Last summer, it ran for ten days, but this summer, the Taste of Chicago will be cut in half and run just five days from July 11th to the 15th.
The shortening of the Taste of Chicago doesn't come as a huge shock. The city has been looking for ways to make the Taste profitable for a while, and after this past summer's disappointing numbers a shortening of the food fest was inevitable. The 2011 Taste had the lowest attendance in the past 25 years and the city lost money on it.
"We think five days will be much more fun-filled and it's still free admission - that's sort of the best thing we can say about Taste of Chicago is that it's free and it's free entertainment," said Cindy Gatziolis of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.
Taste fan Patrea Aeschliman said the new dates might mean she would possibly skip the 2012 Taste.
"We'd be more apt to come over the 4th than a couple weeks later, because it's a better holiday weekend," said Aeschliman.
In an effort to become profitable, and lessen the burden on taxpayers, the city Wednesday announced that Taste of Chicago will run only five days, down from its usual ten.
"I think that shortening it really takes away from the event," said James Stauch.
Only 2.35 million people visited the Taste of Chicago in 2011. That is 300,000 fewer than in 2010 and the smallest crowd overall since 1986. Vendors blame shorter hours and the city's cancellation of July 3rd fireworks in Grant park for the reduction.
"It definitely was less money. We were down about 40% in sales," said Charles Robinson of Robinson's #1 Ribs.
Robinson's #1 Ribs is consistently one of the Taste's largest vendors, as is Manny's Deli. Both owners say they only found out about the changes in the Taste of Chicago's dates and length Wednesday, but they believe the move is a positive one.
"There are plenty of street festivals in the City of Chicago that go just for just a weekend, so five days is actually a decent amount of time for a street festival, so we're not too concerned about that, I think we'll be all right on that," said Matt Raskin of Manny's Deli.
"I think it will be good. Ten days is hard on our employees. We hire about 50 employees to do Taste of Chicago," said Robinson.
One long-time vendor, The Fudge Pot in Old Town, which has been in business for about 50 years, may not make an appearance at the 2012 Taste depending on what sales numbers they end up projecting, even though they have been with the festival since the beginning.
"It's not nearly as enticing - we really need to sit down and look at the numbers - look at the actual days there, see what the projected income would be from each of them before we can actually make a concrete decision into whether or not we're even going to apply," said James Dattalo of The Fudge Pot, who said the Taste had "always been a great thing."
The changes, the city says, should bring the festival back to its foodie roots and maybe attract restaurants for whom a ten-day festival may have been too much.
"We'd like to reach out to a lot of different restaurants that might not have normally thought about being at Taste, to be at Taste, let's have it be everyone. Let's have it be the old-time favorites, the ethnic specialties, and some new and different and fun and exotic things," said Gatziolis.
The city will continue to book entertainers to perform during the Taste of Chicago. They also hope to include cooking demonstrations from some of Chicago's top chefs, all of this while minding the budget. The city says the Taste's new format will save $4 million compared to last year.
For the first time in 2011, the Chicago Park District oversaw the Taste. For 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has returned control of the Taste to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Officials in the department say that while they will still offer entertainment, they may not be the type of big-name headliners that have been seen in recent years.