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Lincoln Avenue LIVE Street Fest Hopes to Boost Business

By Paul Biasco | March 14, 2013 10:00am | Updated on March 14, 2013 1:09pm
 Lincoln Avenue LIVE, a new neighborhood fest in Lincoln Park, will stretch from Fullerton to Webster avenues on June 1 and 2.
Lincoln Avenue LIVE, a new neighborhood fest in Lincoln Park, will stretch from Fullerton to Webster avenues on June 1 and 2.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — A new two-day summer street fest is in the works for a stretch of Lincoln Avenue that has suffered in the wake of the shuttering of Children's Memorial Hospital.

"Lincoln Avenue LIVE" is scheduled for the first weekend in June and will be held along Lincoln between Webster and Fullerton, filling the gap left by "Oz Fest," which ended controversially in the late '90s.

Although the festival will allow businesses from offshoot streets such as Armitage and Fullerton to participate, the focus will be on bars and restaurants along Lincoln.

"It's certainly in direct response to the business community over there," said Padraic Swanton, director of marketing and communications for the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce.

Bar and restaurant owners are scrambling to quickly put the festival together for the June 1 opening day, and to lock up quality musical acts that will set the fest apart from the dozens of neighborhood festivals Chicagowide.

The festival will have two stages for music, as well as a kids area, and will open each day at noon and close at 9:30 p.m. on June 1 and 9 p.m. on June 2.

Matt Imig, owner of O'Malley's West, 2249 N. Lincoln Ave., said bars are planning on teaming up for the event and hope to draw people from across the city.

Festivalgoers will be able to come and go from bars along the stretch of Lincoln that encompasses the festival grounds.

"We obviously think it's a great idea, but you never know what to expect," Imig said.

He said the closing of Children's Memorial has hurt business along Lincoln, and he hopes the festival can make the area a nightlife destination for some Chicagoans who live outside the neighborhood.

"We know the businesses are suffering. Four thousand people aren't going in and out of those shops each day," said Kim Schilf, president of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce. "The chamber really got behind bringing back the festival."

Both business owners and the chamber admit the festival is far from a fix for the vacant hospital site, but hope it will open the eyes of residents of nearby neighborhoods to the businesses along Lincoln.

"Some [street festivals] you get whoever selling funnel cakes or whatever," Swanton said. "In this situation we are going to reach out to Lincoln Park businesses only. That’s the main thing to set it apart, that’s really the goal."

Lincoln Avenue LIVE fills the hole left by "Oz Fest," which was one of the earliest neighborhood street festivals in the city. The popular fest ended in the late '90s amid controversy, as it had grown to attract roughly 50,000 visitors.

"We think this is an important thing that will help support Lincoln Avenue during the transitional period," said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) during the State of the Ward luncheon in February. "And will perhaps bring back some of the fun we had when Oz Fest was here."

Oz Fest started as a one-night performance of a play in Oz Park in 1985, but eventually food, music, drinking and large crowds helped the festival grow to a three-day event.

In 1994 an area resident went to court to attempt to stop the festival, which was damaging the park grounds. The festival then moved to a stretch of grass along Cannon Drive between Lincoln Park Zoo and Fullerton, according to the Chicago Tribune, but it shut down a few years later.