July 27, 2018

Festival Friday!

Summertime Chicago is prime street festival season, and this weekend is no exception. Today through Sunday are two of the best local street fairs of the summer: Wicker Fark’s Wicker Fest, one of Chicago’s biggest and most spectacular local neighborhood festivals, and the South Side’s Fiesta del Sol, which bills itself as the biggest Latino festival in the Midwest, and attracts over a million people to the Pilsen neighborhood every summer.

Both festivals are wonderful embodiments of the neighborhoods they occupy: Wicker Park has become one of the trendiest neighborhoods in all of Chicago, and its festival is just one long celebration of music, food, drink and art. For this weekend, the main drag of the near Northwest side’s Milwaukee Avenue* in between North and Division streets is taken up by music stages, booths for the many nearby restaurants and cafes to showcase their diverse styles, and tables for local artists to display their work. The whole neighborhood is easily accessible by bike, bus or train, and it’s supposed to be lovely out all weekend, so definitely check that out if you’re in the area!

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Fiesta del Sol is well underway for the weekend, and it’s a little different than most of the other neighborhood celebrations that we often see around Chicago during the summer. There’s no alcohol allowed at this festival, because this one is about more than just enjoying the summertime: Fiesta del Sol doubles as a community fundraiser with a focus on doing good for Chicago’s sizable Mexican community, and actually originated with a spontaneous weekend of celebration in May of 1974, when community organizers successfully lobbied the city to build a new high school for its underserved residents. There’s a carnival complete with a Ferris wheel, and don’t worry, the website boasts of “over 100 booths showcasing some of the best tacos, tamales and tostadas in town,” but other highlights of the festival include a college fair for Pilsen’s students, and a big voter registration booth. Any money you spend here goes to a great cause, so if you’re looking for a festival that’s a little bit different, give it a shot!

*As an aside, here’s a fun fact about Milwaukee Avenue and some more of Chicago’s streets: while the South and West side streets adhere pretty closely to the grid system (Archer Avenue being the main exception), the North side throws a wrench into things by incorporating a number of big, wide, diagonal streets like Milwaukee, Grand Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, and Clark Street into the otherwise neat square grid. Why would the city planners do this to us? Because it wasn’t the city planners! Most of Chicago’s diagonal or otherwise eccentric streets were Native American trails, established long before there ever was a Chicago. Clark Street is one of the most famous: it ran from the southern end of Lake Michigan all the way up to what’s now Green Bay, Wisconsin!

(photo/Payton Chung)