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Hyde Park Children's Book Fair Expands to Weekend Fest with Blues, Fashion

During the Sept. 18-20 weekend, a strut down the catwalk will now precede the annual parade of whimsical storybook characters for the Children’s Book Fair.

The annual Hyde Park Children’s Book Fair is being joined by other neighborhood events for the Downtown Hyde Park Fest.

"We're at the end of September, so we normally miss out," said Tara Baldridge, an organizer of the Sunday book fair. "This year is really exciting."

Children’s authors will still read and neighborhood kids still show off their music and dance skills from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 20 outside the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood Ave.

But this year the entertainment will continue for the adults with a performance by blues guitarist Billy Flynn in Nichols Park.

With all the events this year, parents may be worn out by the time the Children’s Book Fair gets started.

“Plan on spending your weekend here,” said Wendy Walker-Williams, director of the South East Chicago Commission, an organizer of the festival's new Friday and Saturday events.

Guitarist Wayne Baker Brooks will headline the Downtown Hyde Park Fest, which expands on Sunday's Hyde Park Children's Book Fair.

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The festivities start on Sept. 18 with a fashion show called “Refined” from 6-8 p.m. at Hyde Park Bank, 1525 E. 53rd St.

Kids activities will get started at 10 a.m. Sept. 19 with a free screening of “Monsters University” and free popcorn at Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave.

Music starts at noon Sept. 19, with performances by Wayne Baker Brooks, Funkadesi, O’my’s, DJ Dwayne Powell, House Legacy Project, Aniba Hotep and Sol Collective and Bruce Henry until 7 p.m. at Harper Court, 5235 S. Harper Court.

The Hyde Park Children's Book Fair starts at an hour earlier — at 11 a.m. — on Sept. 2. The fair is in its 29th year.

The kids parade around Nichols Park will start at noon joined by book characters Skippyjon Jones the cat, Baby Mouse and Little Critter.

The festival will give out 50 copies each of Jenny Meyerhoff's "The Friendship Garden" and Cynthia Liu's "Bike On, Bear!"

Meyerhoff will sign copies of her book from noon-1:30 p.m. and Liu will sign books from 2-3 p.m.

Kids are getting in on the storytelling this year with the youngest members of Ase Chicago Chapter of Black Storytellers practicing in front of other kids.

"I thought it would be great for kids to see these other kids telling stories and acting them out," Baldridge said.

Members of the Seminary Cooperative Bookstore will build a little free library and stock it with books at the fair.

The South Shore Swing Orchestra will keep the music going through the weekend with a final performance at the book fair before the fest wraps up at 5 p.m. Sunday.

The festival is the newest for the neighborhood and is organized by the South East Chicago Commission as part of the Downtown Hyde Park initiative funded by Special Service Area 61 to promote the neighborhood.

It replaces Discover Hyde Park and its events, Celebrate Hyde Park and Oktoberfest, July and October festivals that annually drew more than 70,000 people to 53rd Street for five years before being canceled in 2014.

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