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The Big 4-0 for the Taste of Chicago

It’s been forty years since the first Taste of Chicago was held on Michigan Avenue. While its format has changed this year in light of COVID-19, the Taste will still be showcasing the city’s culinary offerings. 

The Taste of Chicago began in 1980 when a group of restaurateurs led by Arnie Morton approached mayor Jane Byrne with the idea of a food festival on the Fourth of July. With a $150,000 budget and the 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 bordered by the Chicago River, Wrigley Building, and Tribune Tower. It was a huge success, with about 250,000 attendees and sales grossing $330,000. Due to that overwhelming response, a larger space was deemed necessary, so in 1981, Grant Park was chosen for its central location. It also allowed for the use of the Petrillo Music Shell, which offered access to a stage, dressing rooms, and showers for performers, as well as seating for thousands of people.

Since then, locals and visitors alike have eagerly awaited to see which vendors and musicians will be featured at the food fest in Chicago’s front yard. 

Read more about the city’s leisure pastimes in the Encyclopedia of Chicago. Learn more.

The view looking northwest at the Taste of Chicago and city skyline from Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway, Chicago, July 1988. CHM, ICHi-065329; Kerry Coppin, photographer

“The Encyclopedia of Chicago is no mere collection of fun facts. It is a work of stunning scholarly achievement.” — Tom McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times 

Published by the University of Chicago Press, The Encyclopedia of Chicago is the result of a ten-year collaboration between the Newberry Library and the Chicago History Museum. This project brought together hundreds of historians, journalists, and experts on everything from airlines to Zoroastrians to explore all aspects of the rich world of Chicago and its surrounding metropolitan area. Explore the Encyclopedia.

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