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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, March 5

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Naz / May 18, 2005 12:05 PM

I went to two last year - the Taste of Randolph and the Southport fest (which is now right in my backyard, literally). I was actually surprised by the Taste of Randolph - it was pretty good - decent food, good atmosphere, sort of a nouveau riche feel which was surprisingly refeshing - no drunken chads and trixies and relatively hipster free.

MikeH / May 18, 2005 12:25 PM

I used to really enjoy The Taste of Lincoln Ave. and The Sheffield Gardenwalk, but since both of those tend to get quite overcrowded, it's the accompanying neighborhood parties that are your best bet. That being said, I always look forward to the Lakeview Mayfest, since it's the yearly kickoff to the Chicago street festival season.

jima / May 18, 2005 12:52 PM

The Folk & Roots Festival is always fun. Lots of music and dance, and a chance to learn something new in the workshop tent.

brian / May 18, 2005 1:12 PM

My favorite street festival is usually sitting on my porch, drinking beer, and watching what happens while I do.

mike / May 18, 2005 1:35 PM

My favorite festivals, in order:

1. Folk and Roots for the park, family atmosphere and music I otherwise probably wouldn't hear. It is the polar opposite of the awful Taste of Lincoln Avenue Drunken Chadfest.

2. Hideout Block Party for the music and another chance for seeing something goofy, like Robbie Fulks' toddler son onstage screaming, "she took a lot of pills and died!" or Califone performing a set of all Rolling Stones covers.

3. Country Music Fest because it's always located on the edge of the Taste (I don't really like the Taste, so being on the edge of it allows for quick hassle-free beer and food runs). There is also shade and it is never crowded. I hear the lineup this year sucks though.

4. Midsommarfest because it's in my neighborhood, I need new cheap sunglasses and the guys at Taste of Lebanon always win over new customers.

5. German Fest/May Fest in Lincoln Square because one really should, on a yearly basis, get intoxicated and stuffed with Leberkase and 'kraut while hearing 'Margaritaville' performed by the Brauhaus Oompa band. And those bells are cool too.

Kevin / May 18, 2005 1:36 PM

"Chads" and "trixies"? Hehe Naz, 2001 called - They want their vernacular back.

What jima said. Old Town School Folk & Roots Fest always seems to have a broader range of stuff to do and things to see. Also, for us clausterphobic types, you can easily find an open area to catch your breath. Some of the street fests are a little too sardine-like for me.

Andrew / May 18, 2005 1:40 PM

Most of the neighborhood festivals end up being really boring -- how many pairs of cheap sunglasses and tie dyed t-shirts does one person need? -- but I enjoy the peoplewatching at Halsted Marketdays the most.

Tim / May 18, 2005 1:40 PM

The two that I will miss most are the 'Uptown's Taste of Roadkill' (UTRK) and the 'Buckportpark Festival of Bad Sculpture, Sad Collage Art, Vacation Photo's Passing as Nature Photography Art and Rude People' (BBSSCAVPPNPARP). The loss of these two events will leave a gap in Chicago's dwindling number of Summer streetfair events.

Naz / May 18, 2005 1:51 PM

Kevin - I could use Brents and Heathers (the hipster equivalent) but then I'd be so '06 and some of y'all ain't caught up yet. ;)

Kirsten / May 18, 2005 2:18 PM

I've always like Retro on Roscoe for some reason, seems like an older crowd and more families, less puking drunks. But after a while, they all sort of blend together and have the same rotating local band schedule. They are a fun day outside anyway.

Nicole / May 18, 2005 3:02 PM

I haven't been to a whole lot, but the Randolph Street Festival has had a great Saturday lineup the past two years, doesn't get too crowded, and has decent food.

Paula / May 18, 2005 3:05 PM

I don't know if the art festivals count, but I like the 57th St. Art Fair in Hyde Park - less congested that the Old Town Art Fair. Custer's Last Stand up in Evanston is nice too. I second (or third) the awfulness that is Taste of Lincoln Avenue, but I always wind up going because it's so close to where I live - ditto with May Fest, although this year I know one of the volunteers manning the beer tent, so hey! Free beer!

Roni / May 18, 2005 3:18 PM

Printers Row Bookfair, where a book whore like me is in heaven. Mmmmm....musty books...

I'm also dig Market Days & the Pride Parade. I love a good parade, esp when I'm in it.

Erica / May 18, 2005 3:28 PM

Market Days and Gay Pride Parade are so much fun albeit crowded as hell.

Now for a 180 ...

This isn't in Chicago, but if you need an escape, Kane County Fair in St. Charles is a really fun. I volunteered to work the popcorn booth at the demo derby a few years aog (long story), so I have fond memories of that fest. Fun people watching opportunities -- lotsa mullets, rose tattoos, zubaz, stone-washed jeans ... catch my drift?
I know it's not nice, but it's so damn fun to look at people stuck in a bad time warp. I'm sure it's fun for them, too, to watch people like me in my cutting edge big city fashions -- ha!

While I'm on this topic of great escapes, I love Rockford Speedway. You have to check that place out.

Maggie / May 18, 2005 3:31 PM

If you're willing to go to a not so far western suburb, the Taste of Melrose Park is excellent. It's held every Labor Day weekend at the Melrose Park Civic Center and is a true taste, with small, cheap portions of food, some fun arts and crafts and inexpensive wine and beer. I love it.

label lover / May 18, 2005 3:39 PM

"no drunken chads and trixies and relatively hipster free"

...geez. so tired of this pretentious "non-conformist" banter. time to invent some new labels, y'all. the current set is getting old.

Erica / May 18, 2005 3:50 PM

I'm totally taking my liberties here, so please don't yell at me -- in addition to Kane Co. Fair and Rockford Speedway (neither in Chicago nor streets nor fairs), Ribfest in Naperville is awesome. Say what you want about the stroller-pushing SUV-driving filthy rich, but that fest is the bomb. Too, the vendors are pretty down to earth. My mouth was so hot after sampling the various 'cues, I swear I burned a hole in my lip.
Suck factor: it falls on the 4th of July weekend (I usually am torn between 10 diff. things that weekend)
Ubercool factor: Loretta Lynn, Diamond Dave and Ted Nugent are lined up to play this year (not together, although that would be cool)

I'll stop now before I start sounding like a spokesperson for Ribfest.

C-Food / May 18, 2005 4:21 PM

Naz is a tool and a hipster. Not sure which is worse.

Emerson Dameron / May 18, 2005 4:37 PM

Seconds on Lincoln Park's MayFest and the Printer's Row bookfair. If you must attend the Wicker Park fair, prepare to be bored silly and bullied about the "donation." The only good memory I have from that one is the mist tent - the rest was so dull, I couldn't even hang in for the Posies.

Kevin / May 18, 2005 4:39 PM

Nah C'mon, Naz is good people. Who isn't prone to using outdated terminology? I still use "yuppie" in a pinch.

Kirsten said: "But after a while, they all sort of blend together and have the same rotating local band schedule. "

Does that mean you won't come see us at Taste Of Lincoln and HankFest? ;)

Chad / May 18, 2005 4:45 PM

Personally, I'm looking forward to the Baseball Cap, Volkswagon and Dave Matthews Band cover festival on Diversey. Miller Genuine Draft for everyone! Go Cubs!

Trixie / May 18, 2005 4:48 PM

Don't forget to throw your cute fake gang signs while cradling a microbrew, Chad . Those make me so hot. See you in my Jetta!

e_five / May 18, 2005 5:00 PM

Those fake gang signs were developed during a hardscrabble adolescence on the mean streets of Buffalo Grove, no doubt.

christy / May 18, 2005 5:24 PM

Wells St. Art Fest -- where there's affordable art, live music, and Old Jerusalem.

Any fest where a good band is playing.

Alice / May 18, 2005 5:30 PM

Okay, before this thread degenerates too far, I'd like to throw in my two favorites. I second the 57th Street Art Fair, which usually includes lots of neighborhood-y goodness down in Hyde Park. I've been going for years, and rain or shine, I never miss it. I also second the Printer's Row Book Fair, which I also never miss. Both events traditionally take place the first weekend in June, marking my personal Chicago summer kick-off.

Casey / May 18, 2005 5:43 PM

1. Puerto Rican Festival, Humboldt Park

June 14-20
Nothing compares to this. Six days long, 500,000 visitors. Salsa + reggaeton + drinking directly from a coconut. Best eyecandy, bar none.

2. Korea Fest, Bryn Mawr between Kimball/Kedzie - August

I eat at lots of Korean restaurants but never saw their street food till this fest. It looks like something from Sponge Bob and tastes like hot dogs. [This is a high compliment from me]The live acts are a weird mix of hip-hop/breakdancing on one end and Korean-language Carpenteresque pop on the other.

3. Folk and Roots Fest--the one time in the year when Latin music hipsters and alt-country fanatics party side by side. I savor it and come out of the closet as bi-musical.

Gloria Green / May 18, 2005 6:21 PM

It's stood the test of time--it's the TASTE OF CHICAGO, the mega-food fest that started it all in a big way.

Mister C / May 18, 2005 9:58 PM

Folk and Roots is great, although I'd love for them to match the lineup they had that year when the Mekons and Patti Smith played the main stage.

Midsommerfest is a blast, it seems to get bigger every year.

From a food standpoint, Taste of Devon is awesome even though it always seems to be a billion degrees out when it's on (thematically appropriate, I suppose).

Lincoln Square's May and October Fests are fab in the early afternoon when you can rub elbows with the Lederhosen & Durndel crowd (damn, no umlaut key!) but after 7 they get hideously crowded with....whatever you want to call them (don't want to risk the wrath of the Terminology Police).

I'm thrilled to read all the nice things about the 57th Street Fair. The esposa and I are going for the first time because some out of town artist friends nabbed a booth there. Good to know that it will be cool aside from seeing old pals. Anything in particular to look for?

Korea Fest and Puerto Rican Fest sound too good to miss. Throwing them on the calendar.

I've lived here for 18 years and have never been to the Taste. I'd be interested to know if folks on "the Block" (as the kids are calling it) think I should remedy that or not.

Tim / May 19, 2005 8:30 AM


When you come down to the 57th Street Art Fair, after you take in the excellent art offerings - in the past there have been terrific photography and pottery artists, as well as painters, even a guy who makes wooden cooking untensils you feel guilty using but do seem to make whatever your cooking taste better - walk east toward the lake and stop by Istria Cafe (57th & Lake Park), we won't be officially open but we will be in the nearly finished space waiting for the city's approval to open (ahhh, the city of hoop jumping small business owners) and could give you a tour. And Powell's is across the street, one of the best bookstores in Chicago. Hyde Park's two days of Summer festival importance.

paul / May 19, 2005 9:18 AM

I like the Andersonvillefest, or whatever they're calling it. Mmmm, funnel cake. And I second the Kane Co. fair. Mmm, demo derby.

For cheap sunglasses, and inkjet nature photography, I just stay close to home at the Evanston Fairs. The Cultural Fair tends to have some unique food.

But the place to be this summer in 3 words - "Whitesnake at Summerfest"

Tommy #1 / May 19, 2005 10:02 AM

Wisconsin's Summer Fest aka "The Big Gig" is by far the best. Yes there is a cover charged to get in but a mere $5 seems to keep the vast majority of nar-do-wells and such to an extreme minimum. The music is non-stop great, the beer delicious, and food.

Another not to miss is "Harvest Fest" in Milwaukee...... Held in late fall...It's a beer tasting fest with live music....all beer is $1 in 12oz cups and it's free to get in. Try pumpkin beer, cider ales, and normal beer, bocks and etc.

Mister C / May 19, 2005 12:14 PM

I'll make a point of checking Istria out, Tim (good luck with city permissions, I've heard many a Kafkaesque tale).

T-1:Summerfest is always a given as far as music fests go, and friends from 'Sconnieland have been raving about Milwaukee's Harvest Fest for years (much different from Madison's Harvest Fest, cough, cough); but if you want Old School Dairyland Fun check out the Walworth County Fair in Elkhorn (my old hometown) around Labor Day. Every possible fair/fest thang you can imagine, plus scads of rural folk for jaded self-righteous city hipsters to mock (although you better be discreet unless you want a workboot up your butt).

Kevin / May 19, 2005 1:20 PM

There you go again, Paul.

Chad / May 19, 2005 2:27 PM

I am really looking forward to wearing my frayed baseball cap backwards and consuming mass quantities of Miller Lite at the Taste of Lincoln at the end of July. Every trixie frolicking about the festival will immediately know just how hot I am and how cool I am for being in Sigma Chi at U of I and now having acheived success driving a BMW 3-series and working at a Big 3 accounting firm in the loop. Ladies, take a number and beg you can have a chance with me. I am just so much better than everyone else.

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