It’s THAT TIME of the year again. The time of the year when HOUSE people from around the globe migrate to Chicago to reunite with family, old friends and enjoy one of the largest outdoor house parties on Earth. Saturday, July 5, 2014 is the date for the 24th Annual Chosen Few Old School Reunion Picnic, which attracts over 45,000 House lovers and it’s growing larger each year. It will be held, once again, in Jackson Park on 63rd & Hayes Drive and will be 12 hours of non-stop dancing, from 8 AM – 8 PM. Admission is $20.00 and children under 12 are free. This year’s special guest performer is legendary R&B and Dance vocalist Jocelyn Brown. There are several ticket packages to choose from and you may purchase your tickets at the door or in advance.
Even though it’s such a massive turnout, it manages to maintain a “family reunion” atmosphere. You may run into family and friends from high school or maybe even grammar school. What’s even more incredible, to those outside of the House family, is that in the 24 year history, there has never been any type of violence or altercation. House people are peaceful and loving. We’re cool and we keep it mellow.
Each Saturday, following the 4th of July, is the official date of the picnic. It’s a Chicago institution that you must experience for yourself to fully understand. It’s often called “The Woodstock of House Music” or the “Lovefest.” It’s a spiritual sabbatical where your spirit will be touched and recharged. Chicagoans and people from all over the world migrate here. Some people even schedule their family vacations to coincide with the picnic. There are attendees from just about every continent. One year in particular, the MC of the picnic did a roll call and named various countries and received a thunderous response to each one named.
The picnic has not always been as large as it is now though. It has humble beginnings and I will take you back to the beginning, 24 years ago, to 1990. I WAS THERE! But, before we go there, you need to know who the Chosen Few DJ’s are and how their family formed. In 1977, the group was founded by DJ Wayne Williams. At the time, the group was known as the Chosen Few Disco Corp and consisted of DJ’s Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Alan King, Tony Hatchett and Andre Hatchett. They were just a group of friends that liked to DJ together. They, along with legendary House music DJ’s Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles, were some of the primary DJ’s that popularized House music. These five DJ’s remained the core until 2006, when the group added a new member, DJ Terry Hunter. In 2012 they welcomed their latest addition, DJ Mike Dunn. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with. They have traveled the world spreading the Chicago House music spirit and have been featured in numerous publications, books, documentaries and each have been recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential DJ’s in Chicago House Music History.
Now, let’s go back in time, back to the 90’s, before Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Back to a time when parties were promoted not electronically, but with “pluggers’, posters on street poles and word of mouth. This gathering was not the same though, nor was everyone invited. It was exclusive. Only those that were deep into House and “connected” had information on this special event. It was held behind the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. It was a very small gathering of maybe 30 people, in its beginning. You felt special to be in attendance. You were now one of the Chosen Few.
I will explain to you how I became familiar with this exclusive gathering. One day in 1990, I was driving towards Lake Shore Drive, on my way to the lake to chill. I was with my girlfriend Rachel, (the future mother of my son Isaiah), and I happen to drive past the Museum of Science and Industry. As we passed, we both heard a pounding, pulsating beat. We instinctively knew what it was…OH LORD IT WAS HOUSE MUSIC! We looked over and lo and behold, there were people jackin’ their bodies. I instantly found a parking spot and we ran, like mice following the Pied Piper, to the music. I was amazed at all of the cool people I saw there. Some I hadn’t seen in years, since high school graduation. People were dancing, chilling in chairs, barbequing and drinking. Others were just standing around taking in the moment. I have attended the picnic ever since, from the first one to the present, not missing a year!
Each year the picnic grows larger and the venues have changed over the years to accommodate the growing audience, but the “reunion” feeling has never wavered. A few years ago, the picnic started charging an admission fee and obtained corporate sponsorship. Some people felt that after there was an admission charge, corporate sponsorship and listings in the City of Chicago’s Summer Guide, the Chosen Few had “sold out” and that the event was now commercialized. Many of those that felt this way stopped attending the event. Being a business man, I knew that bills had to be paid and “love” was not going to pay them. It had been free for years, so an admission fee was long overdue.
Now is the time to start making your plans to attend the 24th Annual Chosen Few Old School Reunion Picnic. Here’s a sample of the picnic.
I will see you there. Just look for my tent and listen out for my tambourine and maracas!