Annual festival a success despite rainy weather
By Dave Sennerud | For The Bugle-Sentinel
Steady showers kept large crowds at bay Friday evening, when music headliner Cheap Trick took the stage for the traditionally strong opening night of the Taste of Joliet.
However, a clear day and moderate temperatures made for near-record crowds Saturday. And despite more more dark clouds Sunday, the rain held off for the band Plain White T’s closing performance.
“Mother Nature is in charge of everything,” joked Art Schultz Jr., vice president of the board of commissioners for the Joliet Park District, which sponsored the event. “We just plan for the best and hope people turn out.
Schultz said the festival had a bad day Friday, but crowds packed in Saturday for bands Parmalee and Big & Rich.
The area received about a half inch of rain Friday, according to National Weather Service totals. Despite Sunday’s threatening clouds, rain was negligible.
“Friday is usually a bigger day and brings the 40- to 50-year old crowd, who like to eat and drink,” Schultz said. “But unfortunately, people stayed away.”
Sean Mahoney, general manager of McBride’s on Route 52, manned the restaurant’s booth for all three days of the festival. He said his nearby restaurant saw more traffic Friday night, as people sought shelter from the storms.
“Friday was a big bust here with all the rain, but Saturday it picked up,” he said. “The hard-core Cheap Trick fans still came out to hear ‘Surrender,’ but I think a lot of people that would have came out on Friday came out on Saturday instead.”
At the Buffalo Wild Wings tent, Shorewood general manager Eric Perez said his booth would still see increased sales this year despite the weather. By the end of the festival, he calculated that the restaurant would sell more than 10,000 wings.
“Friday was down some, but we had a nice steady flow [of customers],” Perez said, adding that business picked up tremendously on Saturday. “I looked at the photos on the Taste of Joliet website last night and saw the aerial view — it was wall-to-wall.”
Both Mahoney and Perez said their staffs enjoyed working the fest.
“We’re a mom-and-pop restaurant, so we have a good time,” Mahoney said. “We’ve seen a lot of good people and a lot of good locals out with their kids.”
Perez said the event gave his employees the chance to get out into the community.
“They work extremely hard and ask me when the next fest is, but we only do this one,” he said. “They get to listen to good music and see people that come to our restaurant in a different setting.”
Although the weather is unpredictable, Schultz said the Taste is ultimately about providing a fun weekend for the community.
“This event is great for people to connect, to get out and see people they haven’t seen in a while,” he said.