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Taste of 79th Community Walk uses stroll with a New Orleans-style band to highlight corridor

The Windy City Ramblers lead the crowd down East 79th Street. Photo: Cameron Bolton

This post is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance

There was no need to ride Amtrak's City of New Orleans train from Chicago to Louisiana last weekend if you wanted to enjoy walking, dancing and socializing behind a traditional Big Easy-style second line band.

On Saturday afternoon, the Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce and the mobility justice group Equiticity hosted the Taste of 79th Community Walk. It was a stroll and tour through the 79th Street business corridor in the South Shore, Avalon Park, and South Chicago community areas.

The flier for the event. Image: Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce

The walk featured a second line band, Sam Thousand Presents: The Windy City Ramblers, with Mario Abney. The Ramblers' website describes them as "a nonprofit brass band organization that is dedicated to the cultural development of the youth of Chicago through the brass band and second line culture."

The Windy City Ramblers pose for a picture on 79th. Mario Abney is third from the left. Photo: Cameron Bolton

The de-facto parade met at noon at Love Juice Co., 1200 E 79th St., just east of the 79th St. (Chatham) Metra Electric District commuter rail station. The walk ended a mile later at Chicago Body Shop, 2047 E. 79th.

The one-mile second-line walking route. Image: Google Maps

From there participants could take shuttle buses another mile east to the soon-to-open Urban Luxe Cafe, 2911 E 79th St. (next to the Cheltham/79th MED station), for additional treats, a chat with the owner, and more music from the Ramblers. Shuttles then brought the attendees the two miles back to the starting point. (Other featured local businesses included PODS, Jars by Jasmin, One Stop Jamaican, and Dee Dee's Kitchen.)

The shuttle route from Chicago Body Shop to Urban Luxe Cafe. Image: Google Maps

The chamber's executive director Frankye Payne told Streetsblog events like the community walk highlight all the positive things that are happening in these neighborhoods. "We recognize that there are misinterpretations about safety in our community, about the people in our communities... So we can control more of the narrative [and] attract new businesses and families to our great schools and locations."

Asked what transportation improvements we can expect to see on 79th in the future, Payne noted that an INVEST South/West streetscape project is planned on the corridor between Stony Island Avenue and South Shore Drive. She said this will include new lighting, ADA accessibility upgrades, and new bike lanes. (Visit this website to access the PDF presentation from the first public meeting.)

The chamber's media strategist Jenny LeFlore added that they're also working with the city on creating community identifiers and wayfinding signs for the area.

Walking and dancing down 79th Street with The Ramblers. Photo: Cameron Bolton

Saturday's community walk was a reminder that there's no better way to get to know a neighborhood than taking a stroll with others, enjoying live music, and supporting local businesses. So it would be great to see more of these New Orleans-style second-line events in Chicago.

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