Park District Taking Over Taste, 4 Other Fests Canceled

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.

  • how to kill chicago in one lesson

    this is the stupidest thing i’ve ever seen. many of us avoid taste because of the horrendous crowds and excessive prices. the other fests drew people to the city at different times. now they won’t come at all. great planning daley!

    • Roberta Waker

      The prices were high because the entertainment was so costly. If they keep food as the focus, it should be cheaper in the long run and I hope it succeeds. There will always be crowds and if you don’t like crowds maybe you should stay away or go earlier? At least they are trying to keep Taste alive by doing SOMETHING.

  • Mel Cragwell

    ok, I see your point but the city is losing money. can we agree that losing money is not an efficient use of our tax dollars and something had to be done. I’m also almost sure that one of the objections of the size and scope of the annual Taste has a lot do with the socio aspects of the makeup of the crowds…thanx to Chicago’s long history of polarization….I say, get over your fears and enjoy the fest….

  • jack

    I think this is a disaster waiting to happen!!!

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  • Smooth

    How bout we give the city the benefit of our “second guessing them” and suppporting their decisions. If the city is losing money then at least they are addressing the issue and those getting rich off the fest are out.

  • Marthastew

    The Taste was down 700,000 because the city refused to stage the fireworks downtown. If they had kept it there, perhaps more people would have come early and spent their money. BUT NO. The city produced VERY LAME fireworks on the north side. Poorly planned, people either couldn’t get near the lakefront or see anything over all the treetops. On the south side police staged their squad cars in all the prime lakefront parking lots keeping the public at bay. This place is getting to be a buzz-kill.

  • Roberta Waker

    This actually sounds like a very good idea and keeping the focus on FOOD at the Taste is right on. With concerts costing more and more and being the focus; food was becoming secondary. Now it will be the way it should be; food will be the focus. If they make enough money, maybe the fireworks will come back.

  • not sayin jus sayin

    good idea, those fests combined draw 1000 people max… yes it true, that why the city know they can do this w/o much uproar…… if they were to mess w/ the jazz or blues fest they be in for a hurtin’….. hate to say it again but will, heading to milaukee fest is best deal all around for food and entertainment….. daley and the replacement bozo whom ever that may be should look at how WI pulls it off for past 30+ yrs and making good profit from it.

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