I guess it’s safe to say that 2016 has definitely been my year of summer “festivaling”. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to add another summer festival to my resume: The Chicago Hot Dog Fest. Located in historic Lincoln Park, the event took place over three days and featured some of Chicago’s top hot dog vendors, live entertainment, face painting, and games. Proceeds benefit the Chicago History Museum and this year marked the fourth year of the festival’s existence.
But here’s an interesting plot twist. I hadn’t eaten a hot dog in almost 30 years. As a native Chicagoan, that’s considered pure blasphemy. Hot dogs are a staple in my city. But, once my eighth grade teacher Mr. Patrick (may he rest in peace) decided to share how hot dogs were processed, I lost my desire to ever eat one again. But fast forward 30 years later, attending the fest motivated me to give into peer pressure. I mean, how can I blog about this event and not even try the main product? So, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried a hot dog for the first time in 30 years.
After posting the photo and caption above on my Facebook page, it didn’t take long for the food Nazis to express their disgust and disappointment. And I totally get it. I can understand the naysayers. In a failed attempt to go completely vegan, I gave up pork and red meat a few years ago. But when I travel abroad or have a new restaurant experience, I try to remove those limits. We tend to play it safe in life, especially when we travel. We will venture thousands of miles, across several time zones and even cross the international date line, just to eat the same routine foods we eat every day when we’re at home. Life is short and I don’t believe in wasting experiences anymore.
So the take away is this: whether you’re at home or abroad, it doesn’t hurt to step outside of your comfort zone. It won’t kill you to try something new or unfamiliar. I’m living proof. I ate a hot dog for the first time in 30 years…and LIVED to write about it. And BTW, that hot dog was AMAZING…but it will probably be another 30 years before I experience another one.
So, I ended this year’s 4th of July celebration doing something that I’ve never done before: I attended the 2016 Naperville Ribfest. The festival is typically a four day event and ran from Friday, July 1st to Monday, July 4th. It’s hosted by the Exchange Club of Naperville to raise funds to help fight child abuse, domestic violence and to strengthen families in local communities.
The festival has a north and south entrance featuring vendors, raffles, and carnival rides/games, that meet up with “Ribbers Row” (the 12 national rib vendors that make up Ribfest). There are also two stages set up for live entertainment. This year’s line up featured Sheryl Crow, Matchbox 20, and several blues, country, and rock artists. And are you a vegan or vegetarian? Or are you just trying to watch your waistline? Well no worries, because Ribfest offers many alternatives to accommodate the most health conscious palate. I don’t eat pork but had no issue feasting on a chicken sandwich, onion blossom, and funnel cake (pictured below).
General admission for Ribfest is $20 for adults. It’s a great event for families, couples, groups, or even if you want to roll solo. There is something for everyone. And as a finale, Ribfest puts on a huge fireworks show, usually hosted by one of their big sponsors. Check it out next year!
This weekend, I had the opportunity to cross the Taste of Randolph off my summer festival bucket list. Yep…ANOTHER EVENT I have yet to attend all of my many years as a Chicagoan SMH. Nestled along the 900 west block of Randolph between Racine and Peoria, The Taste of Randolph is like the appetizer to Chicago’s summer main course, the Taste of Chicago. Historically, it runs the third week of June and started Friday, June 17th at 5pm Sunday and ended June 19th at 10pm. The Taste of Randolph is hosted by the West Loop Community Organization, an a non-profit 501(c)3 agency that continuously works to ensure positive progress for the neighborhood, while offering social events and beneficial developments to improve the quality of life in the West Loop.
The entry fee is a reasonable $10 donation (all proceeds benefit the West Loop Community Organization) and grants attendees access to top local cuisine, art vendors, and live music. This year, the festival partnered with Chicago based independent promoters, Silver Wrapper to bring three eclectic stages featuring raw talent including Chicago’s brightest young musical acts extending from indie rock to dance music. If you’re a foodie, music lover, or artisan, this event is for you. There’s something for everyone to enjoy. As for me, I heavily enjoyed the red sangria, chicken kabobs, and house music!
And if you missed it this year, there’s always next year. Until then, you still have the Taste of Chicago to look forward to which runs from July 6th through July 10th at Grant Park (admission FREE). Stayed tuned for my next review and come “summer” me with as I become a “Tourist In My Town”.