Throngs of Chicagoans will head north this weekend, June 8-10, for Midsommarfest, Andersonville's annual street festival now in its 47th year. Midsommarfest is arguably one of the city's most popular festivals, drawing crowds of up to 50,000 people to explore the food, shopping and music set up along the six blocks of Clark Street between Foster and Catalpa.
"I think it helps that we are one of the first festivals of the season -- people are ready to enjoy summer," Jason Cox, Associate Director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce told ChicagoPride.com. "I heard four people yesterday say 'summer doesn't start for me until Midsommarfest weekend!'"
Midsommarfest emerged in the mid 60s, evolving out of the neighborhood's Swedish custom of celebrating the summer solstice. In 2012, that means two days and three nights of celebrating a truly unique and diverse Chicago neighborhood. Six stages feature an array of music and entertainment ranging from traditional Swedish choirs and Maypole dancing to local favorite bands like The Joans, who perform 60s and 70s-inspired rock ‘n' roll while paying tribute to Hollywood legend Joan Crawford. Clark street will also be lined with over 100 booths representing some of the best area food and shopping as well as other vendors and not-for-profit organizations.
"This weekend is a great introduction to Andersonville and all it has to offer," said Charlie Brown, who owns the bar Atmosphere, 5355 N Clark St. "It is also an opportunity for people who haven't been to the area in a while to reacquaint themselves with the shops and stores in the area in time for summer."
Atmosphere, which routinely gets packed from wall to wall over Midsommarfest weekend, is one of several LGBT establishments that call Andersonville home. The traditionally Swedish neighborhood on Chicago's far north side boasts several gay and lesbian bars as well as Women & Children First, an LGBT and feminist-oriented bookstore. Andersonville is Chicago's second gayborhood, relaxed and more alternative without the attitude of Boystown. While Brown refers to Midsommarfest as "like a little brother and precursor to Market Days," Cox insists that the festival's queerness is merely a reflection of Andersonville itself.
"So many LGBT folks have moved up here and opened businesses here and have their lives here and are a huge part of those people who just want to show off and celebrate the neighborhood," Cox told ChicagoPride.com. "The diversity at the festival reflects the diversity in the neighborhood, and we don't need to have our poster be a giant rainbow flag to know that everyone here is welcome."
For the past two years Andersonville's Hamburger Mary's
sponsored a small acoustic stage largely organized by Chicago singer-songwriter Stephen Leonard. Leonard is also the host of Out Rock, a music program on Gay Chicago TV (www.gaychicagotv.com
) launched in December that connects the LGBT community with original singers and songwriters through interviews and intimate performances. With the impending launch of Gay Chicago TV, this year Midsommarfest created the Out Rock Stage, which is located just south of Balmoral on Clark. The stage, which Leonard says will be both loud and intimate, features several local, original singer-songwriters.
"Being an original singer-songwriter act can be incredibly tough when it comes to live gigs; especially in the summer. A lot of street festivals are built for bigger acts or bands which gives little opportunity and recognition to local singer-songwriters," Leonard told ChicagoPride.com. "The great thing about Midsommarfest is that there is such a variety of entertainment and we're excited to be included this year as a main stage!"
An even bigger change to Midsommarfest this year is the addition of Friday night to the lineup. Between 5 and 10 p.m. Clark Street between Catalpa and Balmoral will open the festival with a smaller selection of booths and vendors and a single music stage. Chicago summer festival favorite 16 Candles headlines the evening. Friday night's proceeds are going to benefit to Andersonville Development Corporation, a community focused organization that seeks to create a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable business district in the neighborhood. Most recently ADC raised the funds to build Chicago's first parklet, which refers to an on-street parking space that is converted into a small urban park through the addition of a patio, planters, trees, public seating and bicycle parking.
Two more community-focused initiatives at Midsommarfest showcase Andersonville's dedication to promoting and bettering its neighborhood for both the residents and businesses that call it home. Parents and teachers from three area schools -- Trumbull Elementary, Peirce Elementary and St. Gregory High School -- are volunteering at the Chamber beer booths over the weekend, so every time you buy a beer some of the proceeds will go to benefit those schools. Also, anyone who spends at least $30 at a locally-owned Andersonville retail store or service provider, excluding restaurants and bars, on Friday, Saturday or Sunday can bring their receipt to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce booth and exchange it for a coupon to receive a free beer at the festival.
If free beer, a new local music stage and the addition of Friday night aren't enough to tempt Chicagoans to Midsommarfest this weekend, perhaps the forecasted temperatures in the mid-to-high 80s will do the job. Nothing says summer in Chicago like beating the heat with a cold (free) beer and exploring one of the city's most anticipated and beloved neighborhood festivals. For more information about Midsommarfest please visit http://www.andersonville.org/midsommarfest
(Video courtesy of gaychicagotv.com