Thursday, December 29, 2011

Will Chicagoans care for shorter Taste?

It is no secret to people who read this weblog that I don’t think much of the Taste of Chicago.

The annual food fest has always struck me as grubby people sweating it out in a Chicago summer eating overpriced, greasy foods.

THE SIGHT OF someone chomping on a turkey leg bigger than their head while walking through Grant Park has become such a Chicago cliché, as well as a distasteful sight!

So in theory, I ought to be pleased that city officials on Wednesday indicated that they will scale the annual food fest back. It will now be a five-day long event, half the length that it has run in recent years.

Yet a part of me wonders if city officials are symbolically shooting themselves in the foot by cutting back on the event that has become one of Chicago’s primary public events.

Scaling it back could wind up having the effect of making it appear to be cheaper and lower-key – which would take away from the unique character that makes some people (if not myself) WANT to go to it every single year.

IT STRIKES ME as similar to the service cuts that have hit mass transit in recent years. Lesser hours and fewer routes have the effect of making it more difficult for people to use buses and trains (the el and subways) to get where they want to go.

Which further reduces the willingness of people to use the Chicago Transit Authority to get where they want to go. Which causes ridership figures to go down.

Which then makes Chicago Transit Board officials convinced that the only way to maintain the system without losing money is to cut it back even further.

How many years until the Taste of Chicago gets reduced to a couple of booths near Buckingham Fountain?

In short, an endless cycle of cuts that ultimately fail to maintain the system’s ability to fund itself.

I’M WONDERING IF that is what we’re going to see in coming years with the Taste of Chicago – a steadily-shrinking event that city officials will pretend still maintains the aura of its glory days of the 1980s and early 1990s.

That is, until the day when it just fades away altogether. As it is, the Taste of Chicago for 2012 will be held in mid-July, which means the Independence Day holiday will already be complete when it takes place.

The idea of a million people showing up at the Taste of Chicago on July 3, then sticking around to see the lakefront fireworks display for the holiday, had become something that was a part of the Chicago character to celebrate U.S. independence.

Now, it’s a thing of the past – just as much as the Chicago Sting, the Daily News and Goldblatt’s department stores. How long until the “Taste” as a whole joins the list?


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