CHICAGO (CBS) – Thousands streamed into Grant Park for the final day of this year’s Taste of Chicago on Sunday, and the festival’s manager said she’s confident changes this year — including a shorter schedule, but new attractions — have made it a success.
WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti was among the food lovers at Grant Park.
“Really, this is Chicago’s premiere event,” said Taste of Chicago manager Mary Slowik.
Although the Taste was pushed back until after the July 4th holiday and scaled back from 10 days to 5, officials hoped other changes would help it turn a profit, after losing money in recent years.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports
This year’s festival featured fewer food vendors, but more attractions – including cooking lessons from celebrity chefs, so-called “pop-up” restaurants that were at the festival for only a day, and three-course meals served by five different Chicago chefs on each day of the Taste.
“We kept the mainstays. We still have the Robinson’s Ribs, and the Rainbow Cone, and Lou Malnati’s pizza,” Slowik said.
Although final attendance figures weren’t available Sunday, Slowik said she was optimistic this year’s changes would pay off.
“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this new Taste of Chicago. We’ve added new elements to entice more people to attend. We’ve added attractions that have proved to attract a new audience,” she said.
Despite the changes aimed at shoring up the festival’s bottom line, longtime fans of the Taste – like Noelle Curtis – said it’s still worth going to.
“You know what? The fact that we can go to all the different restaurants that we see throughout the year that we want to try. And it’s just a centrally located, one-stop shop,” she said.
She and her husband, Ladarius Curtis, were sweating out the humid weather on Sunday, but had no issues with the heat.
“It’s supposed to be hot. It’s the middle of July. So it is what it is. It’s supposed to be this way,” Ladarius said. “It’s easier to walk around today than usual, but all in all, I still think it’s a good experience.”
One thing Ladariuis said he would change for next year is bringing back the signature turkey legs that Manny’s Cafeteria and Deli had served in years past. Tim McGivern, who has sold the turkey legs for a number of different restaurants since 1981, was ill this year and unable to serve the barbecued turkey legs that had become a signature Taste item.