Monday, June 26, 2006

Taste of Champaign

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.


  1. Honey, I agree completely. The Better Half and I went Saturday afternoon. We'd never been before, so we wanted to finally give it a try.

    I love Siam Terrace, so after seeing the lack of choices, settled on Pad Thai. I don't know what was wrong, but it was sweet and pretty much nothing else. Better Half tried a sample pork sandwich from Blues, and was similarly unimpressed. It's like it was cafeteria food, and we'd spent $15.00! And you're right about the lack of choices: kettle corn, snow cones, pizza.

    We left and walked downtown and ate at Persimmons.

    And the crowds: ugh. You know, I hear all the time, "Get to know your community! Help the community! Be involved in the community!" Saturday afternoon I got out in the community and remembered why I'm not more involved in the community.

    Had a good time at Farmer's Market that morning, though!

  2. Anonymous4:55 PM

    Being the father of 4, one does need to donate ALOT of plasma and sperm and any other bodily fluids that are marketable to feed us all. $100 lasts for ohhhhhh about 2 "i wants". The "pillows" is a much better deal for the one price all day fare. As far as Garcia's goes deary.......let it be known that thier WHEAT crust is Officially back. Has been away too long! allbeit small slices, not typical size for them,the za was good!!

  3. i have always wanted to try this pizza you call garcia's. when can one obtain it? is formal dress required?

  4. It WAS a mess! I have been to large festivals before too and never ran into such a friggin' mess! Whew - I'm glad we made it out alive! And no one got ill...

  5. Tracy: I'll hold Taste of Lori's House, and fix some pad thai for ya!

    tbr: back to the bloodbank, huh?

    Paul: I'd tell you, but I'd have to kill you.

    Momo: All those other people should have just gone home, so we could eat in comfort.

  6. shannon3:07 PM

    This would make good letter material. Letter to someone in charge of the taste, letter to the editor...something.

    I haven't been to the taste in years. I like the outdoor festivals and all that, but the taste just doesn't seem to be anything special anymore. As you mention, it is ridiculously expensive, especially given that we can buy this food any time we want (and maybe even eat it in the park) because we live here. And I certainly don't need to go to the taste to choose from various pizza chains. Ugh.

    Glad to hear I didn't miss much.

  7. Anonymous2:24 PM

    I have worked for a restaurant for a number of years, and we always did the taste. What always saddened me was the fact that it is always, in actuality, "A Taste of the Chains". My cousin and his wife came down for it from Bloomington(I think it was 2004), and we couldn't find one single vendor that they didn't have where they came from. Very sad indeed. And every restaurant has to pay the park district $500 to be there, and the fee keeps growing. I have never heard of any proceeds going to charity, either from the park district or the restaurants. All I know is, now that I no longer work for that restaurant (also a chain), I will NEVER go to the taste. It is simply a very disappointing waste of time and money.


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