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2011 Taste of Chicago to serve a casserole of cultural concerts

This year's Taste of Chicago will be a blend of several smaller festivals and will forego the big name acts that have whetted appetites in years past, officials announced today.

Instead, the Taste will offer the entertainment previously provided during Celtic Fest, Gospel Fest, Country Music Fest and Viva Chicago. The City hopes to save millions of dollars by eliminating the individual smaller festivals and absorbing them into the larger, more popular 10-day Taste.

The Chicago Park District will run the Taste and will keep the tradition of free admission. A recent proposal by a private contractor included charging admission fees.

“Mayor Daley has stressed the importance of keeping the Taste of Chicago free with no admission fee, especially during these tough economic times. Our goal is to do just that while also ensuring that the Taste remains economically viable,” said Park District Supt. Tim Mitchell in a press release.

The statement notes the Park District will work with the Illinois Restaurant Association, which has helped run Taste for the past 30 years.

The larger Jazz and Chicago Blues Festivals will retain their status as stand alone events and city officials say those concerts continue to draw larger crowds and make money for the city.

The smaller festivals took a financial hit last year due to the sour economy, according to Dorothy Coyle, First Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “In these tough economic times it doesn’t make sense for the City to continue funding these as stand-alone events, ” she said.

The new plan eliminates the expenses associated with the marketing, security, set-up, break-down and cleanup of individual lakefront festivals.

The 2011 Taste of Chicago will run from Friday, June 24 to through Sunday, July 3. Planners promise a more family-friendly food fest, true to its origional design.

The Chicago Blues Festival will run June 10 - 12. The Jazz Festival is scheduled for September 2 - 4.