A parade, part of the Summer of Opportunity Fest, will include more than 300 participants in Austin Saturday. Credit: BUILD Chicago

AUSTIN — More than 300 people are expected to parade across Austin Saturday to kick off a peaceful, non-violent and productive summer.

The parade is part of the third annual Summer of Opportunity Fest, a two-day event organized by nonprofit BUILD Chicago to help residents access resources and activities throughout the summer.

“We’re marching for a peaceful summer, not only here on the West Side of Chicago, but citywide,” said Daniel Perez, a spokesperson for BUILD Chicago. “We just want to let people know that we don’t want to have a violent city, so let’s let that shine.”

The parade will start at Laramie and Chicago avenues at 10 a.m. Saturday and will continue along Laramie to the festival at Harrison Avenue.

The more than 300 people registered for the parade will be joined by collaborators and stakeholders including Austin Coming Together, Austin Weekly News as well as representatives from the Chicago Park District, Chicago Fire Department and Chicago Police Department.

According to Perez, the march is a powerful signal that the residents of Austin standing together in unity are more powerful than the violence that has plagued the area. BUILD Chicago wants the parade to create visibility around the neighborhood’s efforts to keep the streets safe.

“If you gather that many people, that makes more of an impact. We’re hoping to get as many people as possible because, we want people to know, no one wants to stand for it,” Perez said. “We’re not talking about a small group of people, we’re talking about a neighborhood. A community.”

The Summer of Opportunity Festival, taking place from noon-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, will be a fair for residents of all ages, especially young people, to connect with resources to enable them to flourish despite the usual uptick in violence in the summer.

“Like a lot of areas in the city who are under-resourced, there’s violence that spikes during the summer months,” Perez said. “That’s citywide as we know.”

In addition to typical summer festival activities like games, live music, art vendors and street food, the fair will showcase BUILD’s programming.

Programs on display will include a youth summer camp, an arts summer camp and sports and athletic programs. The group will also share resources for all ages, including music workshops, podcasting workshops and the urban agriculture programs at BUILD Chicago’s garden.

“It gives the young people a chance to sort of really get engaged in their community,” Perez said. “And you know, doing a gardening project has really been some great therapy for a lot of young people who deal with trauma.”

The festival will also feature resources offered by other community organizations, including the YMCA and STEM education organization Project Exploration.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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