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South Chicago, East Side

‘Sweet Home South Chicago’ Festival Gears Up To Celebrate Commercial Avenue Businesses, Local Talent

The community celebration is 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday along Commercial Avenue from 87th to 93rd streets.

Storefronts in the 9100 south block of Commercial Avenue in the South Chicago neighborhood in April.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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SOUTH CHICAGO — A daylong celebration of South Chicago’s shops and culture will take place Saturday along the neighborhood’s main business strip.

The Sweet Home South Chicago festival will go 10 a.m.-6 p.m. in the 8700-9300 blocks of Commercial Avenue.

Local vendors and food trucks, live music, arts programs and a school supply giveaway are planned, and customers will receive Sweet Home South Chicago shopping bags.

About two-thirds of the corridor’s businesses, services and nonprofits will be on the sidewalks, interacting with attendees, said Dave Price, Special Service Area No. 5 program manager.

The event is intended to “reintroduce the commercial district to the Southeast Side,” Price said. “Many of the businesses aren’t known well enough, or aren’t known at all. We want to draw residents of the Southeast Side to Commercial Avenue, so you can get a better sense of what’s available.”

Samantha’s Flowers, Davis Shoes, Carolene’s Heirloom Resale and Bernard’s Wear — the “stepper’s store” whose owner, Bernard Shannon, “knows more about hats than any retailer in the city,” Price said — are among the small businesses to be highlighted.

The special service area organized the festival alongside the Bessemer Park Advisory Council and grassroots organization Bridges // Puentes, the latter of which recruited artists and musicians to perform.

The event received funding from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Walder Foundation.

Among the day’s musical acts, The Myron Mills Project will perform covers of “vintage material” from Michael Jackson, Sade, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, among others.

Mills, a piano player and bandleader who lived in South Chicago for 40 years, lives just across the neighborhood boundary in Calumet Heights. He’s excited to play Sweet Home South Chicago, his first community festival since the start of the pandemic.

“Music is what I do. It’s just a part of my life,” Mills said. “I’m just really looking forward to it — the stage and the people, the opportunity to perform again, to share our talents and abilities.”

To volunteer at the festival, click here.

Sweet Home South Chicago was intended to mark the official debut of the neighborhood’s Chicago Alfresco program installation. The project will transform the 8900 block of Commercial Avenue with art, market stalls for local vendors, performance spaces and more.

Sidewalk graphics and art towers are in place for the Alfresco program, but city transportation officials had “raised some concerns, which delayed the rest of the installation,” Price said. The final details were ironed out with the city last week, and organizers are now shooting for a late September unveiling, Price said.

“Every space where there’s a sidewalk graphic, something is getting installed on it, whether it’s market stalls, benches or planters,” Price said. “It would’ve been wonderful if it was all in place” for this weekend’s celebration.

With the summer winding down, most of the projects under the $2.3 million Chicago Alfresco initiative — intended to expand outdoor dining, help host community events and provide recreational spaces — remain incomplete.

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