The Forest Park Chamber of Commerce has been looking for a way to stage a big summer event to draw some of the 1.6 million people who live within a 20-minute drive of Madison Street — ever since they were forced to shut down SummerFest in 2012.
The inaugural MusicFest, which runs July 17-19, will be longer, bigger and, according to the Chamber, better than the popular SummerFest.
Music Fest, as its name implies, will feature more live music — 19 bands in all — on two stages: one at Madison and Desplaines and the other at Madison and Circle. John Barry, president of Star Events which is running Music Fest, said, “We are investing $50,000 on our talent and family area. We have secured one of the best summer festival lineups in the area.”
Not only will there be more music than at SummerFest, but when Peter Gianakopoulos, owner of Old School Records who knows the music scene as well as anyone in town, saw the list of bands, he was pleased with the variety of genres represented. For example:
7th Heaven: The band has opened for Bon Jovi at Soldier Field and for Styx. They’ve had three #1 Hit Songs on the Billboard Charts. They were voted the best band in Chicago through Bar Star. They were seen on TV worldwide when they performed the National Anthem before a Bulls/Lakers game.
Dick Holiday and the Bamboo Gang: R&B, Funk. The Chicago Tribune said, “Since its formation in 1985, the Bamboo Gang has become the city’s top-drawing club act, with a rabid ‘twentysomething’ following that ensured it first place in the ‘local performer’ category in the Tribune’s 1990 Readers’ Poll. Watching the group as it churned out its irresistible dance-oriented music … one got the distinct impression that there was nothing the musicians would rather be doing than playing music together and inspiring the crowd to get up and dance.”
Cat Fight: Their website says of the all-girl band, “This litter of kittens has been playing their hearts out for over a decade … as they tear their claws into every rip-roaring festival and event of the summer.” Their repertoire includes “Do What You Want,” Lady Gaga; “Burn,” Ellie Golding; “Love Sweet Nothing,” Florence and the Machine; “Timber,” Pitbull; “Woman,” Wolfmother.
Hot Sauce Committee: “Combines ’90s hip-hop with guitars and club beats for a high-energy, hot sauce experience” (website).
Kashmir: “Seeks to re-create the experience of a ’70s Zeppelin show utilizing authentic vintage stage gear, costumes, and special effects, with great attention to detail in a non-pretentious way” (website).
Rod Tuffcurls and The Bench Press: “Their unique song repertoire include hits ranging from The Beatles to Madonna, Queen to Miley Cyrus, and Wilson Phillips to Dave Matthews Band! You may even hear some of our off-the-wall choices like Les Miserables, Golden Girls theme song, and Wrigley’s gum commercials” (website).
Mike and Joe: Cover songs from artists like Gavin Degraw, Green Day, Rascal Flats, Weezer and the Dave Matthews Band.
The Blooze Brothers: As the name implies, a Blues Brothers tribute band.
Star Events, the company putting on Music Fest, describes itself as “a boutique-style production company … which has gained the reputation of being Chicago’s leading event company, specializing in producing world-class events.”
Rob McAdam, who is on the Chamber’s planning team for the event, said Star will do everything from booking the bands, to set up to security to financing.
“They’ve been doing this for 20 plus years,” McAdam said. “They’ve managed many successful events in many neighborhoods in Chicago and they’re taking on the entire financial risk.”
The Chamber, he said, will make “a few thousand dollars,” much less than they made at Summer Fest, but that’s OK with the Chamber for now. McAdam explained that Summer Fest was an incredible amount of work, and that Star seems to have answers for all of the problems that caused Summer Fest to be cancelled three years ago. Besides, the primary objective of the Chamber of Commerce is to support Forest Park’s business districts by drawing people to Forest Park with events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Wine Walks and now MusicFest. All of the income received from these events is invested in future attempts to draw some of the million-plus people who live within a 20-minute drive of Madison and Circle.
The issue that sank Summer Fest was security. Police Chief Tom Aftanas said, “There will be some notable differences between Summer Fest and MusicFest:”
Star Events will provide their own security, stationed inside the event and also at the entrances to the event. The security officers are off-duty Chicago officers and Cook County Sheriff’s deputies.
Aftanas said, “We will also have officers inside and in the surrounding area.”
Temporary fencing will be placed around the perimeter and entrances/exits will be limited in order to control pedestrian traffic.
Although there is no mandatory admission, Star Events personnel will ask for donations upon entry.
Juveniles will not be allowed during the evening hours unless accompanied by an adult.
MusicFest will be longer than its predecessor. The event will run Friday 5-11 p.m., Saturday Noon-11:00 p.m. and Sunday Noon-10:00 p.m. McAdam explained that vendors like the three-day format because even if there is bad weather one day, they still have more chances to make money.
Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, sent this email out to Chamber members in anticipation of the event: “The summer’s biggest street celebration: Forest Park MusicFest will take over the village’s downtown for one fun-filled weekend. Thousands of local and area residents will come together to enjoy everything Forest Park has to offer, including an amazing musical lineup, two beer gardens and local food and some of the area’s top vendors, family-fun carnival games, arts and crafts, as well as merchant booths, featuring Madison Street’s unique boutiques and specialty shops and a sidewalk sale.”