What’s in a name? SECC replaces annual festival series, launches web page by same name to promote Hyde Park

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

The South East Chicago Commission (SECC) has replaced the annual Celebrate Hyde Park festivals with the Discover Hyde Park Experience Series, coinciding with the launch of a similarly titled webpage promoting Hyde Park.

The series includes the neighborhood’s annual George Franklin Summer Memorial Summer Sunday concerts, Children’s Book Fair, Oktoberfest and winter festival. Missing, however, is a summertime festival similar to Celebrate Hyde Park’s namesake street fair, which was canceled this year.

The SECC also unveiled earlier this summer a new webpage entitled “Discover Hyde Park,” with the goal of providing information on the neighborhood to visitors and residents alike. According to SECC Program Manager Eric Reaves, it dovetails with efforts by the 53rd Street Special Service Area he directs to spur economic development.

“To have that economic development, you need foot traffic,” Reaves said, adding that “with all the new stores – independent stores and also chain stores – we want to build capacity.”

But Discover Hyde Park isn’t a brand, according to Reaves. “Hyde Park in itself is already a brand,” Reaves said. “We’re not trying to change it. We’re trying to streamline it and develop it into a central point of engagement.”

That point of engagement, according to Reaves, is meant to address the fact that tourists, residents or “somebody who wanted to come from the North Side to Hyde Park, to find out where to recreate, to eat, to shop,” has to visit several different websites.

Wendy Walker Williams, executive director of the SECC, said earlier this year that the “Discover Hyde Park” website under development was “in no way intended to be a replacement for the Celebrate Hyde Park series and brand.” At the same time, Calmetta Coleman, director of communications for the U. of C.’s Office of Civic Engagement, suggested the series had outlived its purpose, which was to promote local businesses during Harper Court construction.

Now, on the heels of the creation of the Discover Hyde Park Experience Series, Reaves says a summer event similar to Celebrate Hyde Park’s signature festival may return.

“It is popular, and we understand it is popular,” he said. “We’ve had many people ask about it. And so it’s something we’re going to look at for 2015 and following years. We haven’t closed the door on it.”

To learn more about Discover Hyde Park and the SECC’s new festival series, visit secc-chicago.org/discover-hyde-park/intro.

j.bishku@hpherald.com