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Sunday a much brighter day for Taste of Chicago

The empty entryway beyond Taste Chicago was closed all day Saturday due weather. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

The empty entryway and beyond at the Taste of Chicago was closed all day Saturday due to the weather. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

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Updated: August 15, 2014 6:23AM

A day after heavy rain caused officials to cancel the Taste of Chicago, the festival in Grant Park reopened Sunday morning.

And food vendors were making the most of a sunny Sunday. Though some said the rainout hurt their profits.

“We probably lost out on tens of thousands of dollars of potential sales,” said Jacob Sonne, assistant manager at the Eli’s Cheesecake booth. “But our cheesecake is frozen, so we can sell it another day.”

John Meyer, owner of BJ’s Market and Bakery, said he has food shuttled in from his South Side store on an as-needed basis, but that restaurant owners he knows definitely lost money on food that went uneaten on Saturday.

He has been at the Taste for 15 years and has learned to stock wisely. “But in the past I’ve had food left over,” he said.

Out-of-town visitors were enjoying Sunday at the Taste.

“It’s good to be out here,” said Julie Smith, 27, of Indianapolis. “We came yesterday right as they were turning people away.”

“It’s my first time here, but been it’s been a gorgeous so far,” said Miami resident Kevin Collao, 21, as he munched on a corned beef sandwich.

South Bend resident John Gurley, 46, was standing in the shade, plotting strategy for the day with his fiancee, Barb Matthews. It was the couple’s first time at the festival.

“There’s a lot to choose from,” he said. “We’d love to see something like this back home.”

Sunday was the last day of the five-day event.

The city estimates just over 1 million people attended the Taste this year. Last year, 1.5 million attended. And in 2012, 1.2 million people attended.

“It’s so weather-driven,” said David Kennedy, director of special events for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Kennedy noted that the Taste earned the city about $270,000 last year, but he said totals for this year have yet to be calculated.

Neighboring businesses benefitted from Saturday’s closure.

“All these Michigan Avenue restaurants were gangbusters,” Kennedy said.

About noon on Saturday, the city’s Office of Emergency Management announced that the festival would be closed because of “excessive rainfall and flooding on the festival grounds.”

More than three inches of rain swept across parts of the Chicago area Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. The downpour flooded the grounds at Grant Park. The festival, a Chicago summer mainstay since 1980, had never been canceled for an entire day.

“This was not a decision that was made lightly,” said Michelle Boone, commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as she stood near large puddles of standing water on Saturday. “We love presenting the Taste of Chicago annually, but we cannot do that at the expense of any safety for visitors or residents.”

Despite the cancellation of their shows Saturday at the Taste because of the foul weather, Jeff Tweedy and Lucinda Williams will still be paid from the Taste programming budget, which is funded by the city’s hotel and motel tax, according to city spokeswoman Mary May. She didn’t know how much each musician was paid.

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