JOLIET – The Taste of Joliet experienced record crowds on Friday night and Saturday last week, thanks to near-perfect weather and solid musical lineups.
“I think it was the most successful Taste we’ve had in the nine years since it started,” said Dominic Egizio, executive director of the Joliet Park District.
Egizio estimated 15,000 to 20,000 fans turned out June 27 to see rock legend Sammy Hagar.
Saturday’s crowds were even larger, with 20,000 to 25,000 country fans pouring into Joliet Memorial Stadium to see Thompson Square, Brett Eldredge and two other bands.
Sunday’s concert, which was headlined by American English, brought in another 5,000 people.
“We did almost 50,000 for the weekend, which is unbelievable,” Egizio said.
The Taste’s previous single-day attendance record was for country star Hunter Hayes, who drew 18,000 fans in 2013.
Egizio said he was shocked by the huge turnout Saturday.
“I’m not a country fan personally,” Egizio said. “I liked Sammy Hagar but I really enjoyed Thompson Square.”
The weekend went off almost without a hitch.
“There were virtually no problems,” he said. “We had a couple people on Saturday who got sick from the heat, but that was about it.”
Temperatures in the mid-80s and high humidity on Saturday convinced the park district to hand out bottled water to country fans who came early to claim spots in the reserved area.
“There were a bunch of girls that got here right when we opened the gates at noon,” Egizio said. “Younger girls, mostly 14- and 15-year-olds, with no water. So we gave them water. It was better to be safe than sorry.”
Egizio said the food vendors appeared to have a good response as well, with at least a couple selling out.
“I was starving on Friday night and told my daughter to get me something to eat,” Egizio said. “She came back with deep-fried Oreos.”
Egizio noted that hard work by volunteers, along with the park district staff and board, was the key reason for event’s success.
“We really have something special with the team we have here,” he said. “Some were here until 2 a.m. and then back at 6 a.m. the next day.”