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Jaycees president prepares for Taste of Lombard

LOMBARD – Jackie West was never someone who got heavily involved in community groups. That was until four years ago when she learned that the Village of Lombard had plans to cancel its annual Taste of Lombard event.

With deep family roots in the community, a birthday on July 3 and a house that was purchased because of its proximity to the fest grounds, the Taste of Lombard was an important event to West – and she was determined to help save it.

"When I saw that the village canceled it, I got really upset," she said. "This is something so important to me that if I didn't do anything, I'd only have myself to blame."

She began working with the Lombard Jaycees, the producers of the Taste, and other residents. Together, they were able to restore the annual, summertime tradition and in the process, West became invested in the Lombard Jaycees.

Today, the 41-year-old Lombard resident is serving her second year as president of the service and leadership organization. To be a Jaycee, a person must be between the ages of 18 and 41, so next year, West will become an associate in the organization. She'll still be involved, just without voting rights, and will serve as chairwoman of the Taste of Lombard.

The Taste of Lombard runs July 2 to 6 in Madison Meadow Park.

During recent years, the Taste has undergone some significant changes, West said. The money used to finance the festival is covered by admission fees. It goes to pay vendors, entertainment groups, equipment and more.

Money also is given to the volunteer organizations aside from the Jaycees who help run the event. For many of these groups, volunteering at the Taste of Lombard is their big fundraiser for the year, West said.

New this year, the Jaycees have eliminated the family tent, which West said was too close to the noisy, main stage and not a popular location. The Jaycees have added a second stage that will be located near the main stage and host additional entertainment acts.

The annual "Lombard Idol" singing competition has been replaced by "Just Sing," another music competition that will have guest judges from the community. Bands from Willowbrook and Glenbard East high schools will face off during a "Battle of the Bands" and major entertainment acts include country artist Keith Anderson and rock band Local H.

Another change visitors will notice this year is the presence of police checking bags at the entrance to the festival grounds. West said this was a decision made by the Lombard Police Department after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

The priority is safety and it's a sign of the times, she said.

With the Taste of Lombard a mere two weeks away, West, the Jaycees and other volunteers are completing last-minute preparations. Despite the time that goes into organizing, building, running and dismantling the fest every year, West said she's looking forward to enjoying her favorite Lombard activity.

"Every year I say I need to take time and enjoy it, but I get too stressed out," she said. "I'm looking forward to taking a second off this year and enjoying it."

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