By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe
For the first time since 2019, What’s Blooming on Harrison is returning to the Oak Park Arts District. This year’s festival is on Saturday, May 21, from 11am-7pm and spans Harrison Street from Humphrey to Cuyler. The Taylor Avenue Beer Garden and Main Stage will operate until 9pm.
Started in 1999, the festival has grown over the years to include an art fair, local business and non-profit booths, food vendors, a children’s carnival, an art raffle, a beer garden, and an entertainment stage. This year’s festival is sponsored by Mosaic Counseling & Wellness who will be moving to Harrison Street later this year. “Helping to bring back this event to the community is an honor, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month. We are opening offices in the Arts District at the end of the summer and could not think of a better way to contribute to our new neighborhood,” said Carey Carlock, founder of Mosaic Counseling & Wellness.
The entertainment stage will feature family programming from 11am-2pm and will include performances from Ovation Academy, Oak Park String Academy, The Actors Garden, Pro Musica Youth Chorus, and student musicians from Oak Park and River Forest High School. Meg Lanfear, founder of Oak Park String Academy, said, “We will be performing many pieces of music! Bach, Mozart, Paganini and more—even an Irish fiddle tune or two. Our students and teachers are looking forward to performing at the festival and then enjoying all the booths afterwards.”
Val’s halla Records is putting together a Main Stage lineup that will perform until 9pm. The acts will include an 80’s all-woman punk band called Barbie Army who are celebrating their return to Chicago after 30 years and the release of their new LP. The group was formed in Hyde Park in 1986 and has had a modern revival thanks to a YouTuber who posted some of their songs online.
The Art Raffle will feature several prizes displayed in the lobby of Centre Physical Therapy at 207 Harrison Street. Included are works from Oak Park Arts District members Mimi Comerford, Kim Humphrey (Bead in Hand), Janice Elkins (Gallery PINK), Ann Viernes (Purple Sun Arts), and other local artists. Tickets are $5 each or 6 for $25.
Food vendors will include local proprietors like Tim Giuffi from Lyman Ave. Bread who has been selling bread subscriptions and delivering his product by bike since 2019; Popify who will also be there with a bike selling their artisan ice pops; Smokey Joel’s Red Hots and his Vienna Beef Chicago-style hot dogs; and Trattoria 225 and their mobile wood-fired pizza oven.
This year, Taco Mucho, a relative newcomer to the Oak Park Arts District, will be selling beer and margaritas at the Beer Garden. Margarita flavors will include classic lime and strawberry guava. Wine will be available at Trattoria 225.
Admission to the festival is free, and while credit and debit cards are widely accepted, the Art Raffle, Beer Garden, and Children’s Carnival are cash only. ATMs are available at the gas stations at Austin Boulevard and Harrison Street.
The artwork for this year’s promotional materials was designed by Tia Etu of Whatever Comes to Mind Studio. She said that she was inspired by the idea of something “tropical” when she created it; the bright pink flowers capture the energy of What’s Blooming.
This is the first year that new Oak Park Arts District Marketing Coordinator Annette Coffee has been involved in planning the festival. “I hope that people will sense the passion that these business and property owners have for the Arts District and for Oak Park. They are bringing their love for the community alive with this street festival filled with all kinds of art and family fun.” Added Annette, “It’s the biggest and best block party in Oak Park!”