The Hyde Park Summer Fest Experience: A Review

Photo: Hyde Park Summer Fest/Facebook

They came for the music but got the Hyde Park Summer Fest Experience.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you should have heard about the Hyde Park Summer Fest by now — one of the most anticipated Chicago summer music festivals.

Jonathan Swain and creative director Dave Jeff founded the Hyde Park Summer Fest. The event has grown tremendously from a small craft beer event nine years ago to one of the city’s top summer festivals. They anticipate 20,000 people each day at the two-day festival.

This year the festival increased the number of vendors. That amount included a ton of local businesses along with major brand sponsors. As we walked the Midway Plaisance path, vendors were spread out with designated areas for food trucks, retail shopping, spirits and unique lounge experiences for the different ticket tiers. 

The VIP ticket holders were offered premier seating on the lawn and a raised balcony to view the performances. The VIP tickets also included full access to beautifully furnished tented areas that offered private bars and dining. We spoke with Dave Jeff about the production and grand nature of this year’s Hyde Park Summer Fest. 

“The HPSF team wanted to make the experience bigger and better, delivering the sponsors, vendors and attendees a more memorable experience,” said Jeff. “The team aimed to attract a larger audience and provide a more immersive atmosphere. Making the event larger in scale and more impactful.” 

There were rows and rows of vendors with beautifully crafted booth designs. 

Sponsorship and vendor booths at events allowed companies to reach wider audiences, engage with potential customers, and strengthen their brand presence by delivering a memorable summer experience, leaving a lasting impression on attendees and fostering positive associations with their brand and offerings.

Mielle gave free samples of their newest Avocado Tamanu natural hair system. The booth was beautifully designed with a full lounging area where festival participants could relax and linger. They could take a break and explore Mielle products. 

Moor’s Brewing Co., a black-owned beer company, was the official craft beer sponsor; and it brought an unforgettable summer experience, supplying revelers with refreshing brews and incredible vibes. Moors Beer focused on the beer itself and aimed to create an immersive and enjoyable atmosphere for attendees. 

The Black McDonalds Association was present and passed out free hot fries. The organization also offered free frozen drinks, a posh dining area and activities, including a basketball hoop! 

Attendees participated in friendly competitions or enjoyed shooting hoops, adding a playful and energetic atmosphere to the experience.

Speaking of friendly competition, the fun rivalry between Harold’s Chicken & Uncle Remus was on full display in the food truck area. The smell of delicious fried chicken permeated the space, and it wasn’t easy to pass by without indulging. Some friends and I performed a taste test (Check out the reel on the Defender’s official IG page).

After trying Uncle Remus for the first time, let’s just say we understand the longtime rivalry. Harold’s fried chicken is always a must-have as a Southsider, but I now understand the comparison. Uncle Remus offered delicious fresh fried chicken seasoned to perfection with delightful sauce.

Many were awaiting the much-anticipated reunion of the Clipse. It’s only the second time the sibling rappers Pusha T and No Malice have performed together in the last decade, and they did not disappoint. The crowd had already enjoyed the soulful vibes of Alex Isley and the high-energy performance 2Chainz gave. The positive vibes and love of the music culture were present, which made the opening night a huge success.

The weekend was flush with live music, delicious food, arts, fashion and community celebrations. The Hyde Park SummerFest is the perfect backdrop to enjoy it all while discovering new businesses and products. It was primarily a great way to support local black-owned businesses. 

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