CHICAGO (CBS) — Sales of Taste of Chicago concert tickets continue to be lackluster.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the Taste of Chicago opens Wednesday in Grant Park. The festival is a shell of its former self, lasting only five days instead of 10.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
And in the Petrillo Music Shell, performers could be looking out at some empty seats.
There were 3,000 tickets available for $25 each, for each of the five concerts – a total of 15,000 tickets.
As of Monday, fewer than half the tickets had been sold, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Seats on the grass in Butler Field remain free.
The idea behind charging for tickets is to help cut the losses the city sustains from the festival.
Performers this year include Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan, Death Cab for Cutie, Michael Franti and Dierks Bentley.
Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis the Sun-Times she expects walkup sales to be strong.
In an e-mail to CBS 2, Gatziolis also disputed the characterization of ticket sales as low.
“Low in comparison to what? This is a brand new feature that’s never been done before and added as an amenity to those who want to see a concert from a guaranteed seat for a reasonable price,” she wrote. “One of the many new things to try at this year’s Taste.”
Not so many years ago, the Taste was the city’s flagship summer event. Its first weekend was the last weekend of June – coinciding with the Gay Pride Parade and often, the Crosstown Classic game between the Cubs and the White Sox – and its 10-day run always included the Fourth of July.
But 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. A 20-year-old man was killed in the gunfight near Congress Parkway and Dearborn Street.
Another hallmark of the Taste will be absent this year too. In many past years, the number of turkey legs consumed at the Taste has been used by the city as a statistic to measure the festival’s popularity. But this year, that number will be zero, no matter how many people show up.
Restauranteur Tim McGovern sells the barbecued turkey legs – in conjunction originally with his Great Godfrey Daniels restaurant in Skokie and most recently with Manny’s Deli. But this year, he is too ill, and there will be no turkey legs.
The Taste of Chicago began in 1980 under Mayor Jane Byrne. That year, it was a one-day event held on Michigan Avenue between Ohio Street and the Chicago River, and it was choked with wall-to-wall people.
Reporter Bob Wallace covered the first Taste for CBS 2, and said at the time, “From the looks of things, it’s a sure winner that will most likely become an annual event.”