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Rahm Defends Cutting Taste Of Chicago To One Week

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 4, 2012 10:20PM

Mayor Emanuel, refreshed from a South American vacation, defended the decision to shorten Taste of Chicago to five days and push back the annual celebration of the Turkey Leg to mid-July.

Emanuel said that, after 20 years of running the festival in the same manner, it was time to make some fundamental changes to continue Taste's viability.

“You will see that type of change. … After 20-plus years of tinkering around the edges, we’re bringing fundamental change to it. But I have all the confidence people will continue to enjoy it.”

Last year's Taste of Chicago saw its lowest attendance numbers in 25 years, and the festival has accrued losses totaling $7 million over the past three years. Special Events and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Michelle Boone is looking at this as an opportunity to re-envision the festival, with the hope of maintaining Taste as a free festival.

"It’s our hope that the fest will still be free. [But] we have to figure out the right financial model that makes sense, so we’re not losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in trying to deliver this."

Whether that means there will be an increase in food and drink ticket prices is unknown at this time. The city announced during the holidays that this year's Taste of Chicago would run from July 11-15. The contract to manage Taste, long handled by the Illinois Restaurant Association, was also placed out to bid in an effort to cut costs.