“In the beginning there was Jack … and Jack had a groove, and from this groove came the grooves of all grooves. And while one day viciously throwing down on his box, Jack boldly declared ‘Let There Be House,’ and House music was born.” Chuck Roberts – Chicago – 1987
This Saturday, July 7, 2018, The Chosen Few DJs are back at Jackson Park for The Chosen Few Picnic & Festival. What started as a small gathering of friends behind Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry in 1990 is now one of the world’s longest-running events dedicated to House Music, attracting fans from all over the world. Nicknamed the “Woodstock of House” and the “Love Fest,” the family-reunion-style event features 12 hours of music and performances from the Chosen Few DJs – Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Tony Hatchett, Alan King, Andre Hatchett, Terry Hunter and Mike Dunn, plus guest DJs and vocalists.
The reunion kicked off because the DJs each moved to different areas in the United States and came back together one summer to reconnect. Chosen Few DJs Founder Wayne Williams states, “Two of my DJ’s, Andre Hatchett and Tony Hatchett [brothers] had a family reunion thing they were doing out there, so [we decided] after that event, every year on the 4th of July weekend, we will come back together and DJ together like we used to.” From that point on, the group of DJs have grown the picnic from 50 people to now more than 50,000 house music fans from nearly every continent.
House music is a genre of electronic dance music created by club DJs and music producers in Chicago in the early 1980s. There are devoted fans that have come out to this event faithfully over the years. They come to feel the beat, love and positive vibes.
South Sider Jasmyne E’lise, 32, credits her father as the one who started the House Music phenomenon in her household. “My father has been going to [the Chosen Few Picnic] since day one and would always come home and tell us what a great time he had. Finally, my mother and I had enough and decided to crash the party. It’s been at least five years since then, and it’s become a celebration of life and a homecoming.”
E’lise also said that every year all her family and friends from college travel to Chicago for this event. They all come together to enjoy each other and catch up on what they’ve missed throughout the year. “It’s the one time I have the opportunity to cut loose and be free of judgement because all of the people are there with me!”
Another Chicago Native, Darvel Ahmad Stinson, 47, is going for the second year not only because he has been a House Music fan since high school [CVS class of 1988], but he had such a good time last year. “There’s great music, and it’s a beautiful atmosphere. Everyone I met and saw made me feel like it was one big family reunion. To be at an event with so many people enjoying each other’s company was a great feeling– without any crime or incidents.”
Leonard Ward, 45, from Milwaukee, Wis., has been attending for about ten years. Ward and his friends have booked hotel rooms, and they are ready to dance! “We spend our day enjoying the music, eating, socializing and dancing. We’re there about noon until it ends, weather permitting. I love the energy of house music.”
The Birth of House
Beginning in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, the seven then-teen DJs from Chicago’s South Side played their unique brand of soulful dance music to considerable crowds in packed basements, high school cafeterias, and legendary nightspots. They also performed at Sauer’s, the Tree of Life, First Impressions, the Playground and the Loft, a club of historic importance in the birth and development of house music.
Along with a handful of other legendary DJs including Frankie Knuckles at the Warehouse, Ron Hardy at the Music Box and Lil’ Louis on the West Side of Chicago, the Chosen Few were the DJs primarily responsible for popularizing the underground dance music that came to be known as House Music.
And that sound will be heard throughout this weekend. This year’s guests at the picnic and festival include House Music powerhouses the Basement Boys – DJ Spen, Karizma, and Teddy Douglas, Ralph Rosario from the legendary Hot Mix 5, and one of House Music’s hottest vocalists Sheree Hicks.
“We’re featuring some local talent– Terisa Griffin, Sheree Hicks, Chuck Roberts from the West Side of Chicago. That’s what our festival is about– dancing, having fun and love, everybody eating food and sharing food, sharing drinks and just having a great time in our community– and there’s no community like Chicago. A lot of time we hear about the wrong things in Chicago, but the citizens of Chicago are great, and we are proud to show them off at this event.
Williams explains that each year most of their guest DJs and vocalists are good friends and they know them by the work they put in by grinding in the streets of Chicago. This year is going to be another for the books as The Chosen few brings out local Chicago Talent mixed with more fun.
There will be games and prizes for people to participate in as well. The themed dress code theme is Wakanda. People will be dressing up in their African clothing to show African-culture and pride while getting down to House Music.
The only thing that has changed over the years is the economics of the event. As the attendance grew, it went from being free (with donations) to requiring an admission fee. Not only did the City of Chicago start to charge the DJs, but they also needed more staff to accommodate everyone too.
Williams stated, “The first 19 years we didn’t have to charge, we would pass the bucket around, and we came out of our own pockets to have this event. As more people attended, the city started to charge us, so then we had to start charging for entry. We had to get more security staff; we had to get more porta-potties, you know everything that we needed to make it a pleasant, safe, successful event. It is a growing festival. Most people charge $100, $200, $250 but our starting individual ticket is $40 and the presale tickets [earlier this year] were $25.” Tent packages can cost up to $450.
There has been speculation of whether or not the festival will have to move next year with the new Obama Presidential Center being planned in the area. But Williams says fans can rest assured, they will not have to relocate.
“They [City of Chicago] haven’t said anything to us where it would affect the event but the area that they’re talking about is West to where we are, so it really won’t affect us,” Williams told the Defender.
If you are wondering if you should drive, take the train or Uber, you can do all three: “Most people come through Lakeshore drive or Stony Island. There is also places to park around the area as well in the neighborhood like school lots, church lots, things like that where you can pay to park as well,” states Williams.
The DJs have had events all over Chicago to kick off the main event this Saturday. This past week they had the Chosen Few DJs Night at a Chicago White Sox game. There has been a Hot Lunch Mix at Daley Plaza and on Thursday, July 5, there will be a kickoff party at the Promontory with music by Chosen Few DJs Mike Dunn, Tony Hatchett and Andre Hatchett with special guest DJ Tony Touch of Funkbox NYC. On Friday a day party is planned at Truth Italian Restaurant, Saturday is the Main Event, and Sunday concludes the Festival with the closing party at the Renaissance Bronzeville.
If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, you can buy them at the gate or purchase your tickets online at http://chosenfewdjs.com Bring your grills, tents, kids, and dancing shoes, because everyone is welcome at the Chosen Few Picnic.