79th Street Renaissance Festival Celebrates 11 Successful Years!

Auburn Gresham's 11th annual 79th Street Renaissance festival, featuring 10 full hours of live music, carnival rides, family activities, and loads of information and services from local schools and businesses, kicked off Saturday, September 10, right on the corner of 79th and Racine Avenue.

The festival officials estimate more than 10,000 people attended the free neighborhood festival, which culminated with the final act, a "House Party" in the street, featuring the King of House, Farley Jackmaster Funk. The evening ended with what may have been the Southside’s longest Soul Train line!

Cheryl Johnson, the events coordinator for the Greater Auburn Gresham's Special Service Area #32, spends most of the year leading up to the 79th Street Renaissance Festival (RenFest), planning the event, with the community. She's even been told people plan their family outings and parties around the 79th Street RenFest. It is a nice way to end the summer and begin the fall school season.

"The 79th Street Renaissance festival, is one of those events that typically run like clockwork," says Carlos A. Nelson, the executive director of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC). Even though there was rain misting the air, Mr. Nelson opened the 11th Annual Renaissance Festival with his inviting welcome the "79th Street RenFest and tradition prayer for peace, in our neighborhood and for the day of the festival. The welcome was followed by an unspoken community tradition, the adult praise dancers, of the Faith Community of St. Sabina. New this year was a team of 20+ youth dancers who joined in, to an upbeat interpretation, of the song, "Put the Guns Down!"

The local entertainment flowed non-stop, for an entire 10 hours and featured everything from the local CICS high school dramatic dance troupe, Johnny Drummer and his blues Band, an amazing youth opera singer who is ready for Carnegie Hall, Gospel puppet show and Singers, Jesse White tumblers, local youth school bands, in their very own teen pavilion, 3-on-3 teen basketball tournaments, all the way to Chicago's very own tradition "stepping" dance lessons, Ray Silkman a Chicago favorite "smooth jazz" saxaphone player, and closing down the festival with a house music street party feature DJ "Farley, Farley, Farley"! 

The main stage entertainment was highlighted during the gospel segment, with two hours of gospel greats, and the world-renowned Tamala Mann, as the headline gospel act. The crowds’ hands went up in praise, as her song and spirit filled the air with a song from her new CD "God Provides" and her classic hit "Take Me To The King." The gospel section sponsored by St. Sabina and Inspriation1390 is called the "Family Jam for Peace" and in 2011 it was incorporated into the main community festiva, the 79th Street Renaissance Festival, sponsored by Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation. Previously the "Family Jam for Peace" was a standalone event, historically held as a back to school event, in the church's parking lot.

"The theme of the 79th Street Renaissance Festival is always the same," says Mr. Nelson. "It is a fun, safe and peaceful celebration, highlighting the strengths of all our Auburn Gresham community has to offer. Businesses, schools, churches, entertainers, families, they are all assets we showcase. We continue to thank our sponsors and volunteers for helping us make the 79th Street Renaissance Festival bigger, better and more successful each year."

The Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) staff and volunteers could be seen wearing the traditional bright orange t-shirts, working hard, dancing, giving, collecting donations, taking photos, lending a helping hand and making sure that everything flows smooth and good time is had by all. We sure hope you enjoyed it, as much as we did.

In addition to an awesome 6th District Police presence, the GAGDC used the local business security force that is day-to-day managed by CJohnson&Associates. There were also local volunteer safety patrols, who were clearly visible throughout the festival ensuring festival goers were safe. In fact, the only incident they needed to address was one little lost child, who said reported, "his mom was lost." They were reunited safely, on the main stage!

There was plenty of food to chose from main Southside staples such as the famous Harold's Chicken, new local entreperuners i.e Jus Sandwiches, and even a vendor with vegan lasagna. The volunteer seniors, who coordinate the kid’s pavilion, also had some nice snack giveaways. The kids pavilion had the bouncy houses, computer game trucks and this year, because they are such a big hit, there were 4 face painters! Always a big hit with the youth, is petty zoo with pony and horse rides, right here on the 9!

The festival also went a little high-tech this year. For the first time, a drone towered over the festival and captured some absolutely breathtaking footage that we have never been able to get.

What's unbelievable is that for 11 years, this event has been a part of the community.  We know residents young and old and that whether you live and work in or near the community, the 79th Street Renaissance Festival is an event that folks look forward to each year.

Stay tuned as we unveil this amazing piece of work. Like us on Facebook and Follow-us on Twitter and on our website, so that you don't miss this groundbreaking community piece.

For more information on the 79th Street Renaissance Festival, visit, or call 773.483.3696.