Reporting Derrick Blakley
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CHICAGO (CBS) – This year’s Taste of Chicago wrapped up Sunday evening and the Chicago Park District, which was running the scaled-down festival for the first time, described this year as a big success.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, despite budgetary pressures and their own attempts to somewhat alter the focus of the city’s annual food festival, Park District officials said turnout was moderate to high this year.
The city of Chicago gave up direct control of the Taste of Chicago this year due to financial pressures, handing the festival over to the Chicago Park District.
The district intentionally cut back on big name entertainment, focusing instead on local musicians, while returning the spotlight to Chicago restaurants and family fun.
Authorities have not yet revealed official turnout figures for this year’s Taste, only saying turnout has been moderate to high. But they don’t dispute the notion that the event has been less crowded than past years and have said the smaller crowds have been a good thing.
They’re also quite pleased that there have been no major issues with violence or public safety.
“It’s gone great. The police tell me this is one of the lowest incidents they’ve ever had,” said Park District Interim Supt. Michael Kelly. “Eleven days ago we were sitting and someone raised flash mobs. Now all we’re talking about is family-friendly, mission accomplished. This has been a great success for us and the Chicago Police Department.”
In 2008, four people were shot – and one of them died – while leaving the Taste of Chicago and the fireworks show, but nothing like that happened this year.
Of course, this year there is no July 3rd fireworks show, as it was cut due to the city’s budget problems. As to whether the July 3rd fireworks show will return next year, officials said that is up to one man: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The mayor hasn’t made that decision yet.