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Celebrating 15 Years of Vocalo At Winter Block Party 2023

Written by on February 21, 2023

Vocalo’s Winter Block Party returned on Feb. 18, attracting a diverse crowd of hundreds to the Metro and Smartbar to celebrate 15 years of the station.

Mamii performs a live set with her band at Vocalo’s Winter Block Party, celebrating 15 years of the station, at the Metro Theater on February 18, 2023. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Vocalo turned 15 in March 2022, so to round out our 15th year as a station we decided to bring back our biggest annual celebration: The Winter Block Party.

The previous Block Party, themed “We The People,” was staged in February 2020. Afterwards,  due to COVID concerns and restrictions, the event was put on hiatus — but Team Vocalo always intended to bring back the Block Party to one of Chicago’s longest-running venues, the Metro, if possible.

Winter Block Party 2023 kicked off at noon on a surprisingly warm Feb. 18 with DJ Ca$hEra spinning a family-friendly mix on the Metro’s main stage, while programming partner Young Chicago Authors prepped for their free workshops.

An all-day Saturday affair that stretched from noon to 9:30 p.m., Winter Block Party 2023 featured performances from local artists Mamii and Ausar, DJ sets from DJ Intel, Ayana Contreras, Jesse De La Peña, DJ Charlie and All The Way Kay, a marketplace with local vendors and organizations, and poetry and songwriting workshops with presenting partner Young Chicago Authors.

Young Chicago Authors puts on a poetry workshop at the Winter Block Party at the Metro Theater on February 18, 2023. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Attendees of all ages filed in to check out the programming, dance, shop at the local vendor marketplace — with works for sale by creators and businesses like Reformed School, House of Colunga, Windy City Racks and Myron Laban — and chat with representatives from Chicago-based nonprofit organizations including John Walt Foundation, Miseducation of HipHop and Coffee, Hip-Hop & Mental Health.

The event drew just under 700 attendees, including kids and families dancing along to the DJs and music all day long. Participants were engrossed in YCA’s poetry and songwriting workshops, grooving along to Mamii and Ausar’s sets and getting down to the DJ mixes. At the end of DJ Charlie’s set, just before Ausar took stage, an impromptu B-Boy battle broke out on the dancefloor, delighting partygoers.

Alongside current on-air hosts, Bekoe, Nudia Hernandez and Ayana Contreras, former station managing director Silvia Rivera and Jill Hopkins, former host of the Morning AMp, took stage to surprise long-time Vocalo fans and celebrate its rich history. Vocalo is the nation’s first Urban Alternative station, and launched in 2007 with an eclectic mix of music and listener-generated content. Since its launch, an additional six stations across the country have been patterned after their current format. Three more stations are in the works, which will receive funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

On behalf of Team Vocalo — we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported our station over the past 15 years. We couldn’t be here without you, and we hope to support Chicago’s vast music, arts and culture community for 15 more.

Below are some more photos from the event, taken by WBEZ’s Manuel Martinez and Vocalo’s Morgan Ciocca.

Written by Morgan Ciocca and Ayana Contreras

Photos by Manuel Martinez (WBEZ) and Morgan Ciocca

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