Celebrating it's thirtieth anniversary, the World's Largest Block Party returns to the West Loop this weekend featuring live performances from Guster, G. Love & Special Sauce, The Mowgli's, Vintage Blue, Third Eye Blind and more. I spoke with Old St. Pat's pastor, Father Tom Hurley and Vintage Blue singer/guitarist Ben Bassett about what it is that sets the Block Party apart from the rest of the Chicago neighborhood festival scene...
With each passing summer, more and more neighborhood street festivals, not to mention major national outdoor festivals as well, seem to arrive on the Chicago scene. With so many options to choose from each and every weekend, it's become harder and harder for a festival to stick out, continually attract a crowd and remain relevant.
But in its thirtieth year, the World's Largest Block Party is as big as it's ever been with one of it's stronger talent lineup in years... All of which begs the question, how?
"Well, first of all, this is the thirtieth anniversary of this thing. I don’t know too many other events that have been going on for thirty years. That’s pretty notable in and of itself. It’s a party that’s been around for three decades and now has become generational" says Old St. Patrick's Church pastor, Father Tom Hurley.
It's unique for a festival to remain so relevant for so long - as Father Hurley pointed out, spanning a generation in the process - but continually attracting a new, younger demographic is more impressive still. "The party was designed that way. It was designed to be kind of a young adult party. That was intentional thirty years ago and it has stayed that way ever since" Hurley adds.
The secret to that would appear to be in the savvy booking of a variety of musical artists.
"They bring some of the biggest bands at a street fest out of any. And there’s throwbacks and new guys. Third Eye Blind and The Mowgli’s are a perfect example: it’s a legacy act as well as something that’s current right now" points out Vintage Blue singer/guitarist Ben Bassett.
Performing at the Block Party for the third consecutive year, Vintage Blue arrives on the south stage Saturday afternoon at 5:40PM touring in support of their new album No Going Back, fresh off a Friday morning appearance on WCIU's You & Me This Morning as well as an afternoon set in Milwaukee as part of a "Summerfest" lineup that also features artists like Tegan & Sara, Brad Paisley and more.
"The thing about [a festival] is that not every person is ever going to like whoever you pick as the headliner. There’s no band that can do that. There’s just not. So the south stage exists for people that are like, 'Eh, not a [insert headliner here] fan.' So you can go somewhere else" explains Bassett of what fans can expect throughout the weekend as a result of the variety offered by the south stage.
Father Tom Hurley, who's served as pastor of Old St. Pat's since 2003 actually started attending the festival as early as 1990 and is uniquely aware of the Block Party's reputation as the Chicago singles event of the summer. "I think our tracking is somewhere in the area of at least one hundred couples. In a thirty year period, at least one hundred couples met here first, laid their eyes on each other and then went on to get married. I’ve done some of those weddings so I know that’s true."
But the World's Largest Block Party isn't all just music and beer. Each admission benefits Old St. Patrick's Church in a variety of ways as. "St. Pat’s has become, I think, a signature church in the Chicagoland area. We have people that come here from over two hundred zip codes around Chicago and northwest Indiana. I suppose the one thing that we’ve become very, very known for in our ministeries is really the extensive social outreach missions that we have. So this block party helps us to keep alive all of our missions but in particular our social outreach missions: service."
The World's Largest Block Party remains a staple of the Chicago summer festival season and continues to thrive as a result of the strong connections that people develop with it. Bassett sums up the overall vibe of the festival nicely: "I love the festival. I really do think because of the people and because of our connection to it – we volunteer there every year as well – it’s just a really great festival."
(Block Party details follow below)
- Jim Ryan
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2014 Old St. Pat's World's Largest Block Party
30th Anniversary Celebration
Friday, June 27 and Saturday, June 28, 2014
Old St. Patrick's Church
700 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60661
Friday headliners: G. Love & Special Sauce, Guster and more
Saturday headliners: Vintage Blue, The Mowgli's, Third Eye Blind and more
*** Each paid admission includes four free drinks ***
Click HERE to purchase tickets
VIP Packages also available