Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Taste of Chicago Goes Virtual

Food festival leaders are determined to keep traditions alive

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NOTE: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will kick off the Taste of Chicago To-Go live at 9 a.m. Watch live in the player above.

Chicago's Grant Park may not be filled with dozens of tents housing chefs and restaurants for the start of the city's iconic Taste of Chicago Wednesday, but that doesn't mean the event isn't happening.

The virtual Taste of Chicago experience starts Wednesday with some major changes after years of feeding hungry visitors.

The new and reimagined “Taste of Chicago To-Go" features a slate of free programming including online cooking demonstrations, virtual music performances and dance events from Wednesday through Sunday.

This week, the kickoff will feature the Four Star Brass Band virtual performance, along with a food truck procession of neighborhood restaurants.

The virtual Taste of Chicago experience starts Wednesday with some major changes after years of feeding hungry visitors. Chris Hush reports.

The traditional Taste of Chicago was called off this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but food festival leaders continue to keep the traditions alive.

“Local restaurants make up the backbone of our neighborhoods and we’re finding creative ways to support both them and the communities they serve, while prioritizing health and safety,” Mark Kelly, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said.

Festival leaders made a Taste of Chicago To-Go Dining Guide, encouraging the public to order from 42 restaurants and food trucks that likely would have been at the in-person event.

The dining guide includes a variety of neighborhood eats such as Billy Goat Tavern, Tzuco, Smokey Zo's and many others.

The food truck procession will be held from downtown to a number of neighborhoods throughout the city.

Online cooking demonstrations will take place at noon each day and can be found on the city’s YouTube page. Chefs such as Carlos Gaytan, Maya-Camille Broussard and Jessica Romanowski are among those slated to participate.

Socially-distanced dance parties are also encouraged, with the city’s YouTube page hosting several events, including dance lessons from Bollywood Groove and music by DJ iLLEST.

In addition, a series of “Community Eats” events will take place, with restaurants and food trucks providing meals for frontline and healthcare workers and community organizations.

So far, the city said 21 meals have been organized for first responders, up from just nine last year.

For more information residents can visit the Taste of Chicago website.

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