Could the cost-cutting, revenue-generating experiments surrounding this year's Taste of Chicago concerts still not be enough to save the shrinking summer festival?
After five years of declining attendance and diminishing returns, the city slashed the traditional ten-day food and music showcase in half this year, cutting the fireworks and adding a price tag for seats at Grant Park's Petrillo Music Shell, where Jennifer Hudson, Death Cab For Cutie, Chaka Khan and more are slated to perform.
But when advanced sales for the $25 seated tickets closed Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that just over 7,100 of the 15,000 tickets available for the five headlining performers had been sold.
That may not reflect overall attendance: lawn seating for these performances is free, and tickets will be sold at box offices on-site during the festival. Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis disputed the newspaper's characterization that sales were low in an email to CBS Chicago:
“Low in comparison to what? This is a brand new feature that’s never been done before and added as an amenity to those who want to see a concert from a guaranteed seat for a reasonable price. One of the many new things to try at this year’s Taste.”
Also headlining ticketed performances are Michael Franti and Dierks Bentley.
Concert pricing isn't the only big change regular Taste of Chicago patrons: Chicagoans reacted strongly to the news that the fest's iconic turkey legs wouldn't be making an appearance this year.
The Taste of Chicago opens Wednesday.
Check out the 15 pop-up restaurants participating in Taste below, in order of appearance: