Summer technically begins next month, but nobody in Glen Ellyn is counting down the days.
For as long as most folks can remember, the Taste of Glen Ellyn has marked the start of the season, even if the calendar says otherwise and even if the weather says it's too soon to enjoy a corn dog or, for that matter, any food on a stick outdoors.
If you goWhat: 41st annual Taste of Glen Ellyn
When: Four-day run from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday; 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday; noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Main Street parking lot between Hillside Avenue and Duane Street in downtown Glen Ellyn
Cost: Free admission
Those unfamiliar with the long-running tradition that returns Thursday will ask Taste organizers why their event falls so early in the festival circuit. But it's really a brilliant scheduling move to stage the Taste between Mother's Day and Memorial Day weekend because students are still in school and families haven't left for vacations.
"We just want to get people while they're in town and while they're here," says Dawn Smith, the executive director of the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce.
The group organizes the Taste as a community-building summer -- yes, summer -- staple that has carried on for more than four decades and typically draws 19,000 to 25,000 people over its four-day run.
Organizers say they aren't looking to reinvent the classics, but they have made some key changes.
Smith has worked with NTD management -- the first time the chamber has used consultants for the Taste during her tenure -- to help recruit and promote main-stage entertainment that leans heavily on classic rock cover bands. New to the Taste are the five members of the Johnny Russler and The Beach Bum Band, a rock and reggae group influenced by Jimmy Buffett.
A carnival run by a committee of volunteers independent of the chamber opened Wednesday night and runs through Sunday at the Crescent Boulevard parking lot at Glenwood Avenue. The Village Fair Committee donates proceeds from the carnival to various Glen Ellyn non profits group annually.
Back this year is the B.R. Ryall YMCA 5K run that will step off at Main Street and Hillside Avenue at 8 a.m. Saturday. Registration costs $35 in advance of the race and $40 the day of when on-site registration starts 7 a.m. Race fees cost $25 for kids, ages 6 to 11, who can take on the Super Kids 1 Mile Run at 8:45 a.m. and $15 for a shorter Fun Run geared toward younger kiddos. Those participants will receive a cape, but extras can be purchased while supplies last for $10. Proceeds will benefit the B.R. Ryall YMCA Scholarship Fund.
The Taste also will feature the reliable favorites: food vendors highlighting local restaurants, a business expo and a weekend craft fair.
"A lot of local businesses are trying to showcase to the community who they are and what they do," Smith says.
A tent set up near the community stage this weekend will play host to a growing community painting project sponsored by Bottle & Bottega of Glen Ellyn.
From noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, students can develop some civic pride by painting a dozen village flower pots dedicated to every public and parochial school in Glen Ellyn.
Public works crews will place the painted pots throughout the central business district, likely in June, and then the chamber will promote the pots on its Facebook page. The art teacher of the school represented in the pot that garners the most "likes" will receive $100 for classroom art supplies.
As part of a kindness campaign called #GlenEllynRocks, kids or anyone else can paint rocks with empowering messages inside the tent this weekend. Their creations will become the treasures for an ongoing scavenger hunt that encourages discoverers to re-hide the rocks in public places around town.