As temperatures heat up around Chicago, so do the festivals throughout town. From the Chosen Few Music Fest to Summer Dance, Chicago hands-down has free (or cheap) fun and entertainment on the summer schedule. And one of the biggest festivals on the South Side is coming up—The Silver Room Block Party on July 21 from noon-10 p.m. In its 15th year, the festival is sure to serve up the same fun and family reunion feel it has become known to provide.
“It is a very unique event,” said Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room and founder of the Block Party. “People come for the feeling of childhood…to say ‘hey girl,” [when they run into old friends]; they feel safe and cool and nobody is tripping.” The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd, is an eclectic shop showcasing art, jewelry, attire as well as serving as a gathering space within the community.
Up and down 53rd Street, from Lake Park to now Dorchester (expanded this year), the normally busy street will be blocked off to cars and buses and will be transformed into an old fashion block party with updated, top-notch sound systems and artists in 13 locations. All types of music will be featured and there are special attractions for all ages. DuSable Museum as well as the Museum of Science and Industry and Hyde Park Art Center will host activities for children; teens will perform; there will be a stepping event and a double-dutch jump rope competition as well as a basketball court for adults and kids.
It is definitely a party for the entire family.
“My grandma came until she was 96,” Williams added.
Williams started the festival when his store was in Wicker Park and he nor his friends would get to perform at other festivals. “Those festivals weren’t as inclusive as they needed to be,” he said. “I DJ, my friends DJ, but we couldn’t get on.”
So, Williams decided to start his own; for the first party, he ran an extension cord from the window of his apartment on top of his store and about 100 people showed up. From there, the event became annual and grew.
He continues the festival, which costs up to $150,000 to host, for two reasons: “Most of my friends are artists and there are not a lot of spaces to showcase their talent unless you are a big name….having a platform is good….And we add traffic to local businesses.”
By putting stages in locations along 53rd street, sponsors will be featured and thousands will come by their locations and get exposed to the services and products they offer.
Money for the event comes from the sponsors and donations. And the larger it gets, the more that is needed to ensure a good time. More security, more portable toilets, “more of everything,” said Williams.
Williams also recognizes that the music might “be too loud for Ms. Jenkins” and you can’t please everyone, but he looks at the 40,000 who will have a good time. “You have to be delicate how you encroach on the community; we are aware of that.”
But at the end of the day, the Silver Room Block Party is really about one thing; as Williams put it: “We’re just trying to do some good stuff for the community.”