Dozens of musical artists met thousands of music lovers all in a community setting Friday and Saturday, June 16-17.
The Winnetka Music Fest sold out both days, and officials estimated an attendance of close to 14,000 concertgoers during the seventh year of the festival, which featured two main stages along with an indoor stage at the Winnetka Chapel and a family-friendly stage.
Main Stage headliners included The Wallflowers, The Dip and Hailey Whitters on June 16 and Michael Franti and Spearhead, Neal Francis, and Madison Cunningham on June 17, highlighting the 30 acts to take the stage.
Josh Zanger, publicist with All Eyes Media working with the event, said the festival is a unique opportunity for the Winnetka community to see quality music locally rather than commuting to Chicago, which holds Lollopalooza and other marquee music showcases.
“The thing that’s unique about it is that it’s tailor made to the community that’s surrounding it,” Zanger said. “A lot of people are trying to find things that they would only be able to get in bigger cities. They’re trying to find those in their communities. So the booking and the programming for Winnetka Music Festival is definitely unique in the regard that it’s trying to marry those things together that you can get at a bigger festival in the city while also embracing the small town or smaller community identity.”
This is the first year that the Winnetka Music Fest partnered with SPACE, a concert venue in Evanston that also holds Out of Space, an annual festival at Canal Shores Golf Course.
Located in downtown Winnetka on Lincoln Avenue between Elm Street and Pine Street, the Winnetka Music Fest featured food and drinks from more than a dozen local vendors and food trucks, including Winnetka favorites Hometown Coffee and Juice, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Stacked and Folded, and Brittany’s Butters and Gourmet Bakery.
Nicole, a resident of Glenview who declined to provide her last name, came to the festival with her daughter. She attended in past years before the pandemic but did not recall the event being so well organized.
“I think a smaller community festival like this is amazing and much more preferable than something like Lolla,” she said, adding she was looking forward to the night’s headliner, Michael Franti, an alternative reggae artist.
Although the festival took place on the North Shore, residents from Chicago attended the festival to see their favorite artists.
Ava, who is from Lincoln Park and also did not want to use her last name, came to see Neal Francis. She said she enjoyed the laid-back, quieter atmosphere at the festival versus large-scale music festivals she has attended in Chicago, such as Lollapalooza and Summer Smash.
“This is such a cool thing they put on for the local community,” she said. “I wish there were smaller music festivals like this in neighborhoods in Chicago. I feel like Chicago is too small and there are too many people who want to see music that every musical event ends up very crowded.”
After a few years of a toned-down version of the festival because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was back at full capacity.
Leaders of Val’s List, which hosts the annual music fest, thanked the fest’s volunteers and partners in a statement:
“Val’s List is so pleased that again this year the Winnetka community came together to host what is a truly unique event. The two-day festival, which featured more than 25 bands from around the country, was enjoyed by kids of all ages and again this year showed off the community spirit of our exceptional village.
“Without the help of over 150 volunteers along with the commitment of the Village of Winnetka, the Winnetka Park District, the Winnetka Community House and the chamber of commerce the fest would not be possible. This collaboration is what sustains the festival and has enabled us to make it one of the best boutiques music festivals in the midwest. This year, the integration of Space Evanston also enabled us to bring some great bands. As our headliner Michael Franti said ‘right now the world needs this kind of coming together … it was awesome.'”
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Rosie Newmark is a 2023 Record intern and an incoming senior studying journalism and history at Northwestern University. Rosie has written for multiple campus publications in addition to the Hyde Park Herald and American Libraries Magazine.