For three days every spring, Addison Circle Park is covered with tables and food stands, and on average 15,000 – 25,000 people show up. They come for music and culinary demonstrations, single serve Ahi tuna tacos and piled high pad Thai. The air smells like brisket, crawfish, and funnel cake. Last year, All American Rejects played.
The margaritas served inside pineapples are a pretty big draw too.
But this year, Addison’s biggest food festival has been canceled due to COVID-19.
For a while, it looked like the festival, originally scheduled May 29-31, might go on. Addison had considered alternate dates, but last week announced that they were canceling due to the uncertainty surrounding restrictions on large-scale gatherings.
“This is the first time Addison has had to cancel an entire festival,” says Jasmine Lee, Addison’s Director of Special Events. “However, the safety of our guests and everyone involved is our top priority.”
Addison is a restaurant capital in North Texas, home to more than 180 restaurants in less than 5 square miles, and Taste of Addison, which started in 1993, is a celebration of them all. Though the stands offer meal-size portions of their most iconic dishes, that’s not why people go. Every stand offers a taste, a small dish that’s $3 or cheaper so that guests can eat as much as possible. It’s the soul of the festival, a tour through Addison’s food scene. Guests can try everything: Chamberlain’s pork belly bao buns, Blue Mesa’s elotes on a stick, a deep-fried avocado from Los Lupes.
Lee says that for local restaurants the biggest loss will be the publicity they get by attending the festival every year. As for the city, the festival may not generate direct revenue, but it does drive business for the tourism industry. It’s a loss that is being felt worldwide.
“This is most definitely not a typical year,” she says. “We are all waiting and watching to see what the future holds. Until then, we know that we need to take the necessary precautions and follow CDC guidelines.”
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Taste of Addison officials are currently working toward an agreement with the booked national musical acts such as headliners Flo Rida and Third Eye Blind to reschedule performances for next year’s event, according to the Special Events Department.
There is no word yet on who has agreed.
Local restaurants were already having a rough since the COVID-19 began in March. They’ve had to get exceedingly creative to survive, relying on quarantine kits and temporary permission to sell liquor to-go, and make up for two months of lost dining service. Presently, many are reopened at 25 percent, while others are waiting for permission to open to 50 percent.
Losing one of the biggest restaurant celebrations, one that would have gotten people out and about again, is just another disappointment on a pile of other, greater disappointments.
All ticket holders were automatically refunded their money, though not all are appeased. “I live in Texas!! I haven’t missed a day of work and continue to live my life,” one local wrote on a Facebook about the cancellation. “I’m not a sheep. I’m not scared.”
“Any word about Kaboomtown yet?” another asked.
Kaboom Town is one of Addison’s major events, a nationally recognized fireworks show that can draw crowds of 400,000, and for many people in the area, it’s synonymous with July 4.
Visit Addison claimed that they haven’t yet made a decision about Kaboom Town. They plan to have one made by the end of the month.
Lee indicates that Taste Addison, as an annual festival, will survive. Its vendors and attendees are loyal, and she believes they will return. On the weekend of June 4, 2021, Lee is hopeful that as many restaurants as can will fit in the park, and the air will smell like funnel cakes, crawfish, and brisket again.
“The 2021 festival promises to be filled with great food, music and fun as in past years,” she says.