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CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is defending his administration’s decision to cut the Taste of Chicago summer food festival in half.
As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the city expects to cut costs for the money-losing event by cutting it from 10 days to five.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
Mayor Emanuel makes no apologies for the changes.
“I told you in the campaign I was going to rethink the Taste of Chicago after 20-plus years, and that’s what we are doing,” Emanuel said, “and it’s not just the amount of days. It’s what you fill the days with, and what quality of both food and experience we’ll bring to the city of Chicago.”
For many years, the Taste of Chicago boasted big-name musical acts, as well as restaurant. But it has lost some $7 million in the past three years.
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. One man was killed in the 2008 incident.
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.
The festival has been administered by the Illinois Restaurant Association, but the city has put the contract up for competitive bidding.
Traditionally, the Taste started on the last Friday in June and ended on the Sunday after July 4.
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, from July 11 to 15, will eliminate the conflict.
Admission for the Taste continue to be free, and will highlight “cooking demonstrations from noted chefs, and local and national musical acts,” city officials said last week. Both Chicago favorites and restaurants representing the “new and culinary scene” will set up shop at the Taste.