New management is taking the St. Paul festival back to its roots.
Though that nip in the air means sweater weather now, it will be just a few months before winter-weary Minnesotans start thinking T-shirts and sandals. And when that time comes, many can look forward to the return of a well-known summer festival.
Taste of Minnesota, the popular celebration of local food, will be back after a three-year hiatus. Last week, a group of metro-area investors called 10K Lakes Inc. said that Taste will be held July 3-6 on St. Paul’s Harriet Island. Making the announcement was Linda Maddox, widow of cofounder Ron Maddox and former manager of Taste, who will run the festival again in 2014.
The first Taste celebration was held on the State Capitol grounds in 1983. Ron Maddox and Dick Broeker founded it as a free summer festival featuring foods from local restaurants, entertainment and fireworks over the July 4th holiday. It was modeled after a Chicago food and music festival to provide an attraction for families who didn’t have a cabin to go to for the holiday. Most years, the three-day Minnesota event attracted more than 200,000 people.
The festival first was run by the Downtown Council, then by a private company and later by the Capital City Partnership. In 2009, it was purchased by International Event Management, with Maddox’s blessing. He died in 2010 of complications from a stroke.
International took the event in a different direction, promising upgraded food and music, and started charging admission fees of $10 to $30. That strategy bombed, and the company filed for bankruptcy in December 2010, owing $1.6 million to vendors and partners.
“One gift that Ron gave was a festival for the metro area that was free, so no one was excluded,” said Linda Maddox, who helped run the show from 1996 to 2008.
So the new management is wisely taking the event back to old roots, including hiring Maddox and the same team that ran the well-attended festivals for many years. Taste will again have free admission for at least part of the day, with a minimal charge at other times.
Minnesotans love their all-too-short summers, so there are no shortage of warm-weather neighborhood and regional festivals between May and September. Yet even with the competition, Taste of Minnesota was popular for more than 25 years.
It will be good to have it back in business as part of Minnesota’s summer food and entertainment lineup.
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