Andersonville’s Midsommarfest highlights local businesses, organizations

By Maya Swan-Sullivan, Staff Reporter

Chicago’s Midsommarfest kicked off the neighborhood summer festival season with a legendary celebration of Andersonville’s Swedish heritage.

The festival, now in its 57th year, also had spirited LGBTQ+ atmosphere as Pride month events begin across the city. The neighborhood, between Uptown and Edgewater, was unofficially dubbed “Girlstown” in the 1990s for its thriving lesbian community.

Charlie Wein, director of marketing and communications at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, said the neighborhood has “always been an extremely LGBTQIA+ community” and they like to combine what they do for pride with the Midsommarfest.

“I like to say that Andersonville for us is always pride,” he said.

Midsommarfest, which ran from June 9 through June 11, traditionally celebrates the neighborhood’s Swedish traditions but also highlights an abundance of different food and music beyond its origins.

With a wide variety of booths, Wein said the festival is organized to show off small business and introduce new local artists.

The smells of homemade candles and soaps carried throughout the streets as patrons met a variety of local artists who were selling jewelry and art prints. The festival also featured an assortment of food vendors ranging from Swedish dogs to street tacos and Thai food.

Couple Kyle Ralston (left) and Jason Myers (right) enjoy the festivities and food at Midsommarfest in Andersonville at 5200 N. Clark St, on Saturday, June 10, 2023. “I have been coming here for the past eight years, nine years and it’s one of my favorite street events in the city,” Myers said. (Addison Annis)

A booth hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, a group that works to advocate for the human rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, was selling shirts with phrases such as “I support Black trans futures,” in addition to other accessories with their organization’s logo. Hung on the side of the booth was a yellow tote bag that said “totes non binary” in purple text.

Jennifer Bobb, a staff member for the organization said that showing up to festivals like this one “brings attention to our mission and attention to the issues that we have at hand…we’re just looking to make people aware.”

With six different stages throughout the festival grounds, watching and dancing to musical performances was another way visitors spent their time at the fest. Dancing Queen: An ABBA Salute, Sizzy Rocket and Chicago Soul Spectacular performed on Saturday night on the Swedish Stage, Summerdale Stage and North Stage respectively.

That same evening, the festival’s Urban Pride Stage hosted a Bollywood Drag Show which featured performers Masala Sapphire, Markiki Jones and Lal Batti.

Lal Batti, Bolloywood Drag Queen, performs at Midsommarfest’s “Urban Pride Stage” located at 5200 N. Clark St, on Saturday, June 10, 2023. The Bollywood Drag Show consisted of performers Masala Sapphire, Markiki Jones, and Lal Batti. (Addison Annis)

Stacy Joseph, whose sister Sharon Joseph performed alongside Markiki Jones, said in comparison to other drag shows she’s attended in the past, “this one is more relatable because I’m Indian.”

Joseph said that drag shows in her culture have not typically been common. However, she added, “nowadays a lot more people are coming out and are more embracing of the culture so it’s actually really good.”

For many of the attendees, Midsommarfest is an annual destination.

Chris Bishop, who attended the festival on Saturday said “it’s a tradition for me, my boyfriend and our friends to come out every single year.”

They added that supporting local businesses is even more important to them ever since the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a part of pride month and our agenda,” Bishop said.

Kyle Ralston, a local Chicagoan, said that they came to the festival for the music and local vendors. Ralston’s partner, Jason Myers, said that they’ve been coming for the past nine years.

“It’s one of my favorite street festivals in the city,” Myers said.

And although pride isn’t the focal point of the festival, attendees feel the energy around them during a mid-Pride month weekend in a vibrant queer community.

“It does bring out a very nicely inclusive queer community,” Ralston said.

“Midsommar fest is the festival that I go to where I really feel like I can be myself,” Wein said. “I feel proud. I feel the pride in the neighborhood. I feel happy.”