It is an annual part of #SummertimeChi. House music fans get up early, pack up all of their BBQ and picnic essentials and head to Jackson Park for a day filled with friends, food, drinks, and house music with the Chosen Few DJs. Started in 1990 as a small gathering of friends behind the Museum of Science & Industry, the Chosen Few Picnic & House Music Festival is the world’s longest-running event dedicated to House Music. Nicknamed the “Woodstock of House Music” for its family-reunion vibe, the Picnic & Festival attracts more than 50,000 fans to Chicago’s Jackson Park each year. It counts among its supporters former United States President Barack Obama.
This year, COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual event for the first time in its 30-year history. Instead, the Chosen Few presented a free Virtual Festival. Hosted by Fox News Chicago Anchor, Robin Robinson, the Livestream ran from noon to 9 pm on the Chosen Few Website and YouTube. In addition to the Chosen Few DJs, the virtual festival also included guest performances by Chicago Artists, singer, Carla Prather, whose song “Never Fall in Love with a DJ” topped the charts and House Legend, Byron Stingly, lead singer of the group Ten City. Audiences were also treated to a special DJ set from Comedian and Actor, Deon Cole, whose “Disco Sunday Fellowship” show on Instagram has gained increasing popularity. Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, States Attorney, Kim Foxx, 5th Ward Alderman, Leslie Hairston, Illinois Attorney Genera Kwame Raoul, and Lt. Governor, Julianna Stratton also shared messages of love and throughout the broadcast.
“While we certainly expected to celebrate our 30th anniversary with our fellow House Music fans in Jackson Park, we’re excited that we can still keep the party going differently,” says Wayne Williams, founder, and president, Chosen Few DJs. “Even though the format has changed, we hope our event will do what it’s always done: bring people together to celebrate life and music, especially in these extremely challenging times.”
Just as they would in the park, friends and family gathered at socially distant virtual watch parties around the world and tuned in to Chosen Few DJs, Wayne Williams, Terry Hunter, Alan King, Jesse Saunders, Tony Hatchett, Andre Hatchett and Mike Dunn all day long sharing their experiences and love for house music via social media while enjoying the festival from their homes and backyards. Those who previously were unable to attend or travel to Chicago had an opportunity to enjoy the festival free this year. House lovers checked in from all around the world to celebrate with the Chosen Few. The virtual festival attracted even more fans via the Livestream with over 100K tuning in via social media platforms and the Chosen Few website.
This year’s Chosen Few Virtual Festival may not have happened in Jackson Park, but fans enjoyed it together in smaller, more intimate and socially distant settings. For “househeads,” the Chosen Few Music Festival hit a high note of love,community, and good music while bringing people together from around the world. It was a reminder that music is the great unifier.
The Chosen Few DJs are hopeful that they can celebrate in the park next year. Fans who purchased tickets for 2020 can redeem them to attend the in-person festival scheduled for July 2021.
Danielle Sanders is a music and entertainment writer who frequently covers the Chosen Few DJs and House Music. She can be found on social media @blkwidowsweb or via her website www.blkwidowsweb.com.