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Summer starts with bitter taste

OPINION

(Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago…)
July 05, 2012|By Anthony Roberts, For RedEye

We count down for months, braving ridiculous winters, not-that-much-better autumns and only-slightly-better springs, all in anticipation of those three months when all is right with the world.

Summer in Chicago. It rejuvenates us, sparks new romances and gives us all an opportunity to take pride in our beautiful city. And while we have warm-weather institutions such as the Bud Billiken Parade, the endless list of neighborhood street festivals and more, nothing says summertime Chi quite like the Taste of Chicago.

Usually, the Taste would be hitting its stride right about now. But not this year. The annual food frenzy was reduced from 10 days down to five, from July 11-15, and it doesn't feel right.

I mean, no Fourth of July fireworks?! I don't know about you guys, but I can remember watching the fireworks with friends and feeling like I was floating on air, just glad to be a part of a Chicago summer. That sentiment isn't quite as strong this year.

And if a shorter, fireworks-free Taste isn't disappointing enough, there is this bombshell: One of the event's main attractions, the beloved giant turkey legs, won't be on the 2012 menu because the guy who sells them is on the injured list.

Are you kidding me? For years, people from across the city, the country and even the world have flooded Grant Park in July, putting aside their Sox and Cubs allegiances, political views and other irrelevant differences to bond over eating turkey legs that are bigger than their heads. Now? Gone.

Sure, we'll still have old culinary favorites such as Eli's Cheesecake and Lou Malnati's to remind us what the Taste should be, but with all the changes, it just feels off.

Don't get me wrong: There's still plenty of things to do, places to go and hot weather to soak up, but summer in Chicago just doesn't feel the same with these changes to the Taste.

Who knows. Maybe I'm just getting older and, thus, more sensitive to change. We always want the times, places and feelings we felt as kids to be around forever. They represent home, they represent fun, and they represent that at least a few things around us are staying the same. When those things change too, it makes us reminisce a little more and hold on to things we once cherished a little tighter.

Maybe a shorter version of the Taste of Chicago will be a good thing. It could encourage procrastinators to get up, get out and get eating a little earlier this year, thus making it an even better experience.

But for me, what I do know is that this summer in our great city will feel just a little different. Well, there's always the Bud Billiken Parade.

ANTHONY ROBERTS IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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