Winnetka, Community

Thousands dance through Lincoln Avenue during Winnetka Music Fest

The final note of the Winnetka Music Festival was played Saturday night but event founder Val Haller hopes the music is still playing in the heads of attendees.

While the fest has evolved into a harbinger of big names and droves of guests (more than 11,000 this year), Haller’s original vision of a music showcase is still in focus.

“I’m hoping people today are thinking about new bands,” she said. “Bands that they never knew about and may not have discovered if not for the Winnetka Music Fest.”


Ben Bridwell and Band of Horses perform at the Winnetka Music Festival Friday, June 14.

More than 20 bands took the stages during the two-day festival Friday-Saturday, June 14-15. While highlighted by renowned artists Band of Horses and Milky Chance, the lineup also included musicians with more niche followings or up-and-coming buzz playing across four stages.

Other performers included The Verve Pipe, Half Moon Run, Grace Bowers, Caroline Jones and Michigander who played across four stages during the two days.

“The other real home run for me is I see every age group here,” Haller said. “There are young people, people older than me, boomers, professionals from the city, families. I really see a cross section. … We’re picking music everybody can enjoy. Not just hard rock, not just electronic.”

Haller launched the Winnetka Music Festival as a two-day street-style program in 2017.​

But things changed in the first three pandemic-impacted years. The event was canceled in 2020 and in 2021, it was given a new name, Emerge Winnetka, and location, the Skokie Playfields.​

In 2022, the concert returned to its Winnetka Music Festival moniker and welcomed its biggest names yet, Guster and The Record Company, for a one-day extravaganza.​

Esther Okai-Tetteh (left) and Grace Bowers rock the Lincoln Avenue stage Friday.

The music fest went back to its two-day roots in 2023 and welcomed more hit musical acts, headlined by The Wallflowers and Michael Franti and Spearhead.​

Beginning last year and continuing into this year, Haller and company also partner with Space, a music venue in Evanston with experience in talent booking and event development. Haller said the partnership has eased the burden on the WMF team.

In its current form, the Winnetka Music Festival spreads its musical acts across four stages — two main stages, a chapel stage at 630 Lincoln Ave. and a family-friendly stage — along Lincoln Avenue north of Elm Street.​

Complementing the stages were food trucks and food and beverage vendors throughout the festival space.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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