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Taste of Joliet attracts thousands

JOLIET – Thousands of people came out for the Taste of Joliet over the weekend at ATI Field at Joliet Memorial Stadium.

The Taste is held Friday and Saturday night and Sunday during the day. Last year, an average of 24,000 to 25,000 people attended each night and this year’s crowd is expected to surpass that, although official numbers will not be available for about a week.

“The way the weather’s been last night and tonight, we should really break all records,” said Tom Carstens, the executive director of the Joliet Park District, on Saturday.

Some of the biggest musical draws were acts like Billy Currington, A Thousand Horses, Kane Brown, Survivor, 7th Heaven, Hot Mess, Kansas and .38 Special. Carstens said the entire football stadium was full for the performances on Friday night.

“I’ve come to the Taste of Joliet like six years in a row and it’s definitely the lineup that brings me back out every year,” said Elizabeth Kiser, 22, a Plainfield resident.

One of the special performers in the lineup was Stephen Neal, one of the country/pop music acts and a Joliet area native.

Neal originally is from Shorewood. He lives in Nashville and has made multiple trips back to the area, including this summer at Taste of Joliet. He performed on Saturday and afterward met with dozens of fans who were lined up to meet and greet with him and snap a few selfies. Some were even old friends from his days at his alma mater, Joliet Catholic Academy.

“I grew up with him,” said Joanie Policandriotes, 24, a Joliet resident who waited in line to see her old friend. “He was friends with my brother and he’s like a brother to me. He’s like awesome.”

Neal will also perform at Plainfield Fest coming up on July 14.

Attendees were also able to enjoy some 30 food vendors with a variety of flavors, from Annabell’s Bar-B-Q to El Campeon Pina Colada, and from Dumpling House to Mr. Salty’s. At least 200 volunteers also worked the rides and activities for kids and families. Even the Marines were out letting strong challengers try to flip over a large truck tire.

Security at the Taste was also a little tighter than in years past. Carstens said the park district added security measures like walk-through metal detectors and wands that attendees had to get past to enter the Taste.

“We’ve added security because of how the world is now,” Carstens said. “We said, ‘Hey, better safe than sorry.’”

As of Saturday afternoon, the Taste was running very smoothly, Carstens said.

The Taste extends into Sunday as well, although it closes at 5 p.m. Attendees will be able to enjoy more family-oriented events and activities that day, with musical performances including School of Rock, The Millenials, Big Dog Mercer, Valerie Singleton and M Town & More.

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