More than a million people endure the scorching July heat each summer to attend the Taste of Chicago, but this year those looking to escape the sun can pay $50 for a seat in the new air-conditioned Taste Oasis.
Festival coordinator Neal Heitz recognized the chaos of the crowds and the weather and said the oasis was the Taste's next step.
"Every festival has to evolve," Heitz said. "It's important to re-imagine some of these spaces and areas as time goes on."
The oasis will be located in Butler Field on East Jackson Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive. The festival, which kicks off Wednesday, July 11, is selling 250 admission tickets for the oasis each day, and Taste goers participating in the oasis experience will have access to a private bar. The bar will offer drinks exclusive to the oasis, including an old-fashioned and a greyhound.
The lounge will also have a DJ performing and a selection of "Taste Bites" for attendees to choose from prepared by Washburne Culinary Academy.
"The (Oasis's) target audience is anyone coming down to Taste of Chicago looking for a more calm or chill experience (or) somebody who is looking to have a place to be," Heitz said.
The 38th Taste of Chicago runs from July 11 to 15 in Grant Park and added 25 new vendors to the food lineup, a 56 percent increase in new additions from 2017. The world's largest free food festival includes 72 vendors in total and the returns of Buona Beef and Original Rainbow Cone. New vendors include Aunty Joy's Jamaican Kitchen and Garifuna Flava: A Taste of Belize.
Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen, located on the Buckingham Fountain Plaza, added themed days to its setup this year. The kitchen will hold cooking demonstrations by Chef Kevin Hickey of Duck Inn on July 11, and Joe Flamm of Spiaggia, "Top Chef" season 15 winner, on July 13. Chef Jeff Mauro, Food Network's "sandwich king," will host a sandwich smackdown on Sunday, July 15.
For attendees seeking more action, the Petrillo Music Shell will hold nightly concerts by Brandi Carlile, Juanes, George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic and others. Daily concerts will also be held at The Goose Island Stage. Taste of Chicago's counterpart Kids Eat Chicago, also in Grant Park added sensory-friendly hours to its schedule from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, July 15, for children with sensory sensitivity. The festival planned this with Autism Home Support Services.
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When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Wednesday, July 11, to Friday, July 13; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15
Where: Grant Park, between Jackson and Columbus Drive, Chicago
Price: Admission is free. Taste Oasis tickets can be purchased online at tasteofchicago.us for $50, and Petrillo Music Shell concert tickets can be purchased on the website for between $18 and $50.
Petrillo Music Shell schedule:
• Wednesday, July 11 -- Brandi Carlile and Martha Redbone
• Thursday, July 12 -- Juanes and La Santa Cecilia
• Friday, July 13 -- Black Star and Madame Gandhi
• Saturday, July 14 -- The Flaming Lips, Le Butcherettes and Half Gringa
• Sunday, July 15 -- George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, BJ the Chicago Kid and The Boy Illinois