Taste comes to a close; vendors, attendees react

July 4, 2011 5:47:38 AM PDT
The Taste of Chicago wrapped up Sunday night. It was the second year without a dedicated July 3 fireworks show.

While most people didn't miss having to shove their way from food booth to food booth, on Sunday night, some weren't quite sure what to make of the updated version of the city's well-known food fest.

"We're happy to have made it definitely. The food looks good," said Taste goer Daniela Sinobad.

"We just got here at 5:30, so we're focused on getting what we need," said Taste goer Tommy Davis.

Chicago's signature food fest closed at an earlier 6 p.m. time to mixed reviews.

"It was really good, good food," said Taste goer Marlene Jasso.

"I was expecting the shrimp to be a little bigger," said Taste goer Jose Sanchez.

For diehard foodies, like Maurice Stephens, this year's feeding frenzy in Grant Park was still the place to be. "I'll say the corn on the cob was great, and I'm looking forward to the deep dish pizza," he said.

Some Taste goers said it wasn't as crowded as in years past.

"I'm surprised to see this kind of amount of people here. There's not really, really a lot of people here," said Taste goer Petrolina Anskine

Official attendance numbers aren't in yet for the revamped family-friendly event that for the first time was run by the Chicago Park District. However, organizers say they're pleased with the turnout.

"We've had moderate to high crowds every day. It may not be like the fireworks show with over a million people, but we've had good crowds every day," said Chicago Park District Interim General Supt. Michael Kelly.

While some vendors appeared to be busier than ever, other say sales were slower than usual.

"This year we did 198,000. It's a big difference. That's 100,000 down from last year," said Charlie Robinson with Robinson's Ribs. He blames the sluggish economy, fewer big name musical headliners and no traditional July 3 fireworks for the change.

"We enjoy the fireworks. I wish they had the money to do it. that's the highlight of the Fourth of July," said Taste goer Ron Wynn.

In years past there were big names, but this year it was just Natalie Cole. There was no one we wanted to see," said Taste goer Debbie Wynn.

There was plenty of security as Taste patrons left, and the local food depository collected Taste leftovers. Meanwhile, the massive cleanup begins.

"If we work as a crew it's not so bad, but if you try to play Superman and do it on your own, you got a problem," said cleanup crewman Vadii Ellis.

Last year, about 700,000 fewer people attended the Taste. That decrease was blamed on no July 3 fireworks. In 2009, just shy of 3.5 million people attended the festival. A Chicago Park District spokesperson says there should be an official count in a few days.

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