Every year since 1993, people flock to Addison Park, tickets in hand. You can hear the commotion a block away, coming from crowds of people sampling “Taste Bites,” small $3 portions of food, and from live performances on the main stage. Some years, the park is so full, there’s barely room for people between restaurant stalls and stages. Addison boasts more restaurants per capita than any other city in the country, so it’s no surprise that Taste Addison has been the city’s favorite music and food festival for almost 30 years.
2020 was meant to be a big year for Taste Addison. The Taste Addison team had new concepts they wanted to introduce, and planned for more musical performers. At the height of the pandemic, Addison cancelled the 2020 event, and started planning for how they could return in 2021. Addison’s Director of Special Events, Jasmine Lee, said they’re thrilled to return in June.
“Just coming back this year feels novel,” she said.
Returning with new safety standards and new life, Taste Addison 2021 will have two stages with headliners Flo Rida and Third Eye Blind, dozens of restaurants serving food, local musicians, activities for kids, tastings, and plenty to enjoy.
“We started working on this event in August,” Lee said. “Back then, vaccines weren’t necessarily on the table. So we worked far out to try to make an event that could happen despite COVID-19. Now with vaccines rolling out, we’re that much more confident because we were prepared to do it regardless.”
In order to make the festival happen, Addison’s events team worked with venues and planners from around the world. It’s a very collaborative industry, Lee said, and everyone has had the same goal: bring back festivals and events safely. A lot of their ideas came from DisneyWorld, and venues like the Dallas Zoo.
Taste Addison’s team completely measured and redesigned the layout of the event. “We had to know how many we can fit in any space at any given time, and how far apart to put vendor booths and lines to make sure it’s safe.” The entire layout was designed with social distancing and sanitation in mind.
For example, she describes several different viewing areas for the two main stages, this year, rather than just one. They will set up large screens around the park, so that people can see Flo Rida and Third Eye Blind from almost anywhere, trading in the mosh pit for a distant table where they can enjoy food in peace.
“We wanted more ways for people to come and enjoy it, as many people as we can host safely,” Lee said.
Taste of Addison 2021 might have big name headliners, but she says the soul of the food and music festival is still food. “We can make the music great, but we depend on restaurants to make the food great.”
At first, their team wasn’t sure Addison restaurants were ready to return, after the year they’ve had. But Lee pointed out that more restaurants will participate this year than did in 2019.
“We have one of the most diverse food lineups than we’ve had in years: Mediterrean, Chinese, Cuban, Italian, Chicago pizza, barbecue. You’ll find food from all around at Taste Addison,” she said. “It’s a great chance for them to showcase themselves and experiment, which helps the restaurants build clientele.”
Additionally, there will be a marketplace where local vendors can sell everything from décor and jewelry to specialty food items. The Adventure Groce, which has been completely redesigned for safety, will feature games and attractions for kids, including a petting zoo.
Except when seated, Taste Addison guests must wear face coverings, and they will place hand sanitizer stations throughout the festival grounds. Multiple spaces throughout the park will feature distanced tables to allow for safe dining.
Many of these measures, Lee added, should be familiar to people after a year of social distancing.
“We’re so happy to be bringing back this legendary lineup of food, music and fun for 2021,” she said. “Next year, we already know what we’re going to do. We want more music, and more interactive components. I’m looking forward to letting it evolve.”
Taste Addison 2021
- Friday, June 4, 6 to 12 a.m.
- Saturday, June 5, 2 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Where: Addison Circle Park | 4970 Addison Cir., Addison
Tickets: Tickets go on sale May 3. $15 ages 13+, $5 ages 6-12, free ages 5 and under.