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Sueños fest of Latin reggaeton draws crowd in Grant Park

Sueños Music Festival in Grant Park brought Chicago its first two-day Latin reggaeton festival, highlighted by a sunny sky and perfect breeze.

A fest-reported 45,000 attendees came Saturday to celebrate community and get down to reggaeton, dembow, corridos and Latin trap delivered by a roster of major acts and rising stars on the festival stage. Ozuna and El Alfa topped the night’s bill, stepping out on the extended stage walkway with mics in hand, pyrotechnic flames shooting up behind them and fans cheering to their front, left and right.

Sunday’s lineup, with Chicago’s own DJ Miriam doing an early set and J Balvin and Wisin & Yandel ending the night, was expected to draw similar attendance numbers.

Sueños, named after the Spanish word for dreams, drew a wide spectrum from Chicago’s Latino community. Whether the music featured hard-driving beats from the Dominican Republic or accordion melodies from Mexico, the crowd — with groups of friends, family members, singles and couples, all mostly under age 40 — seemed to know every word to the songs. A lot of twerking was also going on in the audience, especially as rapper Tokischa delivered her steamy set early afternoon.

Many festival-goers came from out-of-town and out-of-state. As Jennyfer Alfaro of St. Charles stood in line at the VIP area’s merch booth with her companion, we asked if there’s a reggaeton scene in the western suburb. “Absolutely not, she replied. “We used to drive to Latin clubs in Chicago when we were younger until the commute started to feel too long. Now this festival gives us a chance to spend a weekend in the city.” Milli and Veronica Campos came from Indianapolis. “The music, vibes and family brought us,” they said. They laughed when we asked if they remember the first time they heard reggaeton. “That was probably when we were six, seven years old.”

Street artist Kozmo, aka Brenda Lopez, is known for her “Burger Flower” paintings and murals which can be seen around the city. Festival attendees could see her work-in-progress of a Burger Flower family visiting the tourist sites of Chicago, with the finished piece a raffle prize Sunday. “Being part of this festival makes me feel like home,” she said. “There are so many people here from different cultures within the Latino community, and I can see myself in everyone. For me personally, that’s the best part. It’s a big deal to be included.”

After watching vocalist Joel “Jowell” Muñoz hit the stage on his own instead of performing in the reggaeton duo Jowell & Randy as advertised, Natanael Cano delivered his updated interpretation of Mexico’s corridos, narrative songs that can be controversial because of their upfront lyrics about criminals and drugs. Some of his songs, like “Amor Tumbado,” featured only acoustic guitar and electric bass with no drums, while other songs were full-blown trap productions. He ended his set somewhat abruptly with no goodbye to the crowd. Afterward, we headed back to the food section and ran into Samba 1 Brazilian Dance Group, a dance company from Chicago, with five dancers in beautiful costumes accompanied by leader Edilson Lima. “We have Brazilian members in the group, and well as Venezuela, Colombia and other countries,” he said. Dancer Thata Perez added: “We are Latinas who represent so many cultures, and it’s awesome for us to be here.”

For the last two years, Latin pop, reggaeton and trap has crossed over into the mainstream pop market in the U.S. with chart-topping stars like Bad Bunny. The festival circuit is also transforming as strictly-Latin music fests are popping up around the country. This year, C3 Presents, the production team behind Lollapalooza, partnered up with local entertainment company Reventon and the producers of the Baja Beach festival in Mexico to create Sueños for Chicago. Ticket prices are pretty steep, with $275 for two-day general admission tickets and $600-$1,500 for different VIP passes, which give you access to a dedicated entrance, a couple of different food and drink vendors, nicer bathrooms and rides on the festival’s Ferris wheel. Those prices seem excessive as the general area has a diverse selection of food vendors offering everything from carne asada fries and chicken barbacoa tamales to tofu rice bowls, and the VIP lounge location had been moved to the left side of the stage instead of being in front of the main stage as advertised.

Security was visible Saturday but no major incidents were reported by the fest. Audiences were ages 18 and up. As we wandered around the stage area, stood in line for a fish taco, checked out the merch tents’ baseball jerseys with the festival logo, or gazed out at the people chilling on supersized pillows on the VIP section’s lawn, the overall atmosphere was people having a good time and celebrating Latino culture in today’s diverse musical facets.

Sueños Music Festival continues through 10 p.m. Sunday in Grant Park; tickets ($275 and up, ages 18+) at

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