To All Chosen Few Picnic & Festival Supporters and Attendees:
Now that we are all mostly recovered from last weekend, we wanted to directly address some rumors we have been hearing as well as some concerns expressed and questions that many of you may have about last weekend, the festival and its future.
Who Owns the Chosen Few Picnic & Festival?
We often hear rumors about the Picnic that are wildly incorrect and often pretty funny. The latest is no exception. No, we have not been bought out by Lollapalooza or some other “majority” festival! For the record, this rumor is completely false. The Chosen Few owns the Chosen Few. We remain 100% Black-owned and controlled, and the Chosen Few DJs make all creative and operational decisions governing the Picnic & Music Festival.
Why Did We Go to Two Days?
We have been considering going to two days for several years now based on a variety of factors. Most notably, we came to the conclusion that it just didn’t make financial or operational sense to do this elaborate planning and create this expensive infrastructure just to use it for only one day and then tear it all down. There are virtually no music festivals of our type or size that operate only on a single day. It was time to get with the times. Additionally, for years many of you have asked us to consider going to two days, so we did based on demand.
Why Was Day 2 Not All House Music?
Day 1 will always remain the house music-dedicated Old School Reunion Picnic that you have come to know and love. With Day 2, we thought it was important to not simply repeat the very same experience from Day 1, but to change some things up to keep it fresh and new, especially given what a long and exhausting day the Picnic is. So we decided on a later start time and a shorter day, to make it more vendor-oriented with respect to food and beverages (more on that below) and to expand the musical offerings on Day 2.
We will always be first and foremost about house music and the Saturday Picnic is untouchable. However, on Sunday we want to present house music in the broader context of “soul music” in which we believe it fits. We recognize that a lot of house heads (especially of our vintage) also like stepping music, neo-soul, R&B, etc., so we wanted to create some variety and build these other sub-genres of soul music into what we’re doing on Sunday.
Our hope is to provide even more entertainment to our existing patrons who may have varied musical tastes and interests, and also attract a broader audience of soul music lovers who may not necessarily attend the Picnic. In doing so, however, we were very conscious of selecting artists whose music clearly touches on house, dance and soul, which is why we chose to present Cheryl Lynn (who was incredible!) and Roy Ayers for our first Day 2. Of course, we were all thrown for a loop when Mr. Ayers fell ill and could not perform, which had a ripple effect on Sunday’s show. Nevertheless, we were very pleased with the vibe and turnout for our first venture into Sunday, and we plan to continue the two-day format and the “soul music” inflection on Sunday.
On future Sundays, we hope to bring you similar artists and Guest DJs like Roy Ayers, Jill Scott, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and many more! With that said, we did hear many of you loud and clear, and we will certainly increase the dosage of house music on Sunday along with our other offerings. And we think we’ll make that gospel house finale a Sunday tradition!
Why No Outside Food or Beverages on Sunday?
A significant factor in this decision was our desire to be more supportive of our vendors, many of whom are also small Black-owned businesses. Historically, we have had food and beverage vendors at the Picnic, but as you might imagine it has been a struggle for them given that the core concept of our event is people bringing their own food and beverages. We decided to make Day 2 more vendor oriented, like a Taste of Chicago, to give our vendors a better chance of making some real money, to help them grow their own businesses as we grow ours. While you may not notice it as you’re enjoying the Picnic experience, whether it’s food and beverage vendors, security companies, sound companies, catering, transportation companies, and other services, we go out of our way to have a positive economic impact on the community, especially minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and to use local service providers whenever possible.
Why the Cashless Wristbands?
Well, the short answer is that we’re simply keeping up with the times and how festivals are produced these days. This experience was as new for us as it was for you, and there were some growing pains and wrinkles that will be easily ironed out. In actuality, the cashless wristband system was virtually flawless, and we will all be more comfortable and familiar with it next year. The system keeps the event better organized, helps us better control access to the various areas of the park, and gives us better and more accurate record keeping with respect to vendor sales activity.
The cashless system is really no different than what you experience at the Taste of Chicago and other festivals. At the Taste, you can’t go directly to a vendor and purchase food or beverages. First you have to go to the ticket booth and purchase tickets, then go to the vendors to purchase items with your tickets. Our cashless wristband system works exactly the same way and is even more convenient because you can add money to your wristband before you even get to the event.
What Happens to the Balance on My Wristband that I Didn’t Spend?
Unlike the Taste of Chicago when you buy too many tickets and are stuck with them, at our festival you actually get your unused balance refunded to you (less a $3.50 processing fee). If you “topped off” your account via a credit or debit card, your card will be automatically refunded within 7 business days after the event. If you loaded your wristband via cash, you can also have that amount refunded to you by following a few easy steps. Cash refunds must be requested by logging on to your account by July 17, 2016. For more information on refunding your unused balance, see here:http://chosenfewdjs.com/2016/07/07/wristband-refunds/
And finally, in the recklessly false rumor department, you were not charged any service fee each time you made a purchase or each time you added money to your wristband.
What Happened to Cause Delays at the Gate?
For part of the afternoon on Saturday, there were some long delays for some General Admission customers to gain entry into the festival. We offer our most sincere apologies for that, and we are certain that with some easy adjustments and better decision-making such delays will never happen again.
In short, the delays were caused by having an insufficient quantity of General Admission wristbands at the cash gates, and customers were asked to wait until more wristbands were delivered to the gates. Initial wristband quantities at the gates were determined based on past experience, but we received an unexpectedly high “walk up” crowd on Saturday afternoon, which took some time–too much time–for our gate staff to properly react to.
While we acted relatively quickly to re-purpose certain gates from VIP to General Admission and engaged in other measures to get the lines flowing again, our gate staff did not want to let General Admission patrons in without wristbands because without a wristband they would have been unable to make purchases in the park. This was a decision made with the best of intentions, but it was simply a wrong one. Rather than allow any customer to experience unreasonable delays, staff should have just let all patrons in the park without a band until more bands were delivered to the gate. Patrons could have then come back to the gate later to pick up bands to make purchases if they wished. We simply dropped the ball on this.
For those who had a bad experience, we apologize again. We will work hard to regain your trust, and we will not lose it again.
Is the Chosen Few Picnic & Music Festival Too Expensive?
We hear these sentiments expressed from time to time, and frankly can only shake our heads in disbelief. We do know that everyone’s financial circumstances are different, and we make every effort to keep the event affordable for everyone. However, there is no getting around the reality that the event is enormously expensive to produce.
While we generally don’t publicly discuss our finances and expenses, to give you some perspective on the costs to produce the event we will share just a couple of expense items for us in 2016. First, just to put up the fence alone that surrounds the festival grounds costs us $15,000. Second, our bill for just local ground transportation for our guest DJs and Performers and parking lot shuttles was over $25,000. Other major expenses include Park District and City license and permit fees, security, stage, sound and lighting, clean up, portable toilets, tents—lots and lots of tents , VIP viewing stand, Jumbotron, camera operators, catering, artist dressing rooms, photographers, insurance, DJ and artist fees and travel expenses including air and hotel (often for an entire band of 6-8 performers), providing internet service to a venue where Wifi is non-existent, labor costs and various fees and expenses generated by our production company.
We incur these expenses because our commitment to you is to produce a world class music festival. And we believe we do just that, presenting 22 hours of local, national and international house music DJs and live performers in a safe, secure, family-friendly environment, on Chicago’s South Side. Where else in the world can you enjoy all of that entertainment and legally bring in your own alcohol and food (on Saturday), and eat and drink to your heart’s content all for $25 (early bird General Admission) or $40 at the gate?
In short, thanks to what all of us have built together over 26 years, there is simply nothing on earth quite like the Chosen Few Picnic & Music Festival, and we make no apology for our modest admission prices or any modest associated fees. For comparison sake, here are the one-day General Admission ticket prices for some of Chicago’s other music festivals this summer:
• Lollapalooza: $120 • Spring Awakening: $99 • Mamby on the Beach: $69.50 • Pitchfork Music Festival: $65 • North Coast Festival: $55
Thank you for your time and your continued support. Rest assured that the Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Music Festival will be back and better than ever on July 1 and 2, 2017, the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Chosen Few DJs!
Wayne, Jesse, Tony, Alan, Andre, Terry, Mike & Kim