AUBURN GRESHAM — This year’s 79th Street Renaissance Festival will be “bigger and better” as it welcomes a Grammy-Award-winning artist as headliner and attempts the “city’s largest Cha Cha Slide,” organizers said.
The free event at 79th and Racine runs from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m Sept. 9. Neighbors can shop from more than 100 local vendors, access community resources and listen to live music from gospel, jazz and R&B singers.
Anthony Hamilton, the award-winning soulster behind songs like “Charlene” and “Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens,” will headline. Performances from gospel singer Kierra Sheard-Kelly, Afrosoul vocalist Nola Adé and Auburn Gresham’s own Kiela Adira also are scheduled.
Now in its 18th year, the festival will keep its roots of honoring House music classics with performances from King Farley and DJ Boolumaster, organizers said.
DJ Casper, the South Side legend behind the world-acclaimed hit, the “Cha Cha Slide,” was a festival regular in prior years, said Carlos Nelson, executive director at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, which hosts the festival.
In honor of Casper, who died this month, the festival will attempt to have the “city’s largest Cha Cha Slide,” Nelson said. The celebration has had nearly 20,000 attendees in past years.
Familiar favorite activities will include a petting zoo, carnival rides and performances from the Jesse White Tumblers, Nelson said.
A 50-foot-tall Ferris wheel will be the largest attraction the festival has ever had, Nelson said.
“That’s something that we wanted to make certain that the kids in the community had that they haven’t had access to,” Nelson said.
The first 500 seniors at the event can eat for free, and the festival will have enough food to feed up to 400 children, Nelson said.
The Tavern On 9 will feature a cigar lounge and space for “grown and sexy folks” to grab a signature drink, Nelson said.
The South Side festival kicked off in 2006 after Nelson and Cheryl Johnson, a leader at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, noticed a lack of community recognition, Nelson previously said. The Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation is behind the Healthy Lifestyle Hub, winner of the first $10 million Chicago Prize.
Auburn Gresham was a wonderful place to live, but no one had thought of a sustainable way to celebrate it, Nelson said.
The festival has since welcomed generations of families, he said.
“We’re looking forward to once again hosting a family-friendly, safe event like we’ve had for the last 17 years,” Nelson said.
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