend the festival.

“It’s one of the biggest events from the entire country. It runs all the way from Addison to Belmont and draws people literally from around the country to Chicago,” said Mark Liberson, chair of Northalsted Market Days.

Liberson is pumped to welcome people back to the festival this weekend.

“The straight community, the gay community, the LGBTQ+ community. It brings everybody together,” he said.

But at time when COVID-19 is still top of mind, organizers say visitors should either be fully vaccinated, or wear a mask.

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“We’re going to have stickers for people who are vaccinated after we check their proof of vaccination. And we’re going to be offering, for those who are not vaccinated, the opportunity to get vaccinated,” Liberson said.

Free COVID rapid testing will be available at the entry gates, meaning those who aren’t vaccinated will be tested before they enter.

It doesn’t end there.

“We are going to masks available for the people who are not vaccinated. Especially for their own safety,” Liberson said.

And many of the businesses on Halsted Street between Addison and Belmont are also joining in to keep people safe.

“On this street right now, you can’t get into any of the bars on North Halsted without presenting to them proof of vaccination. Some of the bars are requiring a current COVID test proving that you’re negative,” Liberson said.

It’s a balancing act; making room for a fun weekend filled with food and live music, and room for safety measures.

“There’s nothing more important at this point than trying to beat this virus,” Liberson said.

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The three-day festival runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff