There will be a flood — of people, not water — on Madison Street this weekend as Forest Park’s annual three-day Music Fest kicks off July 21 at 5 p.m.
Madison Street will be blocked off to vehicular traffic from Circle Avenue to Desplaines Avenue from Friday through Sunday. Festival-goers can enter at either Desplaines or Circle. Two performance stages bookend the blocked-off street. There is a $5 admission fee.
The weeklong event, produced by Star Events and sponsored by the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, will feature 24 bands.
“Our bands are chosen based on those that have a following in the area as well as at the request of the committee,” Dayna Malow, a spokesperson for Star Events, said. “We are excited to have a diverse line-up featuring minority owned [and] fronted bands playing a variety of blues, soul, Motown, and original music.”
Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, said that the primary goal of Music Fest is not to make money. Kokenes and a Star Events spokesperson declined to share payment details.
“The purpose of this event,” she said, “is to keep Forest Park’s name out there, showcase our village and local businesses, and create an opportunity for Madison Street exposure.”
Kokenes acknowledged there are short-term winners and losers during the three day weekend.
Patrick O’Brien, owner of Scratch Deli and Cafe and Scratch Kitchen and Lounge, took a big risk last year by investing a total of $1,400 to rent two spaces on the street with tents from Star Events.
“We had a great experience at Music Fest for both locations,” he said. “We made great money, got great exposure for the deli and saw many new faces as a result.”
Augie Aleksy, owner of Centuries and Sleuths Book Store, paid Star Events $200 for a space in front of his shop, bought his own tent for $100 instead of renting one from Star, and he still made money. He was able to sell 31 copies, for instance, of a $39 book titled Hidden Hemingway.
Connie Brown, of Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, said the line to get ice cream at her shop on the Sunday evening of Music Fest last year extended all the way out to the sidewalk.
Several businesses, however, fared poorly during last year’s event. People from Forest Park National Bank, Maison de Bonbon, Madison Street Shoes, Team Blonde (TB), Counter Coffee and Axcan Grill said business was down significantly during last year’s event — blaming access problems, the $5 admission fee, and a demographic attracted to the event that didn’t patronize the shops.
Heidi Vance, co-owner of TB and Counter Coffee, echoed many business owners when she said that although she lost business during the three days, she understands the positives of having an event like Music Fest — that what is good for the street is, in the long run, good for each of the individual businesses.
Several years ago the Chamber of Commerce put on a similar event on its own, which they called Summer Fest. At that event, the Forest Park police had to deal with crowd control, Deputy Chief of Police Mike Keating, said.
“Music Fest has gone smoothly for the past two years,” Keating noted. “The organizers of this event have a fantastic security team which works well with our police department. It also helps that the venue is fenced in, which contains the crowds.”
Because the FPPD are not as focused on security, they are able to do more community policing.
“Forest Park police officers will be present,” said Keating, “walking inside and mingling with the crowd. Being a police officer these days is not an easy job. We have been using a ‘community policing’ approach with citizens since way before the phrase was coined. Law-abiding people love to see our officers out there keeping everyone safe and they absolutely appreciate the fact that those officers would be the first to run toward the danger and do whatever they need to do to keep people safe.”
John Doss, public works director, also recalled the days when the Chamber put on Summer Fest but needed all the of the village departments to help out.
“The days of us working all weekend are over. Star handles everything,” Doss said. “The only thing we do is provide water, which consists of two adapters on hydrants.”