The leader in event planning and production, StarEvents has truly put Chicago on the map. For over 20 years, the award-winning event company has produced every type of experience, from large scale music fests to intimate corporate events. However, it’s not just their stellar events that has kept them on top, but rather the company’s dedication to the community. With a commitment to fostering connections within the local scene, StarEvents has helped raise millions of dollars for charity and has helped spread awareness for local groups and non-profits alike.
We sat down with President Michelle Krage to chat about the history of the company; their world-class, signature events; and the community that ties it all together.
DiningOut: After being in business for 20 years, how have you seen the festival culture evolve in Chicago?
Michelle Krage: When we started 20 years ago, there were only 15 festivals that were produced in the Chicago area. Now we have over 500 events—honestly, you can’t go one weekend without a festival.
What do you think sets the Chicago festival scene apart from other major cities?
Festivals are iconic to Chicago; we are known for them. We may have a shorter summer season than most, which is why everyone flocks here to just get a taste. We feature everything from large bashes like Taste of Randolph to smaller, intimate events.
How do you begin to prep for the summer season?
By the time summer hits, our job is already done! Our planning is year-round—once the summer festival season is over, we set out our calendar and begin to plan for next year. In fact, we are already thinking about 2018.
How do you customize your events to each neighborhood?
We try to stay true to our mission statement, “Creating Extraordinary Experiences. Bringing People Together. Building Communities.” We want to be a partner within our community. When we consider an event, we always consider the surrounding area. We meet with residents and even partner with the Chambers of Commerce in order to introduce events that benefit all parties. Our dedication to our people have led to lifelong partnerships. From vendors to sponsors and even individual artists—we try to build ties wherever we go.
How does that translate to giving back to the community?
A key component of our signature events is finding ways to give back. A number of our events benefit community organizations and non-profits all across Chicago. It really has created a network of giving, as our partnering non-profits get smaller local groups involved.
What prompted the shift to food events?
Over the past 20 years, we have truly expanded into a full-blown event company for Chicago. Although our roots began in music, we saw a need to reach out in more areas by diversifying our event base. When we host our festivals, we take a look at the community as a whole—the culture, the flavor, the food—and cater to that. Our venture into food festivals was a natural progression—we saw it as a way to introduce communities to new flavors and experiences.
Any foodie event favorites?
Although Taste of Randolph is one of our most iconic events, my personal favorite is Chicago Festa Italiana. I’m 100-percent Italian, so when it comes to food, its the epitome of celebration. My fondest memories were connecting around a table over Sunday dinner. I put a lot of heart and soul into building these types of events.
Any new festivals we should be on the look out for?
One of our newest additions to StarEvents is Ramenfest. We invite 20 chefs from all around the city to prepare their culinary interpretations of this classic dish. Our local chefs love to join in—it challenges them to think outside the box.
Editor’s Note: Also be sure to check out Southport Art Fest, this weekend from July 15 and 16.
By Morgan Carter