Updated 02/10/11 – 6:00 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Park District will be taking over control of the Taste of Chicago this summer and four other popular summer fests — the Country Music Festival, the Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival, the Gospel Music Festival and Celtic Fest Chicago — will be merged into the Taste.
As CBS 2′s Vince Gerasole reports, city and Park District officials announced the moves Thursday afternoon at a City Hall news conference to discuss the Taste and the city’s six other lakefront summer festivals.
The city is canceling the Country Music Festival, the Latin Music Festival, the Gospel Music Festival and Celtic Fest Chicago as standalone events, and instead making them part of the Taste under control of the Park District.
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Each of those music festivals will now be a one day music event at the Taste. City officials said each music event would feature only local music talent, rather than more famous big name bands and singers from outside the city.
“These other four smaller events were actually money losers,” said Tim Mitchell, superintendent of the Chicago Park District. By combining them with the money-making Taste, the city hopes to save $2 million.
The Taste will be held from June 24 to July 3. In addition to the four scaled-down music fests, Mitchell said other entertainment will include movies in the park or performances by local theater groups.
The Blues Festival and Jazz Festival will continue as three-day weekend festivals as planned and will continue to be run by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, according to deputy commissioner Dorothy Coyle. Blues Fest will be held from June 10-12, and Jazz Fest will be held from Sept. 2-4, she said.
The Taste was already scaled back significantly last year, with shorter hours and the elimination of the July 3rd fireworks. As a result, attendence was down by about 700,000.
Last week, Daley halted efforts to privatize the Taste and other lakefront festivals when he rejected the only bidder’s new proposal to charge a $10 admission fee to the Taste. Celebrate Chicago LLC had earlier proposed a $20 admission fee that would have included $10 rebates on food and beverage tickets.
Daley rejected any idea of an admission fee for the Taste, saying admission would be free under his watch. He also suggested earlier this week that the city would eliminate the musical events at the Taste.
“That’s what you do because it was always free. It will always be free,” Daley said. “Originally, we never had an admission fee. … The cost [escalated]. All the musicals got so costly that they put money into the musicals forgetting it’s Taste of Chicago. It’s not a music fest.”
Daley had been seeking to privatize the lakefront festivals after losing $7 million on the ventures over the last three years.
With Daley stepping down in May at the end of his term, the changes to the Taste could end up lasting only one year. It is not clear what plans any of the six candidates for mayor have in mind for the Taste.