ENGLEWOOD — Despite a bustling community of artists, musicians and creators, Englewood hasn’t had its own neighborhood festival to showcase the area’s vibrancy.
That will change Saturday as community leaders kick off the Englewood Music Fest, bringing live performances, vendors, art and other entertainment to the heart of the neighborhood.
The fest kicks off noon Sept. 18 at 63rd and Halsted, with festivities going all day. You can RSVP here. A virtual option will be available for neighbors who want to watch from home.
The event also will commemorate five years of the Englewood Square commercial pocket.
“We want to celebrate the excellence of Englewood,” said Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th), whose office is sponsoring the event. “We are exemplifying Englewood excellence. We are celebrating the past, present and future of our neighborhood.”
Coleman said her dream for the festival began years before she ran for office.
A South Side native, Coleman said she has attended the Westside Music Festival and the Silver Room Block Party in Hyde Park. Amid the loud music and laughs, Coleman wondered how a large South Side community like Englewood didn’t have anything similar, she said.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘If I can go to the West Side and experience family, music, good food, good vibes and great energy in the community, I can do this in Englewood,'” Coleman said.
The freshman alderwoman said she hopes to unite the community as other festivals across the city have.
“I want to bring that experience from the baby boomers to Gen Z,” Coleman said. “I want them to have that feeling that I had when I went to my first music festival on the West Side and in Hyde Park, because it made me feel good.”
R&B singer Syleena Johnson will perform at the festival, Coleman said. Other performers will be announced closer to the event. Attendees also can expect a “new school versus old school” music battle.
Local performers will get a chance to showcase their talents in a neighborhood artist segment, Coleman said.
“If you ever wanted to see the real Englewood, this is your chance to see how Englewood does it in true style, fashion and swag,” she said.
In addition to live music, festivalgoers can expect interactive art installations courtesy of the Englewood Arts Collective, a local organization that unites creatives to beautify and reframe their community’s narrative.
From a live beat-making session to ceramic and clay making, collective member Janell Nelson said the goal is to make the event a fun experience for the entire family while showcasing life and love in Englewood.
“We just want to create a beautiful, lively and safe space centered around creativity amongst the backdrop of the festival,” Nelson said. “We’re a humble group of professional artists who have so much love for the community that we grew up in. It’s not so much giving back; it’s a celebration.”
Nelson also said the collective plans to have popular femme and non-binary DJs rotating tunes.
“Part of changing the narrative isn’t just putting out stories. It’s taking actions that reverberate and leave impressions and inspire,” Nelson said. “And leaving impressions that are like footprints for other people to step into and run with.”
As coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, some neighborhoods have canceled their annual festivals. Most recently, the newly rebranded Hyde Park Summer Fest canceled its event, which was planned for September.
But Coleman said she plans to take the necessary precautions to keep neighbors safe. Attendees will have to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test. There will also be a testing tent on site.
“This is not Lollapalloza,” Coleman said. “It’s not going to be a bunch of people jammed together listening to music. We’re going to have a small crowd with activities for the family.”
Coleman said she’s excited to bring love back into the community. After a year of a “not-so-great-rep,” she said this festival is the first step.
“For years, we have seen that disinvestment has been the major crime committed in our community,” Coleman said. “But this is our time. This is the opportunity to show the world what Englewood is about. We are a community of family, peace, love and unity. We are still rising.”
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