Love it or hate it, Taste of Chicago is one of Chicago’s most beloved summertime traditions. Since 1980, folks have flocked to the event to sample everything from deep dish pizza to massive turkey drumsticks and other favorites from a vast array of local restaurants.
But this year Grant Park will be closed in July, when Taste of Chicago is traditionally held. Instead, the park will be preparing for a massive new event. Grant Park will be hosting the Chicago Street Race — NASCAR’s first ever race being held on public streets instead of a racetrack.
The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced Monday that Taste of Chicago will remain at Grant Park, but that it will be moved to September.
Eli’s Cheesecake has been a favorite of the more than 1 million annual attendees since Taste of Chicago began in 1980.
“I’m so glad they’re not breaking with tradition and moving the festival to Navy Pier,” said Marc Schulman, president of Eli’s Cheesecake. “I think moving Taste to September was a good compromise.”
Leslie Recht, president of the Grant Park Advisory Council, is glad that Taste will remain in Grant Park. Unfortunately, the Grant Park Advisory Council had been planning a fundraiser for that September weekend, which will now have to be moved.
“These last-minute decisions with no coordination are really a problem for everyone involved,” Recht said. “NASCAR and the 10-year contract with Lollapalooza were kind of foisted on us, without any consultation.”
Recht is unhappy that Grant Park could potentially be closed and inaccessible to the public for 40 days for the NASCAR event setup and teardown.
Juanita Irizarry, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Park, is happy the city is not trying to hold both NASCAR and Taste of Chicago the same weekend.
“However, I do think all of it has been communicated to the public so quickly and without a lot of transparency, so we don’t even know what problems may still exist,” Irizarry said. “It’s really up to us residents to push back, through the media and elected officials, and say there has to be a more thoughtful process to balance the various needs of our parks and communities.”
Who exactly are the city’s parks for? Should they prioritize locals or tourists?
Schulman, Irizarry and Recht joined “Chicago Tonight” to talk about park access and more. Watch their full discussion in the video above.