I’m not gonna lie; I’ve thought suburban street festivals were lame since I was 13. The only summer fests I enjoyed centered around music: Lollapalooza, Warped Tour, etc. I was a pretentious and morose teen, unwilling to give in to my inner child, which you have to do to fully appreciate festivals.
I got over that for the most part, but I continued to avoid festivals until last year when Jodi and Peter from The Old School Records invited me to celebrate the release of my first book by DJing and reading in front of their store at Summerfest.
Afterward, I’d planned to just browse Old School’s sidewalk sale and leave because, you know, festivals are lame. But the DJ after me was spinning cool tunes and there was interesting art to look at and, ooooh, corn on the cob. Hook me up! Then I bumped into my stylist, Debbie, in front of Bertuca Salon and she told me Francesca’s had half-priced martinis. Ultimately, I went home happy, half-drunk with an armload of dollar VHS tapes from Old School’s sale.
This year, as soon as the Summerfest sign went up, I was psyched; it was my Friday night plan. My fiancé and I started our evening a little ways down Madison at Yum Thai. Why, you ask, when there is plenty of delicious food at Summerfest? Well, I’m vegan. There’s not much for me. Suggestion #1 on how to improve Summerfest is one of the concessions stands needs to carry veggie dogs and Gardenburgers. C’mon, I can get ’em at the Sox game; I should be able to get them at Summerfest.
The first place we hit up when we reached the Fest was Old School Records. Not only do their DJs spin the best music on Madison Street, you can get 12 VHS movies for less than you’d pay for one DVD. Yeah, VHS is inferior, but when you’re on a budget, who cares? Believe me, when I came down with a cold later that weekend, I was grateful for my $1 copy of Dazed and Confused.
Next we went on a hunt for alcohol. If you’re a beer drinker, this isn’t a problem at all. My fiancé found Leinie’s Summer Shandy, his favorite seasonal brew, without a problem. I only drink hard liquor. Summerfest Suggestion #2: tropical drink stand. As it turned out, Francesca’s had $4 Mai Tais and hurricanes that you could carry out, but they weren’t as well advertised as the martinis last year.
Then, since my gleeful inner child has overtaken my morose inner teenager, it was on to the games. My fiancé won me a stuffed leopard at the dart balloon game. (I named him Forest in honor of my favorite town.) And I tackled the giant slide. Grown-ups are allowed and guess what? Big slides are even more fun than being allowed to drink in the streets.
This year’s Summerfest definitely did not disappoint: good deals, good games, good drinks, and I got to meet some of my neighbors. But when I went to work on Saturday night, there was a decrease in business since the Beacon isn’t on Madison Street. This leads me to my most important suggestion. Now that I’m completely gung-ho about festivals, I think we need more. Next year, let’s add Circle Fest! That way the businesses along Circle can get in on the fun. And can we please get one of those big bouncy castle things? Those are the best!
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.