JOLIET – The 10th Taste of Joliet starts at noon Friday, launching a weekend of what has become both the city’s biggest summer music festival and a casual get-together for Joliet.
Taste runs through Sunday, with musical acts including rock band Cheap Trick and country performers Big & Rich.
Anyone who wants an early taste of the event that’s easy on the wallet can show up between noon and 3 p.m. Friday, when admission is free.
A dozen bands and performers will play on the stage that will be devoted to rock Friday night, country music Saturday and family entertainment Sunday
Twenty-seven food vendors will serve up dishes such as “our famous turkey legs as big as your head,” which is how Kaity Siegel described one of the popular items at the Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm’s booth.
“It looks like we’re going to have a beautiful weekend – no rain in the forecast,” said Siegel, taking an optimistic view on a weather outlook that others noted keeps changing.
“I believe weather forecasts when the day’s over,” said Joliet Park District spokesman Brad Staab, who also lines up the bands for Taste.
Whether he believes or not, Taste organizers tend to watch weather forecasts.
This is the 10th year for the revived Taste of Joliet, an event that disappeared in the mid-1990s before the Joliet Park District brought it back.
Weather almost killed the resurrected Taste of Joliet, which was greeted with 100-degree heat for three days in 2006. People were being cautioned to stay indoors, Staab remembers. And, the turnout was low enough the park district had to make a decision.
“We actually sat down after the first weekend, and we were wondering if we should continue to do it,” Staab said.
But park officials got enough positive feedback that they decided to try again.
As many as 60,000 people are expected at this weekend’s Taste of Joliet. That compares to the 12,000 counted at the event 10 years ago.
“I remember that first year I was begging people to come,” park district Executive Director Dominic Egizio said. “We were begging acts to come. Now, we get calls from national acts wanting to play here.”
Taste organizers made the decision in the second year to try to attract better-known performers. With the bigger names have come bigger crowds.
“I think the last two years it’s been pretty consistent,” Egizio said of attendance. “I think it’s about as big as it can be at the stadium.”
The park district now has a formula that has been working. Music is a big attraction. Front section reserved seats are sold out for Friday and Saturday. Egizio emphasized there will be plenty of room available for general admission.
Taste-goers will find some familiar eateries, including Cemeno’s Pizza and McBride’s on 52, at the festival. They also will find some new places, including Cheesecakes by James, which opened in downtown Joliet this year.
Yanni’s Grill from Crest Hill came to Taste of Joliet for the first time last year and found it was a good way to introduce its food to new customers.
Yanni’s does catering and events, but does not have a restaurant. So, events like Taste of Joliet are a good way to offer its food for new people to sample, said owner Ben Jungman.
“Last year, we went through 1,000 business cards. It probably helped us spiral to where we are this year,” Jungman said.
“People come here from all over,” he said. “I just did a graduation party for a lady who got a business card here last year, and she was from Manhattan.”
More than food
Taste-goers are certain to find some local specialties, as well as plenty of carnival-style favorites like bacon-cheese fries.
Yanni’s brought ice cream this year so it could serve up funnel cake sundaes. Deep-fried Oreo cookies proved to be “very popular” last year, Jungman said.
“It’s one of those items that are just intriguing to people,” he said.
The Joliet Fire Department’s sweet corn is always popular.
A carnival also runs through the event. Taste has a Kid Zone with balloon artists, face painting and inflatables.
As important as anything, Egizio said, Taste tends to be a place to run into people you know and haven’t seen for awhile.
“The community looks forward to it every year,” he said. “You see a lot of old faces, and people come together.”
TASTE OF JOLIET
Hours: Noon to midnight.
Admission: free noon to 3 p.m.; $15 at the gate after 3 p.m.; $5 for seniors (62 and up); free for children 11 and under accompanied by adult.
Music schedule: Hot Mess, 5 p.m.; Tynan, 6 p.m.; 7th Heaven, 7 p.m.; Cheap Trick, 9 p.m.
Hours: Noon to midnight.
Admission: $15 at the gate; $10 online before Saturday; $5 for seniors (62 and up); free for children under 11 accompanied by adult.
Music schedule: Ruthie Collins, 3 p.m.; Joel Crouse, 4:15 p.m.; Danielle Bradbery, 5:30 p.m.; Parmalee, 7 p.m.; Big & Rich, 9 p.m.
Hours: Noon to 7 p.m.
Admission: $10 at the gate; $5 online before Sunday; $5 for seniors (62 and up); free for children 11 and under accompanied by adult.
Music schedule: Skinny Williams, 1:30 p.m.; Big Dog Mercer, 3 p.m.; Plain White T’s, 5 p.m.