Chicago Folk & Roots Festival


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Hosted by the Old Town School of Folk Music, the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival is a two-day music celebration held annually in Welles Park — between Montrose and Sunnyside along Lincoln Avenue. The 2011 festival will be July 9 and 10 from noon to 9:30pm each day.

Interested in attending the festival? Well, don’t let the name fool you — the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival includes many different genres of music, so everyone is sure to have a great experience. Not only does the festival feature folk and roots, but also musicians playing Zydecko, Creole, Country, Blues, Bluegrass, Latin, Jazz, Hip Hop, Bhangra, Rumba, Polka, and more, featured at four different stages throughout the park and street to keep you dancing all weekend long.

The festival lineup for 2011 was released in early May and all acts can be found on the festival’s website. The headliners for 2011 will be Delbert McClinton, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Rosie Flores, and Glen David Andrews on Saturday, and Bombino, Baloji, and Maraca on Sunday.

The festival has featured several great acts in past years, including Etran Finatawa and The Budos Brothers, who headlined the 2010 festival. Other acts over the years have included Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole, The Mother Truckers, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Karsh Kale and Timeline, The Knitters, and Grupo Fantasma. (For a list of all the performers for the last thirteen years, check out the “history” tab on their website). The festival also features performances from the Old Town School of Folk Music, including a stage for their talented music teachers to show off their know-how.

My first visit to the festival was last year to catch performances by Mapangala, Shemekia Copeland, and The Budos Brothers. After a torrential downpour earlier on Saturday, I stepped off the Western Brown Line stop, shook my still-drying hair, and headed for the festival, hoping the rain hadn’t doused the energy at the festival. Despite the weather, the crowds had held their ground, determined to finish the cool summer night on a high note, ready to dance and sway to the tunes in the slightly muddy Welles Park. The clouds had parted for a beautiful, fiery-orange sunset, which was slowly replaced by starlight as the performers belted out their souls and the audiences eagerly participated. It was a night to remember, and I will for sure be back this year to check out all four stages and plenty more fantastic musical acts.

Because this festival gets busy, I would suggest arriving early. Shimmy into your favorite hippie-inspired maxi dress and straw hat (or shorts and a bowler for the guys) and set up camp with friends and a colorful blanket. Grab some food at one of the vendors or pack a picnic (no coolers, glass bottles, or cans) of your own. Be sure to bring plenty of sun block because the park has little to no shade for those hot July days.

The festival officially ends at 9:30pm both nights, so why not wander up Lincoln Avenue to the Square, and end the perfect summer evening at one of Lincoln Square’s many bars or eateries? Sip on a cold one with memories of banjos and soulful ballads still ringing in your ears.

Have a question about the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival that we haven’t answered here? Try visiting the festival’s FAQ page for more information.

The Essentials:
Location: Welles Park—between Montrose and Sunnyside along Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Square
Website: http://www.chicagofolkandroots.org/
Save the Dates: Saturday July 9 and Sunday July 10, 2011. Festival goes from noon to 9:30pm each day

Getting there:
The festival organizers encourage concertgoers to use public transportation or bicycles to arrive at the festival due to large crowds.
L: Brown Line (Western)
Bus: #11 and #49
Driving: Street parking
Biking: The festival will provide bicycle racks

About Molly Tranberg

Molly Tranberg loves discovering new things in Chicago–especially all of its wonderful food. She is a freelance writer and editor currently working from her very comfy couch on the Northside of Chicago. Her dream is to one day ride a segway around the city and heli-ski in Alaska.

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