“Chicago Bike Revolution” Fest on 9/7 Will Support West Town’s Bike Ed Programs

The bike parade at the 2015 Chicago Tour de Fat. Photo: West Town Bikes
The bike parade at the 2015 Chicago Tour de Fat. Photo: West Town Bikes

For 15 years West Town Bikes has been teaching at-risk youth in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community bike-handling, repair, job, and life skills. For many years Colorado-based New Belgium Brewery’s traveling Tour de Fat festival has raised money for West Town’s programs with a Chicago event. But now that the tour is no longer visiting our city, this year local company Revolution Brewing has stepped up to help the bike education center fill the funding void with a totally homegrown bikes, bands, and beer festival called Chicago Bike Revolution. The event takes place on Saturday, September 7, 1 to 10 p.m. in Humboldt Park, east of the boathouse. If you’re biking there, it’s best to enter the green space from Division Street and California Avenue. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the gate.

This year the Tour de Fat will only be taking place in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Ashville, North Carolina, where New Belgium has breweries, as well as Tempe, Arizona, where the event has had the biggest draw. “The tour is expensive to put on, and the beer industry has changed in recent years,” West Town director Alex Wilson said. “The craft beer market has become very local and New Belgium has gone national — they’re in all of the lower 48 states now.”

Wilson said the Chicago stop of the Tour de Fat peaked in 2016, the last year it took place in Palmer Square with headlining rock band Dr. Dog, drawing about 12,000 people and raising over $60,000  for West Town. However, last year’s event in Humboldt Park, headlined by the rock duo Best Coast, drew only about 2,000 attendees, raising roughly $25,000. “It was on June 30, and about 100 degrees, and drinking beer in the hot sun is not a big draw,” Wilson said.

Still, Wilson noted that the Tour de Fat was generally very popular in Chicago and “there’s space to continue this kind of festival here.” This year’s marks the bike ed center’s 15th anniversary and the tenth anniversary of its retail store Ciclo Urbano. They’ve set a relatively modest goal of repeating last year’s draw and fundraising level. “We are excited to grow our own fest and very proud that it’s a Chicago fest, with Chicago bikes, bands, and beer,” he said. “I always thought the Tour de Fat had kind of a Colorado vibe, so I’m excited that we’re putting on a fest that is going to be very Chicago.”

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The event kicks off with a bike parade at 1 p.m., and when the riders return to the park they will be greeted by fanfare and a performance from the circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza. Here are the rest of the acts, from first to last, with descriptions from Wilson.

  • Little Church: “Spacey, female-fronted alt-rock”
  • Negative Scanner: “Pop-funk with a female front-person”
  • Glad Rags: “An arty 9-person alternative rock band that puts on very theatrical performances”
  • Sen Morimoto: “Electronic art-hip-hop”
  • The O’Mys: “A blend of R & B, Latin, funk, and hip-hop”

The show will be emceed by house band Sex No Babies, which Wilson describes as “arty hip-hop with a social message,” featuring West Town instructor Ben Moroney.

In addition to the bike parade and bands, the festival will feature a freak bike test-riding corral, lawn games, food trucks, and a Revolution Brewing lounge and VIP section. “We’re really happy we’re getting to hold the event later in the evening this year,” Wilson said.

He recommends that fans of celebrity crocodilian Chance the Snapper “like” the festival’s Facebook event and follow the fest on other social media platforms, “because there’s going to be a great video featuring an alligator going to the fest.” Revolution Brewing will also be releasing the last two kegs of its limited-edition Humboldt Gator pineapple-coconut infused beer at the festival. If you like piña colada, you’ll definitely want to get there early to sample a pint.

“This all benefits West Town Bikes,” noted Wilson. “In 15 years we have served thousands of youth and placed hundreds in jobs, so people coming out and enjoying the fest are really supporting the work we do year-round.”

 

 

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