East Chicago celebrates Black Music Month in June with a free festival.
Mayor Anthony Copeland presents Rhythm & Soul Fest on June 25 at Washington Park, where attendees can bring lawn chairs for seating and parking is free near Block Stadium, which marked its grand opening on May 21.
“It’s our first concert that kicks off the summer season and it’s probably one of the most feel-good concerts of the season because it’s in a park,” said Steve Segura, a member of the special events committee for the city of East Chicago.
“It’s walkable, it’s in the neighborhood and it’s more family-oriented. There’s no alcohol served there and it’s a good way to showcase Black artists.
“With East Chicago being a melting pot we enjoy that diversity and it’s not just all African Americans that are there. It’s everybody. It’s a mixture of people that enjoy the music. We all grew up to those sounds. This time we have a little bit more entertainment.”
Rhythm & Soul Fest is headlined by One Way featuring Al Hudson. The band reached No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982 with the song “Cutie Pie” from the album “Who’s Foolin’ Who,” which was released via MCA Records in 1982.
Natalie L. Adams, a member of the mayor’s special events team, said the city of East Chicago worked with Cal Spencer of Beach House Music LLC of Hammond to secure the headliner.
“East Chicago has seen major revitalization in the past since Mayor Anthony Copeland took office. Millions of dollars of investment have gone into the downtown redevelopment, the lakefront, our parks and Block Stadium, which is adjacent to Washington Park. There’s so much here,” Segura said.
According to Adams, who is also coordinating food and craft vendors for Rhythm & Soul Fest, Antone Drain of Chicago-based Touchtone Entertainment is bringing Salute to Mary J. Blige and Sounds of Slave to round out the three-act lineup at the festival.
“He has provided several cover bands or artists for us in the past and always does a phenomenal job,” said Adams in an email.
Segura, who is also multimedia director for the city of East Chicago, said Washington Park is well-suited for the festival.
“It has one of the largest pavilions and it has adequate parking at the school down the block,” he said.
“It’s got a really cozy atmosphere and it’s one of our largest parks as well. It’s probably the most-utilized park. It’s got a lot of amenities.”
He noted that Rhythm & Soul Fest helps to kick off a full slate of free summer events for the first time since 2019 because the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed programming in both 2020 and 2021.
“The mayor’s worked hard to bring back safe, quality events in East Chicago and he’s proud of all the work that’s gone into putting on these events. With the challenges of COVID we wanted to ensure that things are done safely,” said Segura who has worked for the city of East Chicago for more than 30 years.
“It’s also part of increasing the quality of life for residents. Events bring families together and increase the quality of life for East Chicago.”
Other events that Copeland, who took office in 2010, will present in East Chicago include Salsa in the Park with José Alberto “El Canario” from 2 to 8 p.m. July 30 at Washington Park Pavilion. There also will be music by DJ Manuel Get Down and DJ Louie. Free parking is available near Block Stadium.
The mayor also presents Fusic Fest from 5 to 11 p.m. Aug. 6 and 7 at Jeorse Park Beach, 3301 Aldis Ave. The fusion of food, fun and music includes Elvis Crespo, who won a Grammy for best merengue performance for “Pintame,” and the return of Grammy-nominated rapper Jeezy. Parking is $20.
“We are excited to bring back Fusic Fest this year,” said Copeland in a statement.
“We look forward to a safe event amid COVID and we hope to see everyone down at the lakefront again.”
“It’s just a funky good time,” said Segura of East Chicago.
“All our concerts are free to attend in East Chicago. Mayor Anthony Copeland wants the community involved.”
Rhythm & Soul Fest
When: 4-9 p.m. June 25
Where: Washington Park, 142nd Street and Parrish Avenue, East Chicago
Information: 219-391-8482; eastchicago.com/398/Special-Events
Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
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