The annual Taste of Chicago food festival and the Air and Water Show had the plug pulled on them in 2020 because of the pandemic. Now there's a big problem on the horizon for these two summertime favorites.

The problem is that it takes around $9 million to make those two events happen, and Chicago's Special Events Commissioner Mark Kelly told aldermen during a budget hearing the two events haven’t been canceled, but the approximately $9 million it takes to run them isn’t in his department’s spending plan.

The funding, or lack thereof, is tied in with the downturn in tourism in Chicago due to the pandemic. Mark Kelly went on to point out that the special events budget is funded through hotel taxes and other tourist-driven sources. With the pandemic stomping all over visitor numbers, only a little more than half the $40 million the department was counting on for 2020 has come in.

I'll admit to being somewhat confused. WGN news says that those two events, which take around $9 million to make happen, generate nearly $100 million for Chicago's economy. I know that Chicago's hurting for money, but a $9 million investment that brings in $100 million seems like something you'd move heaven and earth to do.

WGN-TV News:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said it is too early to say if the events will be canceled.

“It’s way too premature for us to be able to speculate about what may or may not happen next year. But it’s not like DCASE (Department of Cultural Affairs And Special Events) is sitting on a stack of money and then hoarding it in the hope that better times come,” Lightfoot said.

Not everything is on the chopping block, though. Special Events spokesman Jamey Lundblad says the city plans to go ahead with house and gospel music, blues and jazz festivals next year.


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