The 79th Street Renaissance Festival is one of the biggest events on the South Side, drawing 20,000 attendees every year. Credit: PROVIDED.

AUBURN GRESHAM — A South Side festival with live gospel music, hip-hop performances, carnival rides and more is returning for its 16th year.

The Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation will host the 79th Street Renaissance Festival 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 10. The community celebration first made a comeback last year after a brief hiatus during the pandemic

The free public event will shut down 79th and Racine with activities for people of all ages, including a petting zoo for children and a Senior Corner for older neighbors with seating, food and a view of the main stage. A Kids’ Corner will have arcade games and basketball hoops. 

The year’s festival will have carnival rides and introduce a space called Tavern On 9 where “grown and sexy folks” can grab an alcoholic beverage and smoke a cigar, Director Carlos Nelson said. 

Hip-hop artists Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, dubbed the Human Beat Box, will take the stage to keep the crowd moving. Gospel music singers will also hit the mic. 

When neighbors think of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, they think of an organization “dedicated to serving everyone in the community,” Nelson said. 

The 79th Street Renaissance Festival is a prime example of the work the group aspires to do, he said. 

Credit: Provided

“We’re showcasing our community as a great place to live, work, play and create,” Nelson said. “When we can tell our stories and host events like this, we show the greatness of who our communities are.” 

The organization will bolster security measures at the festival to keep neighbors safe and having fun, Nelson said. The South Side organization has partnered with a security firm that will patrol the celebration. Volunteer security staff will also monitor the festival. 

“We never design anything we do from a place of deficit or fear, but in the years since we’ve created the festival, we are more mindful of the realities of life and the access to weapons,” Nelson said. “On the day of the festival, it’s safe.”

In previous years, the 79th Street Festival has welcomed more than 20,000 attendees, Nelson said. The organization is hoping for a similar turnout — or even more neighbors — this year, he said. 

“The 79th Street Renaissance Festival has grown to be an iconic community festival and one of the biggest that people don’t know about,” Nelson said. “We’re excited to have everyone out.”

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Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis