Eat Your Way Through Chicago

This favorite Chicago tradition offers cuisine from more than 70 restaurants, plus entertainment and activities for the entire family in Chicago's Grant Park. Next year's Taste of Chicago will take place June 29-July 8, 2007. In 1980 a group of restaurateurs approached the Mayor of Chicago with the idea of a food festival on the Fourth of July, and Taste of Chicago was born. Inspired by a “build it and they will come” attitude, a $150,000 budget, and confidence the event could attract 75,000 people, plans for the one-day food frenzy got under way. The festival was held in a three-block area of Michigan Avenue bordered by the Chicago River and the upscale stores and buildings that were then beginning to grace the Magnificent Mile; and between the architectural wonders of the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower. It was a huge success, (250,000 attended the first “Taste,” and food and soda sales grossed $330,000) destined to change the way Chicago celebrates the Fourth of July. The Site Due to the overwhelming response from the people of Chicago, a larger space to accommodate even more people and restaurants was deemed necessary and in 1981, Taste of Chicago was moved to Grant Park (Chicago’s “front yard”). Grant Park is centrally located, easily accessible to public transportation and parking, and is identifiable to citizens and visitors as the center of the Grant Park Cultural community which includes the Art Institute, Adler Planetarium and Shedd Oceanarium, Field Museum, Cultural Center, Michigan Avenue and State Street Shopping. The use of Grant Park as a venue would also afford utilization of the Petrillo Music Shell, originally designed for us by the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra. This would handily give access to a stage, dressing rooms and showers for performers, as well as seating for 5000 people. Description of Taste of Chicago The Taste of Chicago that evolved from that steamy July 4th in 1980 is the second largest tourist attraction in Illinois. For ten days, this free- admission festival, now in its 24th year, is the place to be, infusing the city with a holiday spirit and attracting lead stories each day in newspapers and on television. It is an impressive scene. Colorfully decorated tents surround the outside kitchens of more than 70 restaurants from all over Chicagoland, which also includes a daily upscale restaurant serving in the Gourmet Pavilion. Exotic aromas permeate the air and no visitor leaves a food booth empty handed. Last year’s “Taste” attracted more than 3.5 million visitors from all over the city, the suburbs, the midwest and the country. In 1989, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s first year in office, the focus for Taste shifted to a family theme and the event became “America’s City Picnic.” In that spirit, many other attractions with family appeal were added. The Family Village presents special programs for kids, which involve audience participation, activities and musical entertainment. In 2003, a carousel was added to the Family Village. For kids of all ages, the Taste stage is programmed with all Chicago talent. A wide variety of musical styles include folk, blues, Latin, country and more. For festival goers who want to satisfy more than their appetites, a popular attraction is the Dominick’s Cooking Corner where local chefs and guest stars demonstrate their wares and confide the secrets of their culinary success. The delightful results are then shared with whomever in the audience can still find room for more to eat. Another area added to Taste in the 90’s is the Living Pavilion. Now festival goers can not only feed their stomachs, but also their souls, learning flower and gardening techniques, feng shei and massage therapy. But the star attraction of Taste, especially on July 3rd, is the line-up of big name, National and international stars who perform on the main stage at the Petrillo Music Shell. In 2003, several Grammy Award winning artists graced the stage including Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello, The Wallflowers, and Sheryl Crow. Chicago gets the early jump on Independence Day with a July 3 presentation of the Grant Park Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and other patriotic favorites to an amazing display of fireworks. The festival is ever evolving and in 2003, a new pavilion was added to highlight foods from other regions, Taste of the States. Summer in Chicago is built around one event each year, Taste of Chicago. Add your suggestions for Things You Should Do in Illinois by clicking on the comments button.

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