We met at the coffee shop Saturday night, and decided to mosey on over to the Taste of Champaign. I somehow remember this festival being better in years past.
The crowds were dizzying, and the lines very long. That's fine; it's a festival! However, I go to a lot of festivals that support large crowds and I rarely to see this kind of chaos. The food booths are so close together that the line from one often ran into another. Meanwhile, the corners of the park were all lawn, empty of vendors, tents, or picnic tables. Can't they better utilize the space in the park to give the vendors and spectators a little breathing space?
There were 25 food vendors. Hasn't there been nearly twice that in years past, or am I remembering childhood Christmases? So many of my favorites were missing—where was Seaboat?! There seemed to be little of substance: Lots of pizza, sno-cones, and ice cream bars, and even the prices on these were exorbitant.
Several of the vendors were out of inventory. Why do so many come unprepared for the main meal (It's Saturday Night!) of the festival? Marcy ended up settling for pizza, paying $3 for a sample slice at Garcia's (NOT a true Garcia's slice!), and finding only breakfast (egg and bacon) pizza left over at One World. Yuk.
Everything we intended to try was unavailable. We split up then, two of us for gyros, one for pizza, and one for thai samplings.
Mike ordered chicken satay at Siam Terrace, and sat down to bite into icy, raw chicken:
Ugh; we had tickets left, but by then, no appetite.
While I'm at it, who in the heck can afford to take their kids to this festival?!! There's a kiddy-land in one corner, with those inflatable slides and jumpy things. 1 ticket for one ride. That's ONE DOLLAR to slide down a pillow. Pony rides were $4 each, and they were charging $2 a pop to pet a goat and a rabbit in the "petting zoo."
I know all of the proceeds for this event went to charity; is that why the prices were outrageous?
Still, it is touted as a festival, not a fundraiser. People don't show up to Taste of Champaign with a cause in mind. I'd venture the majority aren't even aware that there is a cause. People come out for good food, good music, and a good time—for a reasonable price. A couple feeding 2 kids couldn't have gotten out of there for less than $100, if everyone was to go home satiated and entertained.
Seriously, who wants to pay more to get a taste of something than it would cost to sit down in the restaurant? Marcy spent $5 on a slice and a bottle of water. For $2 more, she could have walked to The Esquire and had a great pizza. And a glass of water.
The restauranteurs may be "donating" all of the proceeds, but it still seems like they would also only stand to profit if the prices were lower. More people would be able to afford to taste their snacks, and stop in for a full meal at a later date.
We spent $30 on pizza, raw chicken, a few miscellaneous bites and bottled water (to use up our non-refundable tickets). We were grouchy and hungry, and ended up going to Merry Ann's Diner around midnight for a cheeseburger.
I may stroll through next year, to see if they have cleaned up their act. But I won't expect much, and I'll make alternate dinner plans up front. I think I've eaten my last Taste of C-U meal.