Gospel legend BeBe Winans is one of the headliners for the 2023 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival, which returns to Jackson Park on July 8. It’s a performance that will highlight the intersection between house and gospel.

Over the past eight years, Winans has dropped a string of house music hits including “He Promised Me,” “Thank You,” and “Dance” featuring his brothers Marvin and Carvin. In 2022, his single “It’s All Good,” featuring his sister Debbie Winans Lowe, shot to the top of popular house music streaming sites such as Traxsource and Beatport, and filled the airways of nightclubs around the world.

Chosen Few DJ, artist and producer Mike Dunn said gospel music is a huge part of the house music genre, and remains a constant on many DJ setlists.

“BeBe’s music is always in rotation because house music is like church in many ways. It’s a spiritual thing,” Dunn told The TRiiBE. “Gospel and inspirational music have been a part of house music since the beginning.”

Schedule with times & dates of all performers for 2023 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival
2023 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival.
Schedule with times & dates of all performers for 2023 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival
Before and after parties for the 2023 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival.

This year’s Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival is offering a balanced mix of local and national talent. In addition to sets by the Chosen Few DJs themselves, the lineup features a few special guests: DJ, producer and one-half of the Masters at Work musical duo Kenny Dope; longtime DJ and producer John Morales; Chicago-bred international DJ and producer Jamie 326; Atlanta-based DJ and Tribe Tambor Cruise founder Stan Zeff; and house music pioneer DJ Lori Branch. 

Chicago artist Lidell Townsell, best known for the house classic “Nu Nu,” is also on the bill this year. And there will be an appearance by Chosen Few DJ Jesse Saunders, who is currently recovering from a stroke he suffered from in 2022. Tickets starting at $60 are available at chosenfewdjs.com

Chosen Few festivities begin July 6 at the Promontory in Hyde Park with a tribute to house music legend Ron Hardy. Other parties are scheduled until Sunday.

“The eclectic mix of artists and DJs makes this year special,” Chosen Few DJ and two-time Grammy-nominated producer Terry Hunter said.

The Chosen Few festival started in 1990 with the Hatchett brothers, Andre and Tony, inviting their friends to their family reunion picnic behind the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park.

It began as a small picnic, but quickly grew into a festival with more than 40,000 people attending today. As it grew, the picnic became a ticketed event; one of the lowest priced music festivals in Chicago. Like other Black-owned and -operated events, the Chosen Few DJs rely on ticket sales and sponsorships to remain sustainable.


At the heart of the festival is community and the gathering of friends, according to Hunter, who said the Chosen Few DJs remain committed to keeping the festival in Jackson Park where attendees can continue to grill and bring their own food, drinks and tents.

“It’s what this was built from. It was always a picnic around the Fourth of July,” Hunter said. “It was important to keep that picnic vibe.”

For many, the Chosen Few Festival is more than a house music event. It’s a reunion that, some longtime attendees say, keeps them coming back every year. When it first started in 1990, it was called the Old School Picnic.

“Over the years, the Old School Picnic has undergone a remarkable evolution, adapting to changing times and embracing new possibilities,” longtime attendee Dr. William S. McClinton said. “While the picnic remains a celebration of togetherness, it pays homage to the rich history and cultural significance of house music born in Chicago.” 

For others, the festival played a key role in their experience growing up on the South Side. 

“Living on ‘The Low End,’ we had only a few choices for house music: The Fort on 39th [and] Drexel, and The College on 46th and Drexel,” Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant Shane Lundy said. “So when the Chosen Few started the picnics behind the Museum, I was hooked.”

Chosen Few DJ Terry Hunter performing at the 2019 picnic and festival. Photo by Morgan Elise Johnson for The TRiiBE
Chosen Few DJ Jesse Saunders performing at the 2019 picnic and festival. Photo by The TRiiBE.
Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival attendees throwing their hands in the air & smiling at the fest.
2019 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival. Photo by The TRiiBE.
Festival goers smiling and enjoying their time at Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival
2019 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival. Photo by Morgan Elise Johnson for The TRiiBE.

As the festival grows each year, the Chosen Few DJs have faced questions and criticisms about the artists they choose. From ghetto house and acid house, to Latin house and electronic dance music (EDM), the Chicago-born genre has spurred many subgenres, and not all of them are included in the Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival.

Dunn doesn’t minimize each subgenre’s skill, talent and place within the culture. However, he said, they’re not sounds that mesh well with the Chosen Few audience. 

“There are festivals for almost every genre of house music, like EDM and techno, that cater to their audiences. Our event is no different,” Dunn said, adding that the Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival was always meant to showcase the DJs who created the event.

“In the early years of the picnic, it was just us playing for the crowd. We began to add other talent as we grew. We only have one day: seven hours for Chosen Few DJs, which leaves only six [or] seven slots for other talent,” Dunn said. “We have DJs and artists on stage who have made an impact on the scene and the culture. The festival doesn’t introduce new artists or DJs. That’s never what our festival was about.”

Hunter added that it’s impossible to satisfy everyone with a one-day event. “The music played is influenced by our travels, what the crowd likes to hear, and what we’ve heard when we play clubs here in Chicago and around the world”. 

Some important factors that go into creating the lineup is the impact an artist has made on the culture, whether the artist is compatible with the crowd and the artist’s availability. Previously, the Chosen Few have attempted to bring on popular artists such as world-renown South African DJ, record producer and songwriter Black Coffee to perform, but the festival always falls around the same time he performs his residency in Ibiza, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Additionally, age is not a factor in choosing who performs at the festival. In 2022, 33-year-old J. Star opened the Chosen Few DJs picnic. He said while there are plenty of younger people who enjoy house music around the world, connecting to younger Black audiences involves bringing the music to them in new ways.

“House music doesn’t look like what younger people are used to. We see the visuals of people in the clubs with bottle service and everyone rocking the latest and greatest, and that’s not the culture of house music at all,.” J. Star explained.


Later this year, Hunter, along with Chosen Few DJs Alan King and Wayne Williams, will launch their latest project, “Beyond the Groove,” a nonprofit foundation that will focus on mentoring and training aspiring DJs, producers and songwriters.  

With every Chosen Few DJs Picnic, there are some surprises in store. In 2022, Hunter broke his remix for Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” record. Hunter promises this year’s festival will be one for the history books, but remains tight-lipped about any surprises. 

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a really big surprise. All I’ll say is we’ve taken it up another notch,” Hunter said. 

is a freelance contributor for The TRiiBE.