How I Spent a Not So “Square” Summer Afternoon

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

This past Sunday, July 12, was the kind of day we here in Chicago dream about in late January: Sunny, breezy with temperatures in the 80s.  The perfect day to get outside and do something active, fun and memorable.

So how about a neighborhood festival?

There were many to choose from last weekend, including the Taste of Chicago.  Now in its 35th year, this downtown summertime soiree probably energized communities around here to designate a weekend,  barricade streets and take over parks in order to let vendors sell brats and ribs, beer and lemonade, art and artifacts.

And, let’s not forget the musical entertainment, as musical performers of all types, styles and levels of success and accomplishment are mainstays on the summer festival circuit.

The goal behind the ubiquitous neighborhood fest, I gather, is to inspire a sense of community, and possibly earn a profit for the sponsoring organizations. (Although, I believe Chicago’s big gathering ends up in the red, a reason they reduced the event from like 11 days to four.)

As exciting as the Taste of Chicago most assuredly would have been, I wanted something more low-key, less costly and closer to home.  So, I set out to participate an event billed as being “square.”

The Square Roots Festival, a collaboration between the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, met my requirements perfectly. Let me point out that I’ve been a member of the OTS for 25 years, have taken classes there and regularly attend concerts. It’s a true national gem in terms of its impact on inspiring current and future generations on the value and beauty of music while preserving what’s good about the past.

From the images below — all musical — you can get a visual perspective on how I spent a not-so-square summer afternoon in Chicago.


Not sure what kind of music these folks were playing; but rest assured: There were no Led Zepplin or AC-DC covers.


Yes, there was something musical for the kids, although the Old Town School brands them as “Wiggleworms.”


You don’t see this very often at at neighborhood festival: A marching band. These guys played, “I’ll Fly Away,” a song you don’t outside a Coen Brothers movie.


I’m not sure what this device is called. But it’s a “drum machine” that’s powered by kids propelled on a swing. A “swinging drum machine?”


This band, the Otis Redding Ensemble, actually had a lot more fans than these two young guys. And, yes, these guys had soul.


Inside the Old Town School, visitors could participate in a sing-along. Flashback: I once performed on this stage during a class recital of “Hey, Hey I’m Memphis Bound,” a Delmore Brothers chestnut.


What would the Square Roots Festival be without a tent filled with folk singers. Visitors were welcomed to join in.