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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

As Lyrical Lemonade Returns To Douglass Park, Residents Prepare For Hip-Hop — And Headaches

Though some residents complain about the noise, traffic and damage to the park caused by festivals, organizers say they boost West Side businesses and bring people together.

The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival will be held Friday to Sunday at Douglass Park.
Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash/Facebook
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NORTH LAWNDALE — The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash will return to Douglass Park this weekend for its second music festival there.

The fest will bring some of the biggest names in hip-hop, headlined by Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Baby and A$AP Rocky. The stages will also showcase talented local artists, including Saba, Joey Purp, Qari and Lei Dominique.

The Summer Smash is the latest major festival to come to Douglass Park. But some residents who live nearby in North Lawndale and Little Village already are fed up with summer festivals.

Riot Fest, which relocated to Douglass Park in 2015, draws the ire of neighbors each year. They complain about rowdy concertgoers, damage to the park, litter, noise and parking issues.

Many fear the Summer Smash will be more of the same.

“It’s definitely been difficult with residents sharing the space with so many people with such a large festival. Parking is definitely hard,” said Sara Cortes, who lives two blocks from the park.

“Lyrical Lemonade is having local artists, which is cool. But the audience is Chicago-wide or even nationwide. It feels more like exploitation than something for the community,” she said.

When massive crowds flock to Douglass Park for Riot Fest and Lyrical Lemonade, “it does ruin the park,” Cortes said.

The park’s fields get trampled and the landscaping gets damaged at each festival. When it is rainy during the festivals, the damage is much worse, Cortes said, turning the park into a muddy mess that takes weeks to repair.

“School groups who use the park for soccer, baseball aren’t able to use it anymore. The needs of the community aren’t put first.”

Nearby resident Ernie Alvarez coaches elementary and middle school soccer at Douglass Park. But during festival season, the soccer teams get displaced from their neighborhood park for weeks. The fields where they practice and play are closed for a week for setup before a festival opens, and at least another week or two after a festival to clean up and repair damage, Alvarez said.

“The little kids, they play on the fields where the stages are at that get destroyed,” Alvarez said. “That was the whole fall that we were not allowed to use the fields.”

When the park is closed for the festivals, “we have to scramble around to find other parks that will give us permits to let us play,” Alvarez said.

Now, many sports teams and youth programs don’t even plan on playing and practicing at Douglass Park, Alvarez said. Instead, they travel to other parks that are much farther than the one in their own neighborhood.

It’s tough for residents who live near the park to deal with it being closed down for weeks at a time for each summer festival, said Linda Street, who lives next to Douglass Park.

“The people usually walk their dogs out there. They don’t have any room now to do that,” Street said. “They barely have enough room for the kids to play.”

The weekend of the Summer Smash was difficult for Street last time because of the traffic issues and because “the music is so loud,” she said. 

“And I remember the last time they had it. They played a lot of music, but a lot of cursing,” Street said.

Festival organizers do their best to be good neighbors, said festival co-founder Berto Solorio. The event draws people to the neighborhood who otherwise wouldn’t visit the West Side, Solorio said.

“A lot of people sometimes have a negative connotation with Chicago. We take pride in being able to bring people from all over the country … to enjoy one common thing, which is the music,” Solorio said.

The festival is an opportunity to “champion Chicago artists” by giving them a massive platform alongside international hip-hop stars, he said.

All residents who live within four blocks of Douglass Park are eligible to receive free tickets to Summer Smash, Solario said. Organizers also host cleanup days to beautify the park over the summer.

The festival also hires locals to help with security, ticketing, setup and other aspects of throwing the event, Solorio said. A youth apprenticeship program also gets young people involved in producing the festival, he said.

“It takes an army to produce these festivals so we can never get enough hands,” Solorio said.

Some residents appreciate the festival, music and fanfare.

“It’s cool with me because I love music,” Debra Green said. “I love rock. I love jazz. I love all kinds of music. I don’t think it’s too much bother to people. It’s the parking, more than anything.”

Luther Woodruff lives across the street from Douglass Park. Though his wife gets frustrated with the noise and traffic, he doesn’t mind the Summer Smash festival too much. The few businesses in the area can also benefit a bit from the visitors, he said.

“I guess it brings a little money in the neighborhood. There’s not a lot of businesses close by, but you’ve got some down on Cermak Road where people might venture out and go pick up some food,” Woodruff said.

The festival has plenty of issues that irritate some residents, Woodruff said. But since some problems like the noise and traffic last only a few days, it’s not too much to bear, he said.

“Some people like it, and it’s OK with me,” Woodruff said. “I can do with it. I can do without it.”

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