Tuesday, November 2, 2010


It's official, Taste of Minnesota is dead.

The food festival that has been a Fourth of July tradition for nearly three decades has been pronounced dead by its ownership. This is the fifth time I have written about the festival. You can backtrack through my writings by following this link to the previous chapter.

When I first wrote about the new-look festival I had no idea that the geniuses running it were on the fast track to kill it. But now the obit has been written. The ownership group has unpaid bills from the 2010 festival, has lost its right to use St. Paul's Harriet Island in 2011 and has announced it will not be able to sustain the festival or pay off its debt. People are disappointed and/or angry. As I noted before, I haven't been to the festival in many years. If it does go away, I couldn't care less. But the attempt by the ownership group to repurpose the festival has been interesting to watch.

When I read an obit story on the Star Tribune's website, I read a few of the comments readers made in response. I try not to read the comments, because reader comments are generally petty and/or ridiculous. But sometimes the temptation is too great.

One person suggested the reason that the festival changed into a music showcase with expensive food, and an admission charge, is that the festival was failing to break even under its previous ownership, and the new ownership group that took over prior to the 2009 festival was saving the festival from bankruptcy.

Perhaps so, but I have yet to read anything suggesting that to be true. If the ownership group was trying to save the festival, it would have been in its best interest to say so at some point. But I never heard an explanation of why the festival needed to change its emphasis, and charge a gate admission in doing so.

I'm skeptical the festival was in danger of financial ruin. I'm inclined to believe the festival owners saw an investment opportunity and tried to convert a marginally successful festival into something more profitable, but failed.

Whatever be the case, the festival is dead. St. Paul had already revoked the festival's claim to Harriet Island for next year's Fourth of July holiday, so perhaps the writing was on the wall.

But I am expecting some enterprising group to create a new, eerily similar festival at Harriet Island next summer. St. Paul is entertaining proposals for use of its riverside park, and it sounds as if there's interest.

So the festival is dead, but from its ashes we may see a new festival in 2011.

I'd say it's too bad that the baby had to be thrown out with the bath water, but perhaps in doing so Minnesota will end up with an event that will peak my interest enough to show up. Stranger things have happened.

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