SOUTH LOOP — The South Loop's community street festival "Bash on Wabash" turns 10 this year, and organizers say the event has evolved as much as the neighborhood around it.
"It's amazing the growth the South Loop's had in the last few years," said Sonja Loges, a spokeswoman helping to plan this year's event. "It's become so much more family oriented."
The downtown area's population has boomed, adding 48,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, making it the fastest growing center city in the nation, according to the U.S. Census.
But the changes involve more than just numbers.
"To me, the South Loop is kind of that cool area that was south of the city, that used to be more of a hodge podge of young professionals," said Loges. "Now, it's much more of a young, kind of cool place to raise a family."
Loges says those changes have had a big impact on programming choices for the 10th anniversary event, which will be "bursting at the seams" on Wabash Avenue between 13th and 14th streets this Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the usual crop of live music, food from local restaurants and the fest's signature sangria, organizers expanded kid and family programming to include two bounce houses, circus lessons, a kids-friendly stage, and classes for parents and their little ones like stroller workouts and "Mommy and me yoga."
The usual roster of attractions and events has been "amped up" for the taller crowd, too. The ever-popular "sumo" wrestling setup will offer guests giant padded suits for lighthearted brawling, joined this year by a dunk tank and mechanical bull near food and drink served by local restaurants and vendors.
Food trucks selling donuts, empanadas and Fat Shallot sandwiches will be parked along Wabash Avenue. Attendees can chow down while taking in tunes from bands including Beatles cover band American English and last year's battle winners, Tracer Bullet.
A suggested $5 donation will help fund future Bashes, and some proceeds will be donated to community groups including the South Loop Food Pantry.
"This will be, hands-down, the biggest Bash on Wabash we've ever had," Loges said. "They really put a lot of energy into making the 10th a really great event."