By Tom Holmes
Forest Park will be the center of Chicagoland's music scene for three days — on the weekend of July 20-22. That is what the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce is hoping for as they partner with Star Events to stage the ambitious street festival on Madison between Circle and Desplaines.
On the east stage at Madison and Circle, the headliner band on Friday evening will be American English, starting at 8:30 p.m. At 8 p.m. on the west stage at Madison and Desplaines, the featured group will be Infinity.
On Saturday night, Boy Band Night will be featured on the east stage and Too White Crew will be on stage with the popular Blooze Brothers Band and Libido Funk Circus headlining on Sunday.
Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, explained that the goal of staging Music Fest is to attract some of the 1.6 million people who live within a 20-minute drive of Forest Park to discover what Forest Park businesses have to offer.
"The primary goal of Music Fest is not to make money." she said. "The purpose is to keep Forest Park's name out there, showcase our village and local businesses, and create an opportunity for Madison Street exposure."
Some businesses are short-term winners. The Brown Cow ice cream parlor, for example, had lines of people extending out the door last year waiting for their ice cream. Other businesses see the benefit further down the road.
Dan Watts, co-owner of O'Sullivan's Public House, explained why his business is paying the fee to man a booth on the street at the event. "From O'Sullivan's perspective," he said, "the Music Festival allows O'Sullivan's to attract new customers who have not dined at the restaurant. Last year several fest-goers were introduced to our food offerings and subsequently became regular patrons."
Eateries joining O'Sullivan's on the street will be Scratch Kitchen, Duffy's, Jimmy's Place and Brown Cow. Local merchants participating this year include Escape Factor, Macdaddy, Creativita, Centuries & Sleuths, Madison Street Shoes, Jayne, and Accents by Fred. The Forest Park Public Library will also have a booth on the street to promote what it is doing in the community.
Connie Brown, owner of Brown Cow, said she participates in Music Fest for a number of reasons.
"Musicfest," she said, "brings an incredible number of people to our Madison Street shopping district. It's a time where community comes together to show off what our town is about to all the people who come here to listen to music and eat food. The Brown Cow ice cream parlor will have a booth on the street and will help sponsor a 209Together booth as well."
Some businesses lose money during the three-day festival, in part because patrons are unwilling to pay the entry fee to gain access to Madison St. where they would ordinarily shop or dine. Last year one of those was Team Blonde, a women's clothing boutique. Heidi Vance, a co-owner of the shop, spoke for many business owners when she said that although she lost business during the three days, she "gets it. The bigger picture is that what is good for the street is, in the long run, good for each of the individual businesses."
The Chamber put on its own street festival, called SummerFest, until 2012 when a variety of factors made it too much for the organization to manage. Since 2015, Star Events, which describes itself as a "boutique-style production company, which has gained the reputation of being Chicago's leading event company," has produced Music Fest.
Madison Street will be blocked off to vehicular traffic from Circle Avenue on the east to Desplaines on the West from Friday till Sunday. The entry points for the event as well as the location of the two performance stages will also be at Circle and Desplaines. Music Fest will be happening on Friday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. A $5 admission fee will be charged each day.
"Forest Park Music Fest will have something for everyone," said Kokenes. "Local merchant booths, artisans, local and area food vendors, face painting, carnival games, rides for the kids and more."