OAKWOOD BEACH — After almost 20 years, one of Summertime Chi’s favorite street festivals is calling it quits.
The 2023 Silver Room Block Party in July will be the last edition of the popular show, Silver Room owner Eric Williams confirmed Friday. The event has become too expensive to produce, Williams said.
The two-day festival is noon-10 p.m. July 29-30 at the beach, 4100 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
Williams launched the block party in 2002. What started out as an intimate gathering between friends, family and neighbors kicking it in a Wicker Park alley, Silver Room grew larger than Williams ever imagined, he said.
A little too big, he said.
“I was running cords out of my apartment to provide power for equipment back then. That’s how small it was,” Williams said.
The entrepreneur moved the party to downtown Hyde Park before the pandemic forced its hiatus for two years.
In the block party’s return last year, Williams moved the event to Oakwood Beach to accommodate the growing number of attendees.
Williams and organizers of the Chosen Few Picnic held a joint panel in May 2019 to detail about how much time and money went into producing large-scale events.
Chosen Few had started charging entrance fees, and Williams was exploring the same option for Silver Room, which had largely relied on donation boxes at entry points.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good to have some transparency about what goes on so that people can have an appreciation for it?’ Williams said at the time.
But attendees kept ignoring the donation boxes, and soon the stress became untenable, Williams said. In addition to moving the location, Williams switched the format from a free, one-day event to a ticketed two-day festival to help cover costs for a show that draws up to 20,000 people.
Passes for this year’s event are on sale from $50 to $75 for adults. Children under 13 and accompanied by a guardian are free.
“Last year, I was paying thousands of dollars for port-o-potties and sound equipment,” Williams said. “The generators were over $100,000. It went from costing me $500 to $5,000 to $50,000 to $1 million last year. I was losing money, and no one wanted to donate.”
In addition to running the block party, the entrepreneur was also in the process of opening Bronzeville Winery and raising a daughter, he said.
Now that the restaurant is taking off and his daughter is entering high school, Williams believes it’s time to scale back, he said. He’ll be hosting a Silver Room Block Party Film Festival ahead of this year’s event — which will also be a bit scaled down.
“We’ll see how this one goes first,” Williams said.
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