Chicago is a summer city. Its residents wait out endless months of cold, snow, rain and 4:30 p.m. sunsets. And when it's all over, we pat ourselves on the back and head outdoors. Since Chicagoans live for the summer, every single weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day has at least one outdoor street festival.
When I first moved to the city, I went to as many street fests as possible, trying to hit up at least one per weekend. In fact my very first weekend in Chicago, I walked down to my neighborhood's art fair and hung out for the afternoon. I considered it one of my first real city experiences. I've been to the taste, I've lived through the Air and Water Show (twice) and have even ran through the gay pride parade with my nephews in tow. The festivals were fun the first few years, but they started to wear on me.
Most are the same formula with very little variation on the theme: Crowd of 20 somethings + pricey beer + greasy food + cover or 90's one hit wonder band = good time? Each fest centers around its own theme, but most of the time it's inconsequential to anyone's experience. For instance, I can guarantee you that 95 percent of people who have attended the Sheffield Garden Walk have not observed a single flower there. I also can guarantee that 95 percent of the people who've attended the Sheffield Garden Walk have consumed at least one alcoholic beverage. The result of the street fest formula is that they most often turn into drunken meet markets. AKA, not my cup of tea.
I can say with absolute certainty though that I have a new favorite street fest.
Mike and I spent literally all day Saturday at the Folk & Roots Festival. This fest is put on by the Old Town School of Folk Music, which is the same place I took fiddle classes last year. We went to the fest because I wanted to see the Midwest Fiddle Championships. And man there were some amazing fiddlers.
We stayed beyond the championships thought because the next act was so good - father/daughter duo Day and Reyna Gellert. Also, amazing fiddle players.And then the band after them, Cedric Watson & the Bijou Creole, was really good too. They were a Cajun band that really got the crowd moving.
By that point, we had friends who were planning on heading up to the fest to see the last act of the night. It became official. Mike and I were in it for the long haul.
We left for a bit to get out of the sun, get food in our stomachs and then sat on a park bench to regroup. It was exhausting (the good kind of exhausting) being outside in the sun all day dancing to good music.
Finally, we met our friends and headed back to the fest for the closing act, Black Joe Louis and The Honeybears.
It was truly a Chicago summer street fest at its best.