First Taste of Chicago food festival

In 1980 a group of restaurateurs approached the Mayor of Chicago with the idea of a food festival on the Fourth of July, and Taste of Chicago was born.

Inspired by a “build it and they will come” attitude, a $150,000 budget, and confidence the event could attract 75,000 people, plans for the one-day food frenzy got under way. The festival was held in a three-block area of Michigan Avenue bordered by the Chicago River and the upscale stores and buildings that were then beginning to grace the Magnificent Mile; and between the architectural wonders of the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower.

It was a huge success, (250,000 attended the first “Taste,” and food and soda sales grossed $330,000) destined to change the way Chicago celebrates the Fourth of July.

The first Taste of Chicago was held in the summer of 1980, the idea of then-mayor Jane Byrne and Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg. At its inception, it was a one-day event held on the Fourth of July, along downtown Chicago's North Michigan Avenue (also known as the Magnificent Mile). The next year, The Taste of Chicago was moved to Grant Park and was greatly expanded in size and scope, growing to a 10-day event with more food vendors, as well as musical performances.

My name is Mark Schulman and I am the president of the Eli's Cheesecake Company. We're located on the Northwest Side of the city of Chicago at 6701 West Forest Preserve Drive, just west of Wright College and about five minutes east of O'Hare. Our business was started by my father, Eli Schulman, as the signature dessert for our Chicago restaurant, Eli's, a Place for Steak. Our cheesecake made its public debut at the first Taste of Chicago on July 4, 1980, 25 years ago.