Cultural Icons Host Conversation, Raise Money

The Silver Room Block Party and Chosen Few DJs Picnic are two large events that are hosted on the South Side. So, what does it take to put on two very successful events? Those who attended a conversation with the founders of both events got some insight on Thursday night at the Promontory at 5311 S. Lake Park Ave.

The conversation featured DJs Allen King, Wayne Williams and Terry Hunter, along with Eric Williams, Rob McKay and Ron Trent, of the Silver Room Block Party. The event was hosted by Mark Smith, of the Promontory.

“Wayne Williams started Chosen Few DJs before most of the people in this room were born,” said King. “We had the idea to come back together and relive the old house music days.”

King said while it started off small throughout the years it grew.

“We thought nobody would come. A gazillion people showed up,” he said. “We never had any designs about being a big music festival. You folks just kept coming and coming.”

King said the growth of the festival is something he is very proud of. And, “it became this huge tiger we had to figure out how to tame.”

Eric Williams said the Silver Room Block Party started while Silver Room was in Wicker Park on Milwaukee Avenue.

“The first time, a couple hundred people came. It just grew and grew,” he said.

The first year Williams moved the Silver Room, he didn’t host the event. When the Silver Room Block Party had its first year in Hyde Park, it was a success. Williams said he always planned the event to take place the third Saturday in July.

“I knew people went to Chosen Few. I knew people needed time to recover. I never thought of anything as a competition,” Eric Williams said.

Wayne Williams also agreed there was no competition between the two events.

“We both want our events to do well and do good,” he said. “We’re in sync and want our brothers to do well.”

Trent said both events are a mechanism for teaching the youth.

“One of the most beautiful things is that we could have children dancing to house music,” he said. “It can act as a mechanism to show kids how grown folks party.”

Wayne Williams talked about the inclusiveness of house music.

“I consider myself Pro Black. When we did our music, house music, disco music, it was for everybody,” he said. “Doing our event in Jackson Park…we also have to stay true to our culture and our event.”

The group also talked about the cost to put on the events.

“Everything you spend money on goes up,” King said. “ Security, permits, hundreds and hundreds of bathrooms, hundreds and hundreds of tents, police, VIP accommodations, artist fees, hotels, flights.”

King added that the expenses each year add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Planning for both events begin in January. The Chosen Few DJs Picnic started in 1990 and has been going strong for 29 years, without incident. It has received recognition around the country and around the world.

“That lets me know we’re doing our job,” Hunter said.

Silver Room Block Party has been going on for 16 years and is a recognized as a must-go event for the summer in the city. Trent described the event as a labor of love.

“I’ve lived in a few places, but there’s nothing like Chicago. Being able to bring world class entertainment to the streets, that’s powerful.”

The event was a fundraiser to send a student from Kenwood Academy High School to college.

The Chosen Few DJs Picnic will take place Saturday, July 6, in Jackson Park. Silver room Block Party will take place Saturday, July 20.







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