2012 Taste of Chicago to run just five days — July 11-15
BY KARA SPAK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org December 28, 2011 11:28AM
Mimi Arenas of Chicago, tries the sweet potato chips from BJ's Market & Bakery on the opening day of Taste of Chicago Friday, June 24, 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced its 2012 festival schedule Wednesday.
♦ Chicago Blues Festival, June 8-10
♦ Chicago Gospel Music Festival, June 21-24
♦ Taste of Chicago, July 11-15
♦ Chicago Air and Water Show, Aug. 18-19
♦ Chicago Jazz Festival, Aug. 30-Sept. 2
♦ World Music Festival Sept. 13-20
Updated: January 30, 2012 10:25AM
Planning to celebrate the July 4th holiday with fireworks and a food festival? Consider the suburbs.
The Taste of Chicago will run just five days this summer, and it won’t be on the holiday.
A year after ending the city’s traditional July 3 fireworks display and reducing musical offerings to cut costs, city officials announced Wednesday they are moving Chicago’s iconic free festival to July 11-15. The 2012 Taste of Chicago will run for half as long as the 2011 Taste and is significantly shorter than previous years, when the fest covered two weekends and the July 4th holiday.
Cindy Gatziolis, spokeswoman for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said the date change balanced the city’s free festival offerings throughout the summer. The Taste remains “the preeminent event of July,” she said.
In recent years, the iconic festival has been a consistent money loser for the city. Last year, the Chicago Park District ran a scaled-down version of the Taste, which drew 2.35 million visitors, down 11 percent from 2010 and nearly 28 percent from the event’s 2006 and 2007 offerings. Participating restaurants also took a hit, making $4.9 million — 20 percent less than they did in 2010.
The event was handed back to the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for 2012. In October, department commissioner Michelle Boone told the Sun-Times to expect a shorter festival with more focus on the city’s cutting edge culinary scene.
It’s unclear if chefs at some of the city’s trendiest restaurants are interested in participating in an event strongly identified with deep dish pizza, turkey legs and cheesecake on a stick.
Gatziolis said department staff have looked at other events, including Chow Town, Lollapalooza’s lineup of Chicago restaurants brought together by chef Graham Elliot. Last year, Lollapalooza concertgoers feasted on items like edamame with soy cumin hemp seed vinaigrette, lobster corndogs and scallops with torched ponzu aioli.
Gatziolis said they are hoping the shorter Taste makes it more appealing for new, innovative vendors.
“We’re looking for it to really reflect the culinary scene” in Chicago, she said, adding that they still plan to offer the Chicago favorites and an assortment of ethnic fare.
Longtime Taste vendor Charles Robinson, owner of Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs, said he was “very shocked” to hear about the changes but that he is open to them, particularly the shortened festival.
“If we can get five good days of weather I personally think it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s rough on the employees being out there 10 days straight. I’m out there all 10 days, and it’s hot around that grill.”