Smile Politely

A quick conversation about Taste of C-U 2014

Yesterday I gave my take on this weekend’s Taste of C-U event. I also chatted with some folks at the Champaign Park District—the event organizers—about the 44th annual food festival.

SP: Taste of C-U has a slightly different look this year. The logo is different, and the dates are different. Why change things up? What was the motivation for moving the event and reinventing the logo?

Champaign Park District: Taste of Champaign-Urbana has been going on for over 40 years, but so much is new that we wanted the look and feel of the festival to represent that. We’re in year two of beer sales, and this year we’re featuring exclusively locally-made craft brews. We have bigger bands like Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and new fun activities for children like pony rides and zucchini races. The dates were changed to encourage Mother Nature’s cooperation and allow the incoming trickle of students to join us for a “Taste” of what C-U has to offer!

SP: Tell me a little about the beer. There are some great local breweries participating. What led to changing the beer selection from last year, and how did you get them on board?

Champaign Park District: We’re in year two of beer sales. Last year we received really positive response from the public, so we decided to step it up a notch and support local breweries by focusing on craft beer! We have 4 local breweries ready to go. They are offering a wide variety of flavors and there will certainly be something for every beer-drinker. One thing we really love about having these breweries involved is that it focuses on locally-made goods and the quality is through the roof.

Destihl Brewery will offer “taste” (smaller) portions of some beers for 1 ticket (4 tickets = $5), or you can snag a 12 oz of their Strawberry Blonde (which uses real strawberries in the brew process!) or an Abbey’s Single for 5 tickets. They’ll also have their “Double” IPA 12 oz Hoperation brew for 7 Taste tickets.

Triptych Brewing, out of Savoy, is offering Helles (a German Lager), or Rye Pale Ale (an American Pale Ale with spicy citrus/pine notes) for 4 Taste tickets each.
The Blind Pig Brewery is featuring a Golden Ale, an IPA, or a Red Ale in 12oz servings for 4 tickets each.

JT Walker’s brewery will bring their flagship beer, Hale to the Chief IPA (an “Orange & Blue Belgian-Style Wit” that is a summery wheat beer with citrus and blueberry touches—get it? Orange and blue?), and also their Bulldog Brown Ale that has hints of caramel & chocolate. Both are in 12 oz portions for 5 tickets each.

SP: How many food and drink vendors applied? How and why did the Park District select the ones it did? 

Champaign Park District: We get a nice response from the restaurant community but we can always make room for more! Our goal is to provide a space for every interested restaurant at Taste, so we only jury when we have a large number of vendors who want to sell the same item.  We do not jury whole vendors out of the festival. This year staff got to jury both pizza and macaroni and cheese – yum!  We make selections based on variety and what we think will interest the public the most that particular year. Above all, we work with our food vendors to be sure they have a great experience—and as always we’d like to encourage as many local restaurants as possible to participate and be part of this great event!

SP: Is there anything else you’d like to share with SP readers?

Champaign Park District: This festival is an awesome way to try new foods from local restaurants. Nervous to try squid? Get a taste at Taste! Keep missing your favorite food truck? We have 6 on site! Always wanted to race a zucchini?  We’ll make that happen.  Of course, that’s not to mention our amazing musical lineup and talented collection of local artists! New this year we’re also giving the public a chance to vote for their favorite vendors in a “Best of Taste” contest! Look for signs at each vendor booth to vote for categories like Best Food Truck, Best Food Vendor, Best Brewery, and Best Artist Vendor. All you have to do is text their keyword to vote!

Here’s what you need to know:
What: Taste of C-U
When: Friday, August 15th, 5-11 p.m. and Saturday, August 16th, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Where: West Side Park, Champaign. (Just west of downtown, between State & Elm, Church & University.) Parking is available downtown and in the Hill Street parking lot (enter from Randolph).

Tickets are sold in sheets of 4 for $5 and are NON-refundable. Tickets are necessary for food, beer, and entertainment.

Photos from Facebook and from last year’s event, so food prices may not be accurate for this year. 

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