WHEATON – Despite an increased availability of alcohol at the Taste of Wheaton this year, the crowds were still on their best behavior, officials said.
Wheaton's City Council passed a pair of measures earlier in 2014 allowing the Taste to go on for four days and for attendees to have alcohol anywhere in Memorial Park during that time, whereas previously it had been contained to a specific section of the festival grounds. While that combination could have meant extra time and incentive for patrons to imbibe – with accompanying poor decisions – that was apparently not the case.
"I think it was really positive," said Kerry O'Brien, executive director of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event with the Wheaton Park District. "People were allowed to spread out more, there wasn't that crush of people at the beer table or at the ticket line. Everything was actually a lot calmer, I think, because we had more space."
In previous years, O'Brien said, the area for serving and consuming alcohol was packed and attendees were relegated to one place until they finished their drink. The change allowed them to enjoy the experience, she said.
Wheaton Police Chief Mark Field confirmed Tuesday that there was not a noticeable uptick in crime or disorderly behavior in the city during the festival, held June 5 to 8.
Before the event, Wheaton Mayor Mike Gresk told Suburban Life that the city's approach to liquor had been "gradual and measured" and influenced by previous responsible handling of alcohol during the festival.
O'Brien said that, while the park district and chamber had not had an official wrap-up meeting yet, initial thoughts were positive.
"The overall impression from being there the whole time was just that everything was very smooth and calm and upbeat," she said. "And I have to say it was because people had more room and more choices. We were listening to what people said they wanted more of, and we will try to do more of that next year."