Alan King behind the decks at the 2014 Chosen Few Picnic Credit: Marc Monaghan

For the past 25 years, the Fourth of July weekend has meant one thing for house heads: the Chosen Few Picnic, a single-day celebration of house, disco, R&B, and other flavors of old-school dance music. It’s organized by the Chosen Few, a tight-knit crew of Chicago DJs who helped spread house throughout the south side after Wayne Williams founded it in 1977, when he was still in high school. The picnic has its roots in the Fourth of July family-reunion barbecues that Chosen Few DJs Tony and Andre Hatchett would attend behind the Museum of Science and Industry in the 80s; in 1990 the rest of the crew joined in to spin for the day. The Chosen Few Picnic didn’t immediately become a flagship event for house heads, though: as I discovered while compiling my 2015 oral history of the event, no more than 40 people would show up in the early years. But the Picnic now brings around 40,000 people to Jackson Park, and it continues to grow. This year the Picnic has expanded to two days and changed its name—it’s now the Chosen Few Music Festival, and it runs Saturday and Sunday, July 2 and 3.

Prefestival gatherings kicked off last night with a celebration at the White Sox game and continue today with a free hour-long set at Daley Plaza that starts at noon. (If you’re nearby, head down for a livelier lunch than you’ll have all week.) Other events include an official launch party tomorrow night at the Promontory, a free house-music symposium at the Stony Island Arts Bank on Friday from 3:30 till 5 PM, and a prefestival party at the Kut (11901 S. Loomis) on Friday that begins after the symposium wraps up. There are afterparties too, at Room 43 on Saturday and Evil Olive on Sunday.

If you need to get hyped for the main event, I recommend listening to the latest late-night mix by Chosen Few DJ Alan King. Each month he uploads a mix in his Late Night Sessions series to Soundcloud, and June’s installment moves smoothly through disco, R&B, and soul. In the track description King writes, “Day job has been a killer lately, but I am blessed and thankful all around. It’s been a minute since I’ve had a chance to record anything.” King is a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, which is no doubt a demanding job, and he’s also been helping plan the festival—thankfully, though, that stress isn’t audible in his mix.
Tickets for the Chosen Few Music Festival are still available, at $30 for a single day or $50 for the weekend—there are VIP options too, if you want to drop the extra cash. It’s less expensive than most other big fests around town—a single-day ticket for Mamby on the Beach, which hits Oakwood Beach for two days this weekend, costs more than a two-day ticket to the Chosen Few. And if you’ve ever been at a festival that had you wondering why people weren’t dancing more, the Chosen Few Picnic is where to go. I had a blast last summer, though I missed the screening of the video message President Obama had recorded for the 25th anniversary of the picnic. (As 5 Magazine recently wrote, the DJ crew visited the White House in May.) All these years later, the Chosen Few still know how to get people moving.