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Taste Of Chicago To Move To Mid-July; Gospel Fest Moving To Bronzeville

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Taste Of Chicago

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Updated 12/28/11 – 5:27 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Taste of Chicago will move to mid-July next year and will only run for five days, while the Gospel Festival will return with a new home in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

Traditionally, the Taste has started on the last Friday in June and ended on the Sunday after July 4, for a total of 10 days. But next year, the five-day festival will not begin until July 11, and will end July 15.

The festival will be held in Grant Park, as always.

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Admission will continue to be free, and will highlight “cooking demonstrations from noted chefs, and local and national musical acts,” city officials said. Both Chicago favorites and restaurants representing the “new and culinary scene” will set up shop at the Taste.

As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, at Manny’s Deli, which brings their signature corned beef and giant turkey legs to the Taste of Chicago each year, managers said they were pleased with the changes.

“We kind of were ready for next step for the Taste,” Matt Raskin said.

As for the shorter time period, Raskin said, “I think it’s a good idea.”

“The financial model’s gonna be a little better for us,” said said Cindy Gatziolis, spokesperson for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “We want to keep this event free admission … and make sure it’s a fun destination for tourists.”

But some people at Manny’s said they weren’t happy about the changes to the Taste.

One man said, “It would be better if they had more days. More days and more vendors, that’s what we like.”

Another man said, “I worry about shortening the timeframe, because the number one problem with Taste is crowds. With a shortened timeframe, I worry the crowds are just going to be even bigger.”

But Gatziolis said, “Hopefully we’ll keep it still … open and friendly.”

Others wish it was still tied to the Fourth of July.

“You have fireworks to see, you have the food and you have all your friends that you can meet down there, so I don’t know if I like that idea,” one woman said.

But another customer at Manny’s said the changes wouldn’t stop him from going to the Taste.

“I love going, every year,” he said.

That’s what organizers are banking on; that, if you love the Taste, you’re going to go, whatever the date.

Last year, attendance for the Taste was down 2.35 million compared with two years earlier. There were shorter hours and no big-name musical acts.

The onetime climax of the Taste, the July 3 Fireworks Extravaganza, was eliminated in 2010 in an effort to save money, and after a gun fight broke out as the crowd left the show two years before that.

The Chicago Park District handled the Taste of Chicago for the first and only time last year, amid calls to privatize the festival. But this year, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events has taken over again.

For many years, the first weekend of the Taste has been the same weekend as the Gay Pride Parade, and often, the Crosstown Classic game between the Cubs and White Sox. But the new schedule will eliminate the conflict.

Meanwhile, the Gospel Festival will return next year, after being folded into one day at the Taste.

The Gospel Fest had been held at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and the Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park before that. But next year it will move four miles south to the former site of the Ida B. Wells Public Housing development, on King Drive between 37th Street and Pershing Road.

While the Gospel Festival had been held in the first weekend in June for many years, next year it will move to June 21-24.

The Department Cultural Affairs and Special Events has pointed out that the origins of gospel music lie in Bronzeville, particularly at the Pilgrim Baptist Church on South Indiana Avenue, which is now being rebuilt following a devastating 2006 fire.

This year, the renowned music festival was folded into the Taste of Chicago, along with the Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival, the Country Music Festival and Celtic Fest Chicago. All the festivals were reduced to one-day events within the Taste.

Smaller gospel festivals are held at many locations throughout the city during the summer, including the Southside Neighborhood Gospel Festival in Englewood, and the “I Have a Vision” Community and Gospel Fest in Woodlawn. This year, for the first time, a gospel festival was also held in Washington Park as part of the Bud Billiken Parade.

The city will keep the Jazz and Blues festivals at Grant Park, where they are based at the Petrillo Band Shell and an assortment of temporary stages. But they might include additional programming in city neighborhoods, according to past published reports.

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