By Lee Edwards
The 2017 Chicago Westside Music Festival, held in Douglas Park over the weekend, was a success, said organizers of the annual event. That's largely due to yearlong planning efforts, they indicated.
Since the inaugural WSMF, the annual music festival has drawn crowds in the thousands to see some of the biggest names in R&B and hip-hop. Headliners have included acts like Bell Biv DeVoe, MC Lyte, Slick Rick, Syleena Johnson and Musiq Soulchild, among others.
This year was no different, as Lil Mo, Vivian Green and Dru Hill thrilled attendees. And yet, as soon as the curtain closed on this year's fest, the work to produce next year's WSMF was already underway.
Ald. Michael Scott, Jr. (24th Ward), who has been one of the primary organizers of the WSMF dating back to his tenure working with the Chicago Park District, called the WSMF his "brain child." He said that he wanted to make the annual event a "cultural destination".
"To be honest with you, I'm already thinking about next year," said Scott. "It is very difficult to put on a free concert because it costs to make a concert. I have done it free of charge for the past six years and it is an arduous task raising money. Raising money and doing all that kind of stuff is something you have to do all year round."
The presenting sponsor of this year's Chicago Westside Music Festival was BMO Harris Bank. ComEd, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, Verizon, the Chicago Housing Authority, were among other entities that sponsored the event.
Scott explained the selection process for artists to perform at the WSMF is determined primarily by the Westside Cultural Foundation. He said he collaborates with WCF members, among other people, to schedule the best acts available at the end of each summer.
Scott said that last year's WSMF had upwards of 7,500 attendees and that this year, he expected the crowd to be around 10,000.
"The artists are chosen with the highest degree of intentionality, so with this being a family friendly festival we do our best to try and blend old and new and what we find is that a sweet spot is a lot of hip-hop and R&B," said Cory Croft, a WCF spokesperson. "A lot of the artists from the 90's and the early 2000's are really in the sweet spot for us to blend what we find to be several generations to come and join the festival."
Croft noted that the selection of the award winning Dru Hill coincides with their 20th anniversary.
Local artists were given the opportunity to showcase their talent at the WSMF prior to the headliners. Scott said that WCF solicited artists via Facebook from across the city to submit music for consideration by industry professionals and members of the WCF board. This year, Dej Monae, Marcus Mack, Kilika Tabron, Matt B., and Yohan were selected.
The funds generated from the WSMF will benefit the WCF, according to Scott. Scott was pragmatic about the impact the revenue raised would have on the community.
"There is enough need across the board in North Lawndale where we could raise millions of millions of dollars and it still would not be enough," said Scott.
The WCF provides youth, adults and seniors on Chicago's West Side with cultural and educational programming, according to its website.
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