Something that has never been done before is happening this weekend in Chicago. One of the largest outdoor food festivals, Taste of Chicago, has been changed from a 10 day event that ran over the 4th of July weekend to a 5 day event that will begin on July 11th and end on July 15th.
To understand the impact of this, let's go back to July 4th, 1980. Jane Bryne was the Mayor of Chicago ( I don't remember if she was living in Cabrini Green at the time) when Chicago Restaurant owner, Arnie Morton came up with the idea to have a one day food fest on north Michigan Avenue. I imagine he and other restaurateurs felt, "If you cook it, they will come!" Restaurants prepared small portions of food for people to sample and get a small taste of what the restaurants had to offer. With the blessing of the city, $150,000, and a lot of small plates, Taste of Chicago was born. Organizers planned for 75,000 people but more that 250,000 came to enjoy the festival. The next year it was moved to Grant Park.
Over the years millions of people have enjoyed eating turkey legs, corn on the cob, Eli's cheesecake, Robinson's Ribs, tempura vegetables, and fried ice cream. The number of days expanded to 10 and big name entertainers were brought in such as Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Counting Crows, Buddy Guy, and Von Freeman. Attendance soared into the millions and tourist came from all over the world to enjoy the festivities.
The biggest day of the the Taste of Chicago was the 3rd of July, the city's fireworks celebration. Imagine millions of people filling any space available from Roosevelt to Oak Street and Michigan Avenue to the Lake waiting for the fireworks to begin. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays at the band shell as the beautiful fireworks lights of sky. Breathtaking!
Now, the year is 2012, and we know longer celebrate the 4th of July with a fireworks display downtown in Grant Park, and beginning this year Taste of Chicago has been stripped down to 5 days, and moved from including the 4th of July to the second week of July. The great news is there are still great, big name entertainers performing at The Taste, including Chicago's own Jennifer Hudson,and Chaka Khan. Some of the best restaurants in the country are participating, and most of all, nothing can beat spending summer days outdoors in the beautiful city of Chicago.
So bring your appetites and head down to Grant Park for the 32nd Annual Taste of Chicago. I will see you there with a Turkey Leg in one hand and a rib in the other.
Visit www.explorechicago.org for information on times and prices.
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