Some of the Taste of Orland Park patrons line up before the gates open in 2020. Last year, the event drew 5,000 and organizers are hoping for 40,000 in 2021. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Some of the Taste of Orland Park patrons line up before the gates open in 2020. Last year, the event drew 5,000 and organizers are hoping for 40,000 in 2021. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Taste organizers are hoping for a crowd of 40,000 this year

By Jeff Vorva

Taste of Orland Park was one of the few summer events to actually take place in the Chicago area in 2020 during the pandemic and the village’s director of recreation and parks, Ray Piattoni, estimated 5,000 people showed up over three days.

That was far below the usual 30,000-40,000 the fest had drawn in previous years.

Piattoni is crossing his fingers that the event will draw pre-pandemic numbers when the 18th Taste opens at 5 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday on the Village Green, 14700 S. Ravinia Ave.

During Monday’s village board meeting, Mayor Keith Pekau was fired up to see big crowds return to Chicago events and hopes for a jump in attendance at this year’s Taste of Orland Park.

“You saw everything that’s happening in Chicago,” he said. “You saw Lollapalooza. You saw 36,000 people at Guaranteed Rate Field [home of the Chicago White Sox]. I was there. No one was wearing masks and people were carrying on with their lives. We need to have people get back to their normal lives.

“Please come out and enjoy the fun. We can get through this with no issues so come out and enjoy this year.”

The number of restaurants will be down again this year because many eateries are having problems with the scant number of employees available. Restaurants are having a hard time staffing their own place and sending others to the Taste.

As of Monday, the village listed Beggar’s Pizza, Brass Tap, Chuy’s, Little Milano’s Wood Fired Pizza, Mo’s Chinese Kitchen, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Papa Joe’s Italian Restaurant, Pueblito, Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, Square Celt Ale House and Grill and Stan’s Donuts and Coffee as participating restaurants.

Entertainment on the main stage will be Rock Star Rodeo and Sixteen Candles on Friday, Linsey Alexander the Blooze Brothers and 7th Heaven on Saturday and Rhythm Rockets, ARRA and American English on Sunday.

Pekau said this is a big event for his staff.

“It’s an event staff members bust their humps for,” Pekau said. “It’s a very challenging and fun event. The entire staff works on it, it’s not just recreation and parks. A lot of it is parks and rec but it’s also public works, it’s the police…it’s everybody. All hands are on deck.”

And the action will continue the following week at Centennial Park West at a concert featuring Blue Oyster Cult, Mark Farner’s American Band and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

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