Lead organizers of this summer’s inaugural Winnetka Music Festival, attended by over 9,000 people, are wasting no time planning for an even bigger musical event next year.
The two-day festival, held June 23-24, featured outdoor stages, food trucks, a team of 200 volunteers, and lively crowds of listeners gathered on Winnetka’s streets to hear free performances by popular indie bands like Jared and the Mill, Wild Belle and The Accidentals. Organizers say attendees from as far away as Houston, Minneapolis and St. Louis traveled to the North Shore to follow their favorite bands.
“One of the things we hoped to accomplish with the Winnetka Music Festival was to bring people together and to create a sense of community, pride and excitement,” said the festival’s chair, Scott Myers. “We succeeded in doing that.”
The weekend’s music roster included two main stages on Lincoln and Elm Streets, as well a smaller stage erected off Chestnut, featuring bands that appeal to families with young children.
According to organizers, these same three stages will be reprised at the 2018 festival, set for June 15-16.
After tallying attendance numbers and listening to feedback, the event’s directors are expanding the festival by adding two new specialized performance venues.
A small stage inside the Winnetka Chapel adjacent to the Winnetka Community House will be showcased at the 2018 festival for a series of more intimate, acoustic musical performances.
The chapel was added to the 2017 Winnetka Music Festival line-up at the last minute, but hosted only two acts last year: a jazz band and a guitar duo.
The 300-seat chapel will provide a quiet, sit-down listening experience for festival attendees, as well as an opportunity to engage with artists up close and personal.
“The chapel will function as an oasis during the festival,” said Val Haller, the festival’s music director. “It offers a nice alternative to the louder, more boisterous street listening experience at the outdoor stages.”
As founder of valslist.com, a boutique music website, Haller is currently using the Winnetka Chapel venue for a series of live monthly concerts she hopes will bridge the gap between last year’s music festival and the next one set for June 2018.
With the exception of a brief break between November and April, the chapel is hosting regular live music performances by hot, new emerging artists, all of which are public and open to the community.
“The music festival, as with this concert series, is an attempt to bring the downtown music scene out to the suburbs,” said Haller. “I would love to see Winnetka become a hub for live music on the North Shore the same way Glencoe has become synonymous with theater.”
Separately, organizers are planning a dedicated youth stage to showcase emerging musicians from the local area. Interested artists would go through a formal audition process after submitting an application and demo video.
“We want to highlight the incredible talent that lives right here on the North Shore,” said Scott Myers.
Myers plans to communicate with New Trier and other high schools to promote the youth stage, adding that festival organizers are not yet ready to begin auditioning new talent or announcing next year’s acts.
“The 2018 festival may include one or two of the main stage bands that played last year, but it will largely feature new performers,” said Myers. “It’s important to constantly refresh the line-up.”
And to keep festival- goers happy, fed and hydrated, Myers says next year’s attendees will see a sharp increase in food trucks and beverage stations throughout the two-day event.
“This was the one thing that everyone commented on,” said Myers. “We’re already on it.”