Sorry, Rahm, but your political batting average doesn’t seem to be going up these days. Being an architecture buff, I can’t say I liked the idea of using the city’s architecture for the purpose of advertising, essentially turning the city into a giant billboard. I didn’t like it at all. I know Chicago needs to make money, and right now, we’re having some trouble making it. If Chicago needs an advertisement, though, I’d suggest thinking a little less literally. You can’t slap ‘em all up on our bridge houses.
One of the best advertisements this city has isn’t one you can just put on the side of some building.
It was (and yes, I am using the past tense deliberately) the Taste of Chicago.
Or – for short – the “Taste.”
The model for the event is one copied many times over, and now most major cities host their own “Taste of” events, following suit. Why? Because it works. These events not only help promote local restaurant businesses, but unify them with the community in which they sit. Now, sure, your tourists can get their obligatory hot dog and pizza slice, but for folks native to Chicago, it’s a rare chance to become familiar with restaurants outside their immediate neighborhood.
Chicagoans are a color-inside-the-lines folk when it comes to the communities in which they grow up. For me? My folks raised me on thin crust from Palermo’s on 95th Street in Oak Lawn. You practically could draw a map of the city based on the brand and style of pizza people prefer. That all said, the locals are just a little bit biased, and a whole lot accustomed to their pizza.
But at the Taste? It’s as if a pizza peace treaty is in place, if only for ten days. You’ll see a South Sider with a slice of Lou Malnati’s, and a North Sider with some Home Run Inn thin crust. It gets people here to open up to foods they wouldn’t have ever tried, otherwise. And for people visiting from out-of town, what better a way could there be to sample the best of Chicago’s restaurants and foods? They’re all smack-dab in the heart of the Loop, right alongside the lake, oh-so-conveniently grouped in tents next to another.
Now, sure, the vendors and restaurants serving food there make some money. But some are there more for the publicity, and the advertisement that comes with being part of such an event. I don’t care who you are, there’s no way you could Groupon your way to an audience like the one the Taste provides (better yet, the folks at the Taste will actually pay FULL PRICE for your food). You would think the city would recognize just how important those 10 days could become to a Taste vendor, moreover, one looking to make a name for itself and impact as large and diverse a customer base as possible.
And these are exactly the benefits that may be impacted by the mayor’s recent decision to change the “Taste.” Come back soon for the second half of this blog, where we’ll look more closely into the mayor’s past decisions and how they’ve impacted the Taste of Chicago.
Have you ever been to the Taste of Chicago? If so, in what ways do you think the event could be improved? If not, what has kept you from going?