Tobe Nwigwe performs on the Midway Plaisance at Hyde Park Summer Fest on Sunday evening, June 18, 2023. Credit: Spencer Bibbs

Hyde Park Summer Fest is over after nine years in the neighborhood. 

An organizer told the Herald that they’re shutting down the popular hip-hop music festival this summer, citing rising costs for running the two-day event. 

Wallace Goode, the executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce who helped organize last year’s festival, told the Herald that as the event came to a close last summer,  founder Jonathan Swain and the chamber mutually decided that “we aren’t going to do it again.” 

“As the festival becomes more expensive, it challenges the price point for attendees,” Goode said. 

Rising costs were largely due to increased security, which Goode said they “quadrupled” in recent years after mass shooting events in Highland Park’s 4th of July parade and at music festivals in Texas and Las Vegas. The added costs were passed on to attendees in the form of higher ticket prices.  

“As we do events outside, it becomes a whole different event in terms of security, because you have a 360 view and tall buildings to secure,” he said. “Even though revenue increased, expenses increased exponentially.” 

Tickets were $89 for single-day pass and $149 for a two-day pass last year, though some were also donated to local nonprofits, schools and other organizations. Even with these prices, Goode said, the festival was barely breaking even.

Swain founded the festival in 2014. Originally called Hyde Park Brew Fest, the event took place on 53rd Street and was intended as a promotion for his liquor store, Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, which he sold in July. Swain noticed that attendees were most interested in seeing the live music, and that the event filled a void on the South Side. 

The festival was paused during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and started up again in 2022. That year, it moved from 53rd Street to the Midway Plaisance and pivoted from a free block party to a two-day lineup of performances with a tiered ticketing system, VIP areas and amenities. NPB companies, a global event and security firm that works for Lollapalooza, was contracted to staff the event.

The 2022 festival drew more than 25,000 people from fifteen different states, Swain told the Herald that year. Ahead of last year’s festival, Swain anticipated that the event would draw more than 40,000 people over two days. 

Last year’s headliners included 2 Chainz, The Clipse, Lil’ Kim and Robert Glasper. 

Swain could not be reached for comment as of press time. 

In an interview with the Herald after last year’s event, Swain said, “As long as the community keeps supporting what we’re doing and we’re in that vein … we’ll keep doing the event.” 

With Summer Fest over, Goode said organizers don’t have another event in the works to take its place. But, he added, “I think the South Side still has room for a festival of this caliber.” 

“A couple of people have at various times said they might be interested in producing a festival, and I’d be happy to discuss it with them,” Goode continued. 

Jake Austen, the entertainment director for The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. W, said the music venue is still planning its July Passport Vibes Festival, which brings African food vendors, children’s activities and DJs to the parking lot behind the Promontory. 

This event, “can help fill some of the Hyde Park payout, but obviously not at that scale,” Austen said.   

Eric Williams, owner of the 53rd Street boutique the Silver Room, also confirmed that he has no plans to resurrect the store’s longtime block party, which ended last summer after an eighteen-year run. The Silver Room will, however, continue to co-host the monthly Harper Court Summer Music Series this summer in partnership with the University of Chicago.

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Zoe Pharo is a reporter at the Hyde Park Herald.

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