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Yes, There Is Such A Thing As Too Many Street Fests

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 13, 2012 4:00PM

Photo Credit: Joseph Dennis

Street fests have increased in number like breeding rabbits over the years, which means more festivals are fighting for smaller portions of the same cash pie. This raises the question of whether there are too many street festivals.

Center Square Journal tackled the glut of street fests in a recent article. CSJ’s Paul Wilson looked at the number of street fests within West Lakeview, Roscoe Village, North Center, Ravenswood and Lincolns Square and found, in addition to the sheer volume of fests, the revenue generated from some of these fests weren’t much higher than expenses. (Twelve street fests were held in the core neighborhoods of CSJ's readership in 2012.)

In 2010, Lincoln Square Mayfest reported revenues of $510,812 against expenses of $454,986, while Lincoln Square Oktoberfest 2010 generated $594,144 in revenue in 2010, compared with $496,884 in expenses. Wilson also reported a 64 percent increase in street festival applications with the city between 2005 and this year. Remove permits related to sporting events and that number is 45 percent.

All this means more organizations—neighborhood chambers of commerce, non-profits, and other community groups—are competing for a shrinking amount of cash. Wilson noted that fests like Northcenter Rib Fest benefit from their name recognition and longevity, but there’s a chance some fests like Rock Around the Block may have to retool, if not shut down altogether. Star Events chief executive John Barry laid out the harsh reality to fest organizers over the summer.

Regardless of what happens with Rock Around the Block and other festivals, Star Events likely won’t be hurting. The company has made a cottage industry for themselves while contributing to the glut, producing 13 events in Chicago alone including Andersonville Midsommarfest, Taste of Randolph Street, Rock Around the Block and Mayfest.