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All Things Ukrainian, with Jazz

Frank Brichetto

Dear readers, August and early September are brimming with fun, wonderful things to do in and around our beautiful city, Chicago.  Most exciting, I think, are the events that celebrate Ukraine and the

Ukrainian people and there are several coming up soon.

Let’s start, shall we, on August 12 & 13, at the “Uketoberfest” at St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, 5000 N. Cumberland, this Ukrainian version of a classic German Oktoberfest, has been called “one of Chicago’s best,” and “my favorite festival” by past attendees.  We’ll find live music, dancing, great tasting deruny, kapusta, kovbasa, and more, and let’s not forget the fine Ukrainian beer!   https://www.facebook.com/chicagouketoberfest/  (773) 625-4805.

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This year the fest will showcase Ukrainian American musician Sofi Fraser (you can hear her on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ej4zODSAfU ) and Mad Heads, a wild Ukrainian band that describes their music as “high-energy ska/psychobilly/Latin-tinged folk/rock” so, yes, I’m hooked.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNwH20oQH08. There are many other bands slated, as well as Dance School Vyshyvanka, Boyovyj Hopak, and much much more.  I will look for you!


Two weeks later, August 26 & 27, we will celebrate Ukrainian Days, honoring Ukraine’s Independence, with presentations about Ukraine, dancing, live music, kids activities, and much more.  This celebration has grown so much that it will no longer fit in Smith Park, so if you have attended in past years, be sure to go to 2200-2300 W. Chicago Ave.  This event is very kid friendly, so bring the whole family, The dancing is always wonderful to behold, and there will be food galore and a number of Ukrainian businesses with their products and services on display.  I love Ukrainian embroidery and art work, it is so truly intricate and colorful that it’s almost mesmerizing.  Please join us.  Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/events/1757010984628955 will provide all the information you need.


On a different note, the Chicago Jazz Festival, my absolute favorite music festival in Chicago or anywhere else, will be held this year on Labor Day weekend, August 31- September 3, in Millennium Park.  It’s free to attend and features many local artists as well as jazz greats from around the world.  Compared to Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza, the Jazz Fest is calmer, more relaxed, and much easier to navigate.  I just love it. https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_jazz_festival13.html


The events start on Thursday, celebrating George Freeman‘s 90th birthday, bless him.  It continues with Dizzy Gillespie’s Centennial Celebration, which will feature Jon Faddis and the Chicago Jazz Festival Big Band, who are well qualified to honor the contributions Dizzy made to jazz.


Don’t miss Ellabration! 100 Years of Ella Fitzgerald, featuring music from artists as varied as Sheila Jordan, Dee Alexander, Spider Saloff and more.  Ella deserves it, so here it is, and it will be wonderful, I’m sure.

There are many more artists, on several stages, some across the street in the amazing Chicago Cultural Center, so be sure to check the schedule and catch the legendary, as well as up-and-coming, jazz artists in live performances in two premier locations.


Saving the best for last, you’ll want to join us at the Ukrainian Village Fest, September 9-10, at Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church, 2245 W. Superior St.

“The Ukrainian Village Fest started in 2002 as a neighborhood festival with the concept of offering a world-class celebration of Ukrainian spirit to the Chicago community while showcasing the best of Ukrainian and other ethnic arts and culture.” according to their Facebook page, and they’re living up to those high expectations.  Many clothes and other soft goods will be available – as I mentioned earlier, I find Ukrainian designs fascinating – and among the many delicious food choices will be Nadiya’s Cupcakes, which are culinary works of art almost too beautiful to eat.  Almost.

The large stage will host a variety of musicians, and feature the bold, wonderful, dazzling, traditional Ukrainian dancing.  I watch this, speechless, every time.  This is a family friendly outing, please bring the children, visit the petting zoo, learn a bit about animal husbandry, and take part in the various games and activities that are so much a part of this unique fest.  Visit local bee keeper, Bee in Beezyness, and learn a few things about bees before you buy some of their honey for your breakfast and snacks.  Absolutely do not miss the display from the  Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art to see the many ways Ukrainian artists are embracing and enlarging their cultural heritage through art.  This whole fest is thrilling, exciting, and filled with wonderful, friendly people.  I’m not Ukrainian, but I’ve always been warmly welcomed by every one I’ve met.  You will be too.  See you there!

August 2017