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Eight Chicago Street Fests That Are Actually Worth Your Time

Choose wisely.

Midsommarfest   Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Every summer, Chicago gets swarmed with street fests in the way other waterside towns get swarmed with bugs: by June 1, you can’t go a block without stepping in one.

Still, it’s not all bad. Thanks to the sheer number of festivals in Chicago, statistically speaking, there’s something to satisfy any taste. Here are the eight daytime parties that loom large on our summer calendar—the treasures that transcend the form (no cover bands in sight) and might just scratch an itch you didn’t know you had.

For the budget concertgoer: Do Division

When: June 1 to 3
Where: Wicker Park (Division between Damen and Leavitt)
How much: $5 donation
Why go: With a lineup that spans the rock and roll spectrum, this penny pincher’s Lollapalooza should satisfyfans of the mellow (La Luz, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists), the raucous (Bear vs. Shark, Deerhoof) and the groovy (Wooden Shjips, Antibalas).

For the budding art collector: 57th Street Art Fair

When: June 2 to 3
Where: Hyde Park (57th and Kimbark)
How much: Free
Why go: This fest, the Midwest’s oldest juried arts fair, has dealt in local paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and crafts since 1948. Where better to start your collection?

For the street fest lifer: Midsommarfest

When: June 8 to 10
Where: Andersonville (Clark between Foster and Catalpa)
How much: $5 donation
Why go: The party to beat for 53 years, this Old Faithful has long since earned its place in the pantheon of Chicago institutions. Plus, to our knowledge, it’s the only one with a pet parade.

For the competition eater: Pilsen Food Truck Social

When: June 9 to 10
Where: Pilsen (18th between Racine and Throop)
How much: $5 donation
Why go: Five clams may get you in the door, but the real deal is a mere $20 more: the sampler ticket, redeemable for six tasting portions from the assembled armada of food trucks.

For the beer buff: Logan Square Arts Fest

When: June 22 to 24
Where: Logan Square (Logan Boulevard and Milwaukee).
How Much: $5 donation.
Why go: The friendly neighborhood hopheads at Revolution Brewing do more than supply this fest’s libations: in past years, they’ve also sponsored a surprisingly tough homemade mini-golf course near the Logan Square monument.

To wow your inner child: Eyes to the Skies Festival

When: June 29 to July 1
Where: Lisle Community Park, 1825 Short Street, Lisle
How much: $10
Why go: Hot air balloons—some in novelty shapes like penguins and birthday cakes—are the highlight of this suburban shindig. Rides cost extra, but rubbernecking is always free.

To wow your actual child: Chinatown Summer Fair

When: July 15
Where: Chinatown (Wentworth from Cermak to 24th Place)
How much: Free
Why go: The itinerary is a laundry list of things kids go wild for, including pony rides, a petting zoo, and kung fu demonstrations. Parents can even capitalize on their progeny by entering them in a “cutest baby contest.”

For the indie purist: Wicker Park Fest

When: July 27 to 29
Where: Wicker Park (Milwaukee between Ashland and North)
How much: $10 donation
Why go: This fest hasn’t announced its roster of bands yet, but it’s become known for serious, eclectic lineups, normally anchored by at least a few marquee-name headliners. Stay tuned.

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