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* African Festival of the Arts, Sept 3–6 Washington Park, 5100 S Cottage Grove (africanfestivalchicago.com). 10am–10pm; $15, advance $10, seniors and kids under 12 $5. Celebrate Afrocentric customs and arts, including music, family activities, food and creativity. The lineup always features a good selection of rap, jazz and funk.
FREE Lake In The Hills Summer Sunset Fest, Sept 3–5 Sunset Park, Miller Rd at Albrecht Rd, Lake in the Hills (summersunsetfest.com). Fri 3–10pm, Sat 10am–10pm, Sun 11am–10pm. Head for the hills where you’ll find carnival rides, a great array of pastoral games and tunes. Come Saturday for the parade at 10am and show your skills at the Melon Propellin’ competition later that day.
* FREE Taste of Melrose Park, Sept 3–5 1000 N 25th Ave, Melrose Park (melrosepark.org/events). Fri 5–11:30pm, Sat noon–11:30pm, Sun noon–10pm. This Italian-food-heavy fest is one of the best “tastes" around. Where else can you buy fresh doughnut-like sfingi from a nun? Bonus: All food items cost $3 or less.
Taste of Polonia, Sept 3–6 Copernicus Center, 5216 W Lawrence Ave (copernicusfdn.org). Fri 5–11pm; Sat, Sun noon–11pm; Mon noon–10pm; $6, Sat and Sun after 6pm $7, seniors $3, kids under 12 free. Feast on potato pancakes, kielbasa, pierogi and beyond at this fest celebrating Poland. After you’ve stuffed yourself, check out the Polish music, dancers and artists.
FREE Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw & Festival, Sept 3, 4 Marion Park, Grand Ave and First St, Prairie du Sac, WI (wiscowchip.com). 7–11:30pm. Those with a strong arm (and stomach) can chuck some dried cow poo at this annual fair. Live entertainment and a petting zoo add clean entertainment. The cow-chip-throwing contest costs $3 for adults and $1 for kids.
Bash on Wabash, Sept 4, 5 Wabash Ave between 13th and 14th Sts (greatersouthloop.org/BASH.html). 11am–10pm, $5. This neighborhood fest celebrates with area restaurants and arts and crafts. This year’s fest is especially “corny": Corn vendors and a corn-bags tournament take center stage.
FREE Chicago Jazz Festival, Sept 4, 5 Various locations including Grant Park, 300 S Columbus Dr (chicagojazzfestival.us). El: Red, Blue to Jackson; Orange, Brown, Green, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to Adams. Bus: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 14, 26, 28, 126, 145. Sept 2 noon; Sept 3 7:10pm; Sept 4, 5 10am–9:30pm. For more than 30 years, this festival has proved that jazz is alive and well in Chicago. This year, two additional days (Thu 2 and Fri 3) take the festival out of Grant Park and into the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St.), Millennium Park (205 E Randolph St) and Roosevelt University (430 S Michigan Ave). Innovative acts are featured heavily on the four-day bill, including a prominent showing from Chicago’s Nicole Mitchell, who was named the festival’s artist in residence.
FREE Taste of Serbia, Sept 4, 5 27450 N Bradley Rd at Old School Rd, Lake Forest (847-247-0077). Sat 9am–midnight, Sun 11am–midnight. Experience Serbian culture during this fete of food, music, dancing and lectures. Sink your teeth into delicacies like cevapcici, a sausage made from beef and pork.
FREE Festival de La Villita, Sept 10–12 26th St from Albany Ave to Kostner Ave (chicagoevents.com). Fri 6–11pm; Sat, Sun noon–11pm. Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain during this fest. This bash includes food, music and kids’ activities. On Sunday, the huge 26th Street Parade ends at the fest.
FREE German-American Fest, Sept 10–12 Lincoln Ave at Leland St (germanday.com). Fri 5–11pm; Sat, Sun noon–11pm. Lift a stein and yell “Prost!" during this celebration of all things German. Experience the music, carnival games, German dancers and food. Grab some schnitzel and watch the Von Steuben Parade on Saturday.
Windy City Wine Festival, Sept 10, 11 Buckingham Fountain, 500 S Columbus Dr (windycitywinefestival.com). Fri 4–10pm, Sat 3–9pm; $35, advance $25, designated-driver tickets $10, under 21 with paid adult free. What kind of wine pairs best with a summer festival? Find out when you sample more than 200 wines from around the world. There will also be live music and cooking demos.
FREE Lakeview East Festival of the Arts, Sept 11, 12 Broadway from Belmont Ave to Roscoe St (lakevieweastfestivalofthearts.com). Sat 10am–6pm, Sun 10am–5pm. View crafts from more than 150 juried artists or let the rug rats hit up a children’s area.
* FREE Renegade Craft Fair, Sept 11, 12 Division St between Damen Ave and Paulina St (renegadecraft.com/chicago). 11am–7pm. If the Etsy website could come to life, this would be it. The streets of Wicker Park overflow with indie-craft talent and handmade goods from around the world.
Wells Street Fall Fest, Sept 11, 12 Wells St and North Ave (chicagoevents.com). Sat, Sun 11am–10pm; $7. The streets transform into an open market featuring dozens of vendors. You can shop and get your fill of food, wine, music and art.
FREE Graue Mill’s Cornfest, Sept 12 Graue Mill & Museum, 3800 S York Rd, Oak Brook (grauemill.org). 11:30am–4pm. This suburban museum was once a working mill that ground corn into flour. Beyond serving roasted corn, the fest includes live music, races and fishing.
* Lebowski Fest, Sept 17, 18 Various venues in Chicago (lebowskifest.com). 8pm; $22–$30, advance $18–$25, two-day pass $40. Hey, Dude, throw on a bathrobe and head to this party celebrating cult flick The Big Lebowski. On Friday, see a screening of the movie at Portage Theater (4050 N Milwaukee Ave). On Saturday, head down to Diversey River Bowl (2211 W Diversey Ave) for a night of bowling and Lebowski-inspired costumes.
Naperville Wine Festival, Sept 17, 18 Naper Settlement, 523 S Webster St, Naperville (napervillewinefestival.com). Metra: Burlington/Santa Fe to Naperville. Fri 4–10pm, Sat 3–9pm; $35, advance $25, designated drivers $10, under 21 with a paid adult free. This grape-inspired gala has more than 200 wines from around the world available to taste. Cooking demonstrations and live music add to the swirling and sipping.
FREE ¡Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival, Sept 17, 18 Millennium Park, N Michigan Ave at Randolph St (explorechicago.org). 11am–9pm. Dance to the beats of reggaeton, salsa, mariachi and more during this celebration of Latin music.
Guinness Oyster Fest, Sept 18 Roscoe St at Damen Ave (chicagoevents.com). 11am–10pm, $7. Shuck oysters, sip on plenty of beer and jam to live music during this bash.
FREE 57th Street Children’s Book Fair, Sept 19 57th St at Kimbark Ave (http://57cbf.org). 1–6pm. Kicking off with a parade and a colorful cast of storybook characters, this kids’ book fair has hundreds of new and used books for sale.
Oktoberfest, Sept 24–26 St. Alphonsus Church, 3000 N Lincoln Ave (starevents.com). Fri 5–10pm, Sat 11am–10pm, Sun noon–6:30pm; $5. Feel free to break out the lederhosen for this annual event on the streets around St. Alphonsus Church. Three days of beer, brats and music will leave you saying sehr gut.
* World Music Festival: Chicago, Sept 24–30 Several venues including the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington St (worldmusicfestivalchicago.org). Times and prices vary. This mixture of free and ticketed concerts brings global music to our fair city.
FREE Eli’s Cheesecake Festival, Sept 25, 26 Eli’s Cheesecake World, 6701 W Forest Preserve Dr (elicheesecake.com). Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 11am–5pm. Beyond sampling free cheesecake at Eli’s HQ, you can relax with live music, rides and a classic car show. For the extremely lactose tolerant, there’s a cheesecake-eating contest.
FREE Hyde Park Arts & Crafts Adventure, Sept 25, 26 Outdoor Courtyard of University of Chicago Hyde Park Shopping Center, 1526 E 55th St (americansocietyofartists.org). Sat 10am–6pm, Sun 10am–5pm. Get to know your neighborhood artist or craftsman at this fifth annual event.
FREE Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Sept 25 Various venues around Chicago (hydeparkjazzfestival.org). 2pm–2am. More than 150 jazz musicians gather for a day of nonstop performances.
Rib-A-Que Smoke-out, Sept 25 Moonshine, 1824 W Division St (773-862-8686). Noon–6pm; $35, advance $25. Watch sparks fly during this barbecue competition. Chicago restaurants and award-winning amateurs compete to be crowned “Smoke-out Champion." Taste grilled food and wash it all down with some Moonshine brews.
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