A creative team of restaurant owners and culinary professionals getting together, brainstorming, and planning to present a proposal to the Mayor of Chicago on having a food festival to celebrate the 4th of July.
Not just any food festival. With their budget of $150,000, the team, led by Morton’s Steakhouse owner Arnie Morton, wanted a HUGE festival, and they were confident they would have 75,000 participants. They wanted a festival full of fun, entertainment, and the vast variation of eateries as diverse as Chicago’s population itself.
In 1980, Mayor Jane Byrne said “Yes to the Fest”, and the first Taste of Chicago was held!
Mayor Jane Byrne talks with restaurateurs Eli Schulman (from l.), Rich Melman and Don Roth before the first Taste of Chicago in 1980. [Eli’s Cheesecake]
The First Taste Test
The fest was all set and ready to go. Excitement swirled everywhere as plans were made. A three-block area on Michigan Avenue between Ohio and Wacker, bordered by the Chicago River, Wrigley Building, and Tribune Tower was reserved. The first fest had 36 vendors.
Not only was it a success…but a MASSIVE success! By 3pm, restaurants were almost sold out of food. At 5 pm, Jimmy Damon took the stage to perform. About 250,000 attended, with gross sales of $330,000!
It was determined that a larger space was necessary, and in 1981, Grant Park was chosen. This allowed use of the Petrillo Music Shell for performers, which offered access to a stage, dressing rooms, and showers, as well as seating and plenty room. 1.4 million attendees enjoyed the 2nd year of the Fest!
Q: What is the only vendor to have attended the July 4, 1980 Taste of Chicago fest and EVERY one thereafter?
A: Eli’s Cheesecake! In 1980, Eli Schulman presented his first taste of Eli’s Cheesecake at the first ever taste of Chicago. So, as Chicago celebrates the Taste, Eli’s Cheesecake celebrates its birthday! Each year at the Taste, Eli’s celebrates with a 1000-lb cheesecake for all to enjoy. Click HERE to learn more about this Chicago staple!
2023’s Taste of Chicago
This year, the annual event was pushed forward to this weekend instead of the 4th of July weekend due to Chicago’s busy summer activities, to include NASCAR’S Street Races.
Activities include fun and entertainment for all, to include a tribute to 50 years of Hip Hop music, featuring a Friday night concert of Hip Hop legends: Doug E. Fresh, EPMD, KRS-One, and Slick Rick.
Click HERE for a complete lineup and schedule of activities and performances, along with vendor information.
Fellowship Fleet Limousine and Bus Company is here to provide any of your transportation needs, whether to the Taste of Chicago, or for a wedding. Click HERE to reserve your transportation TODAY!