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September 2016 - Business Spotlight

79th Street Renaissance Festival Celebrates 11th Year In Auburn Gresham!

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 a world renowned, yet local favorite, 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. This year, she was 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, we heard from many festival attendees.

Carlos Nelson, Executive Director GAGDC, kicking off the 11th Annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival

"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 welcoming and resonating shout, “Welcome to the 11th Annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival!” There is something for here for everyone, he reminds the growing crowd. In the neighborhood, on the day of the festival, everyone just wants to have fun. 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 the Starlight blues Band, an amazing youth opera singer, China Grey, who really is ready for Carnegie Hall, by the applause. There was also a gospel singing puppet show and a line up of popular gospel greats; the always festival hit Jesse White tumblers, and several local youth school bands, and spoken work artists, performing in their very own teen pavilion.

There were several 3-on-3 teen basketball tournaments for the youth, all the way to Chicago's very own tradition "stepping" dance lessons, and local star Ray Silkman, a Chicago favorite "smooth jazz" saxaphone player. 


Tamala Mann headlines the gospel section of #RenFest2016

Photo: Norma Sanders

Mid-afternoon, the main stage entertainment highlighted a gospel segment, with two hours of gospel music 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 popular classic hit "Take Me To The King."

The gospel section sponsored by The Faith Community of St. Sabina and Inspriation1390 is called the Family Jam for Peace. Previously the "Family Jam for Peace" was a standalone event, historically held as a back to school event in the church's parking lot. In 2013 it was incorporated into the communities annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival, sponsored by Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.

Face-painting and Friends always a hit at the 79th Street Renaissance Festival

Photo: Michellay Wells

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

In addition to an awesome 6th District Police presence, the GAGDC used the local special service area (SSA) business security force, as well as volunteer safety monitors, who were clearly visible throughout the festival, ensuring festival goers were safe. In fact, for 10 years the festival has been incident free. This year was no different. The only incident that needed to be addressed was one little lost child, who reported, "his mom was lost." They were reunited safely, on the main stage!

Jimmy Vegan Cookies (owner) enjoys vegan vendor lasangna

There was plenty of food to choose from main Southside staples such as the famous Harold's Chicken, exciting new local entreperuners from gourmet sandwiches, and even a vendor with the “best” vegan lasagna, that was a clear festival favorite. The volunteer seniors, who coordinated the kid’s pavilion, also had tasty snack giveaways. The kids pavilion had the traditional bouncy houses, computer game trucks and this year, because they are such in such demand last year, there were 4 face painters! Always a big hit with the youth, is the petty zoo and animal rides provided by a local African American ranch. Yes, there were pony and horse rides, right here on the 9!

The festival also went a little high-tech this year. For the first time, thanks to a new local photographer, a drone towered over the festival and captured some absolutely breathtaking footage, that we have never been able to capture, during previous Renaissance Festivals.

What's unbelievable is that for 11 years, this event has been a part of the community.  We can lastly note, that we know residents young and old, whether they live and work in or near the community, the 79th Street Renaissance Festival is an event that folks look forward to each year. With the festival extended one hour this year, the also anticipated Renaissance Festival tradition, closing down the festival live house music street party dancing feature DJ "Farley, Farley, Farley"!

So don't forget to stay tuned, as we unveil an amazing piece of  video footage captured by our videographer. Like us on Facebook and Follow-us on Twitter and check our website often. You won't want you miss this!

To see photos of the 11th Annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival just click on the following links:

RenFest 2016 #1             RenFest 2016 #2            

Stay tuned as we unveil an amazing piece of photo and video footage captured by our videographer.

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