Today’s announcement that the Old Town School of Folk Music and Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce were teaming up to produce a new summer event, Square Roots, left many wondering about the fate of Old Town’s annual Folk & Roots Festival. Center Square Journal has confirmed that Old Town School is indeed pulling the plug on Folk & Roots this year, in what would have been the festival’s fifteenth season.
“We’re not doing Folk & Roots this year,” said Nick Macri, Old Town’s marketing manager for concerts and events. “We haven’t scrapped it entirely, we might be doing it next year,” but for 2012, Square Roots is “where we’re putting all of our energy.”
The contract between Old Town School and the Chamber was inked just last Friday: The Chamber finally gains the summer festival it’s been aiming to mount for the past several years and Old Town now has a partner to help navigate the city’s moving target of permits and fees.
“The city is trying to increase revenue but they’re not being completely forthright with the people creating these events,” said Jason Kraus, vice president of the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce. He pointed to significant hikes in the costs for permits and rental of Welles Park, a key Folk & Roots venue. Also swirling: rumors that the city is planning to reverse its practice of allowing festival vendors to tap into the city’s electric grid, forcing them instead to fall back on generator power.
“There’s a lot of gray area from the city,” Kraus said. Just in trying to determine the cost of reimbursing LAZ for lost parking meter revenue due to street closures during the festival, “We talked to them three times and got three different answers.”
While Old Town School will still take the lead in programming music and entertainment for Square Roots, in many ways the new festival will look and feel much different from Folk & Roots. Welles Park is off the table, largely because Little League baseball had its schedule in place before Square Roots settled on a date, and “the idea is to have more local music represented,” according to Macri.
In fact, “local” is the buzzword for Square Roots. Local music, local food and local beer is the underlying theme, said Kraus. “Our hope is that 80 to 90 or 100 percent of the food vendors are from the neighborhood, Northcenter, Ravenswood or nearby.”
The craft beer component represents another departure from Folk & Roots and will resemble an outdoor version of the Chamber’s highly successful Winter Brew event. “We’ll make some new friends from other breweries,” said Kraus, suggesting the definition of “local” might be expanded to include breweries from as far away as Ohio.
Whether Folk & Roots will return in 2013 remains unclear. “Our plans are to continue with this festival,” said Krause.