Take me out to the ballgame: my time with Merchant Street Music Fest

Rapper Young MC (Courtesy of MSMF Media Committee)

Just an Idea

A few months ago I phoned a buddy of mine and said, “I need your help.” Always eager, my friend was ready to jump on board and help any way he could.

I asked what he thought about an opportunity to work as an intern. Of course this was exciting to him, I explained more. “I want to manage the social media component of Merchant Street Music Fest. Complete with videos, network style news tickers, and live streaming video from the event!” His reply, “let’s do it.” With some tweaking to my original plans we were off to the races. There was only one problem. The position I was seeking did not exist.

Weeks later I found myself in a Southside Kankakee restaurant presenting our ideas to the folks in-charge. In all honesty, I had convinced myself the committee could only tell us our proposals would not be possible. I had accepted the possibility this dream was a bit far-fetched. I was wrong; the committee said yes!

Right away the details were explained to us. I was informed Hip-Hop legends and cultural icons Tone Loc and Young MC would headline the annual music festival. This is where my youth exposed itself, “and, they are?” I asked in a revealing tone. One committee member exclaimed, “Funky Cold Medina? Bust a move?” The, oh you’re too young to know, smile, enters here! The weekly meetings soon began.

We’re In

My friend and I were able to observe the inner working of large-scale event planning. We were inside on behind the scenes planning. It was a blast to be in the know.

As the days and weeks neared supervisors encouraged us to, “just have fun.” While that was certainly in the plans a third cohort reminded me, “This is a huge undertaking.”

Amazed, a few days before the event I realized I was apart of the media team for an event that would host nearly 25,000 guests. 25,000!

 Just an invitation

Imagine me, a college student with a summer day-off sleeping well into the morning. The phone rings, and in my 21st century tech hungry haste I answer, “Hello!” I recognized the voice on the other end of the phone was not quite the one I expected. “I did not wake you up, did I?” This is where I will allow you, the reader, to imagine what I said.

The voice on the other end of the line was that of an event chairperson. “Did you see Jay Cutler sing Take me out to the ballgame last week?” Wiping my eyes, “I can’t say I have.” Apparently the Bears quarterback had performed a horrible rendition of the famous song a week prior. “We’re inviting Cutler to sing with Young MC on stage”, I speedily replied, “Oh, great!” I was charged with building the hype via Facebook and Twitter.

It was game time! I felt the rush of my first big assignment. Our twitter feed was soon fled with tweets reading, #Jaygetsadoover, #Jaygetsasceondchance, and #MSMF. Later that evening I learned local media had picked up on the story. I felt like apart of something huge. Soon, print and broadcast stories from WGN, CBS, NBC, and other major Chicago news organizations hit the web. The excitement was building for the big day.

Out of the blocks

Day one rolled upon us. The day was filled with snapping photos, grabbing quotes and, collecting video. Our team of three covered three music stages, food and beverage vendors, art vendors, and the public for nearly ten hours. Like never before, I felt connected to the community I grew up in. Every person we interviewed shared the same sense of community. I recall one city council member turned to me and said, “Look at all the diversity!”

In absolute awe of what the team and I had experienced the day before; the excitement continued for a second day. Just before Young MC was to take the stage I crept into the media box. Kankakee Mayor Nina Epstein took the stage, smartphone in hand; I shared her words with our fans online.

Funky Cold Medina

Moments later, I found myself standing behind stage in a roped off area with the mayor, event organizers, and security officers bobbing my head to the vibrations of a backstage echo. In that moment I realized I was standing in a place I never wanted to leave. I was experiencing what my career could be one day.

I learned a lot during my time on the Merchant Street Music Fest Team. I taught myself something too, when looking for an opportunity, just ask!

To my Merchant Street Music Fest Family; thanks for bringing me out to the ballgame!

Rapper Tone Loc performing at Merchant Street Music Fest 2012 (Courtesy of MSMF Media committee)



  1. Chris – Awesome article! I can’t tell you how much you added to this event. I truly belive we would not have been as successful without you incharge of our social media. I hope you will be back next year.

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