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Taste Of Chicago 2012: How It Came To This

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jul 11, 2012 3:15PM

Image Creedit: Steven Lee

After months of cutbacks, schedule shifts and changes, Taste of Chicago is set to open at 11 a.m. today and for the next five days the downsized festival will (hopefully, for the vendors, at least) attract crowds eager to eat their way across Grant Park, starting with a 1,000-pound cheesecake from Eli's as part of the opening ceremony.

But this year's version will be a markedly different affair than in years past. Last year's festival saw its lowest attendance in 25 years and many of the vendors lost money in the endeavor, prompting the Emanuel administration to cut the length of Taste from 10 days to five and move it back to after the Independence Day holiday. Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis said cost was the main factor in the decision at the time. Vendor won't be making much money this year, either; Although the fest has been cut in half, the city still kept fees for participating and its cut of vendor sales the same.

A shortened Taste of Chicago also means less vendors. Thirty-seven restaurants will be participating this year, as opposed to last year's 59. And while the BBQ turkey legs—a Taste staple—won't be available this year, there will be plenty of Asian carp sliders.

Probably the biggest changes to this year's festival are the fees for the Petrillo Band Shell music concerts and the pop-up restaurants. It remains to be seen how successful sales for the pop-up restaurants will be, but so far people have been remiss to pay $25 to sit in the Petrillo Band Shell for Death Cab for Cutie and Jennifer Hudson, especially when lawn seating is free.