Taste of Chicago reopens Sunday after rainfall and flooding

Taste of Chicago was shut down for the day Saturday because of heavy rain and flooded grounds at Grant Park — the first time the festival, a summer staple since 1980, has been canceled for an entire day. The festival reopened at 10 a.m. Sunday.

“This was not a decision that was made lightly,” said Michelle Boone, commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as she stood near large puddles of standing water. “We love presenting the Taste of Chicago annually, but we cannot do that at the expense of any safety for visitors or residents.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management made the announcement around noon that the festival would be closed because of “excessive rainfall and flooding on the festival grounds.”

It was the first time the festival hasn’t even opened for a day. Once before, in 1992, Taste opened for the day but then was shut down for the rest of the day because of “a sudden rain burst,” Boone said.

More than three inches of rain was measured Saturday afternoon at Midway Airport, according the National Weather Service. O’Hare Airport saw less than a inch.

Other concerns for city officials involving Taste included more bad weather forecast for later Saturday, wet electrical wiring and high winds that threatened to damage the tents and other temporary structures used at the fest, Chicago Fire Cmsr. Jose Santiago said.

Boone said she had no information about how much money shutting down Taste for a day would cost the city.

“Revenue is not the top concern,” Boone said. “It’s the safety of residents. And so we’re not making this decision lightly. But, first and foremost, it was one of safety. And we’ll deal with revenue issues later.”

A concert featuring Lucinda Williams and Jeff Tweedy that was scheduled for late Saturday afternoon was cancelled.

Tickets for the concert and for the “Chef du Jour” event that were purchased online will be refunded automatically, organizers said.

Taste is to reopen Sunday morning — the final day of the five-day event.

Despite the one-day shutdown, many who hadn’t heard the news still came out and were turned away at the gates Saturday afternoon.

“Open the freaking gates! Let us in!” said Iris McCormick, 52, of Oak Park, who showed up with her cousin Linda Martinez, 55. “We wait all year for this!”

Dawn Mackessy, 35, of Garfield Ridge, came with her family and was disappointed but said: “It’s Chicago. We’ll find something else to do.”

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