New festival hits Union Park
NBA player's music festival had trouble in Maywood last year, but new management taking it to city
06/06/2012 10:00 PM
An NBA player’s music festival that flopped in its debut last year is taking another shot, moving its two-day benefit from the suburbs to the West Loop this summer.
Conceived by Phoenix Suns guard Shannon Brown, the Wood-Star Music Festival will be held in Union Park on the weekend of Aug. 18 and 19, and will feature a day of soul music and a day of “Old Skool” artists.
Saturday will feature Brown’s wife Monica, Estelle, Robin Thicke and Dawn Richard; Sunday will feature Slick Rick, Rakim, Block Party, MC Lyte and Doug E. Fresh.
The festival is already far ahead of where it was last year, when poor planning and last-minute changes led to low attendance and an $87,000 security tab from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department that was never paid.
Last year’s event was dubbed Woodstars, plural, because it was co-organized with Shannon Brown’s fellow Proviso East High School alumnus, Michael Finley, at their alma mater in Maywood.
The festival pulled in big names in hip-hop like Nelly and Naughty by Nature, but didn’t lock down its venue until just a few weeks before the event. Last year’s organizers originally tried to get permission to hold the festival at Proviso West High School in Hillside, but after being shot down by the village board just weeks before the event, they scrambled to get it held at Proviso East in unincorporated Maywood.
But with few logistical plans in place when the event landed, the Cook County Sheriff had to put together a last-minute plan to support the festival, which touted that as many as 20,000 people might show up over two days. With little advance notice that the festival was happening, sheriff’s police staffed the event at the last minute with officers getting paid overtime.
The final tab was $83,000, according to Cook County Sheriff’s department spokeswoman Nora Sheahan, a tab that last year’s organizer Keoki Allen of A’jensee 3.1.2. promised the Cook County Board would be paid. It never was, Sheahan said.
In the end, the crowds were sparse. Maywood Police Chief Tim Curry estimated at the time that only a few thousand people showed up over the course of the festival last year, which lasted four days.
This year, though, Wood-Star has been planned earlier and more thoroughly. Instead of A’jensee 3.1.2., it’s being planned by Captivate Marketing Group, which has handled a number of other high-profile events, including Real Men Cook.
“Everything about it is basically different,” Brown said in an interview last week in the lobby of Trump Tower. “Bringing it to the Chicago area, it’s more centrally located, everyone can get to it. It’s a bigger venue, a more well-known venue, and the city is behind us. We started a little bit earlier, and it’s starting to move better and come together a little better than it did in the previous year.”
Yvonne McNair, Captivate’s president and CEO, said they’re marketing the event differently this year, too. They’re hoping to draw people from around the country, as fellow Union Park festivals Pitchfork and North Coast do.
“We are working with the city and the Mayor’s Office of Special Events,” she said. “It’s a totally different situation in terms of how it’s organized and the logistics behind it we have in place. It could happen next week. We’re at a point where it’s totally planned, and we’re totally prepared for it.”
The Chicago Park District confirmed that Wood-Star’s permit has been tentatively approved. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose ward includes Union Park and who works with other festivals in the neighborhood, said he understands that the festival had problems last year, but is willing to give them another shot in the West Loop.
“We’ll give that establishment an opportunity just like everyone else, and we’ll see what they do,” Burnett said. “Where they had their festival at last year is different than having it in Union Park — Union Park is popular and draws a big crowd. So we’ll just see what happens, we’ll take it a day at the time.”