Midwestern Festivals: The 2017 Taste of Chicago Food Festival

Summer marks the return of one of our nation's greatest loves, the food festival. And there is no other better known gathering of delicious cuisine than the Taste of Chicago, July 5-9 2017, the world's largest outdoor food fest!

What is the Taste of Chicago? 

The Taste of Chicago started in 1980 when a group of food lovers petitioned the city to hold a food festival. It was to be on one day only, the Fourth of July, and it took up just three city blocks. They had a shoestring budget and a goal of getting a hundred thousand or so people to attend, but to everyone's amazement, 250,000 people attended that year and the one day was such a success that its been a part of the city's culture ever since.


In 1981 they moved the party to Grant Park, a sprawling green space that is now home to the annual event, held each July. Grant Park is central and easy to get to from all directions. The Taste of Chicago is a free event but now, instead of it only being a one day affair it takes up five full days and is full of entertainment, bands, kitchen demos, sit down dinners with famous chefs, singers, a street art gallery and of course the food. Lots and lots of food.




One million people took in the festival in 2016 making it the largest tourist attraction in the whole state.  This year they expect even more people to attend! 

About the Taste: 


There's a sample of every type of food in every style. From seasoned french fries to alcapurria (pork-filled banana dumplings), samplers can try something new or find their classic Chicago favorites among the large stretch of food tents.

Chicago is a city full of delicious food.  Even those who live in the city feel it's impossible to know exactly all the spots where you can enjoy the fantastic food. The competitive food culture in Chicago is absolutely dynamic, and when I say competitive I mean like an Olympic event. 

How the Taste Works: 

Admission is FREE, but to get food you purchase blocks of tickets, and use these tickets to purchase the food, much like you would at a carnival.

As you approach each restaurant there is a sign telling you what they have and how many tickets it will cost. If you're looking to sample lots of different dishes at each place, many restaurants offer a  sampler size with multiple items. 

The Food: 

The variety ranges to suite lots of taste preferences so this is a fantastic place to bring friends and family for a great summer day out.  

Check out a small list of the several hundred restaurants that will be there: 

BJ's Market & Bakery
8734 S. Stony Island Ave.

Caffe Gelato
2034 W. Division St.
Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill
300 W. 26th St.
Chicago's Dog House
816 W. Fullerton Ave.

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria
805 S. State St.

Miller's Pub
134 S. Wabash Ave.

MAD Social
1140 W. Madison St.

Pork & Mindy's
1623 N. Milwaukee Ave.

and a huge array of food trucks will be there! 


In addition, such a large gathering as this draws a famous assortment of nationally-known bands to the Petrillo Music Shell where there is a new and exciting concert each day. The concerts are all free and are seated on a first come, first serve basis but never fear if front row seating fills up, the Petrillo Music Shell has a Jumbotron so concert goers seated in the lawn have a great view as well. There are also smaller shows throughout the festival that feature local and regional acts. Food and music Chicago style, can't get much better than that.Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The O’Jays, and Alessia Cara are just a few of the performers scheduled for 2017. 

The Taste of Chicago is not only about food, it's also about the city itself, its culture, its traditions and its great stories so what are you waiting for! More information HERE

Kayaking Smithville Lake, Missouri

After waiting for what seemed like forever for the end of winer, a bit of very warm weather blew through on just the right day.  I was hosting an event for our local kayaking a group at Smithville lake in Missouri and the weather couldn't have been better for getting out on the water. 

My incredibly cheap kayak held up through all the trips last summer and being stashed on it's end in my garage all winter, which surprised me a little bit.  So I grabbed all my gear for a day trip and headed out to one of my favorite area lakes. 


Why do I love Smithville Lake? To start the lake is huge. There are miles and miles of shoreline to paddle along and quiet coves to explore.  They have conservation and wildlife areas to paddle through and beaches to stop at for a swim. I'll never get bored here. I camp quite often there and in my experience the campgrounds are always clean with grassy, soft ground that's easy to pitch a tent in, and the lake views from the majority of the sites can't be beat. Most importantly, there are several excellent spots to drop in the kayak for a day of paddling.  Oh, and the showers are always clean with lots of hot water, something I really appreciate.


Here is a bit of info on Smithville Lake: 

Smithville Lake is a 7,190-acre (29 km2) reservoir on the Little Platte branch of the Platte River in Clay County, Missouri near Smithville. It provides the water supply for Smithville, Missouri and Plattsburg, Missouri. Kansas City, Missouri has reserved a portion for its water supply.
The lake was built and is administered by the Kansas City office of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (which includes all of Missouri and Kansas, as well as small portions of Nebraska and Iowa) primarily for flood control. The lake is 10th largest of Corps lakes in the district, but third in terms of shoreline. It has 5,000 acres (20 km2) of public land and 175 miles (282 km) of shoreline.


I am looking forward to my next trip on the Little Niangua River in the Ozarks region of Missouri.  I still can't decide if I like kayaking lakes or rivers better.  The Midwest has such an abundance of both and they are all so amazing it's hard to decide. 



A little blurry but I think you can tell I was happy to hit the water!

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