Remember spontaneous conversations at Grant Park?

They’re a joy many of us took for granted, until they weren’t possible anymore. Which is why the Grant Park Music Festival’s Friday night concert — a triple-whammy “Independence Day Salute,” season opener and re-inauguration of live music in Millennium Park, christened by Mayor Lori Lightfoot (a former school marching band trumpeter; who knew?) — sometimes felt like scenes from a dream. Long-time patrons craned their necks in wonder at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion’s steel fringe. Embracing arms opened as wide as friendly smiles — at least, for the many who weren’t wearing masks.

And, yes, there was even an off-the-cuff conversation or two. One longtime Grant Park patron reminisced with new friends about when she played the “1812 Overture” decades ago as a flutist in the John Hersey High School band, under Arthur Fiedler, the fabled Boston Pops director who immortalized the work in the Fourth of July canon.

“Half the time, I come to Grant Park by myself, and then I leave with other people,” said another concert-goer. “It’s one of the friendliest places in Chicago. To me, it’s like a melting pot, from the seats to the Great Lawn.”

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