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Thursday, July 11, 2013 03:52 pm

Tasting, tasting, one, two, three

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Paul Thorn headlines Taste of Downtown on Saturday.
PHOTO BY LEE HARRELSON

Many other glorious events fill our entertainment calendar this weekend, but none can compare to the shindig of the season, Taste of Downtown Springfield. Years in the making, the Taste combines three of humankind’s favorite activities, proven through centuries of on-hand research – eating, drinking and making music. So come on up to downtown and feel good about following in the footsteps of those who have munched and guzzled, danced and grooved through the ages before you.

I remember the early Taste of Downtown, back when it seemed like an incredible idea, a near impossibility to accomplish and a struggle to get people to participate. Taste, as well as a Farmers Market, were strange notions to Springfield. We often approach new ideas from a box of isolation, afraid they may not work and not troubling to look at other cities and see they have. Examples abound including changing the municipal government form (dragged kicking and screaming and paying), beautifying street spaces (an outside consulting company recommended the Capitol Street sprucing), building new roads with added bicycle lanes (standard practice in other cities) and even more things you can think of while wandering our streets.

My personal favorite story of this struggle to be vibrant, progressive and just plain enjoyable like other burgs, is this tale from the downtown crypt. Many years ago as the good mayor Ozzie Langfelder buzzed down Sixth Street, upon approaching Monroe, he gazed upon the sight of picnic tables on the sidewalk, outside of Jimmy’s Sub Shop. Mr. Langfelder, acting within his rights as mayor and his conscience as a citizen, demanded the tables be removed from Jimmy’s, a gallant and good, now defunct downtown eatery, where currently the Honorable Aaron Schock pays the rent and boldly advertises his name for all to see like a billboard on the building. I’m not sure how it all turned out, other than Jim Hopper, owner of Jimmy’s pointed out the irony of the city’s Department of Economic Opportunity housed directly above his establishment, but I do know that dining tables on sidewalks are commonplace and expected now, and nothing is different from then, except our perception and acceptance of the situation.

Yes, folks, there once was a time when a Farmers Market and Taste of Downtown, long established events in other cities, were giant steps in Springfield. Then again, in the days of yore, hogs and chickens ran loose in the mud-filled streets. So let’s be proud of our success and progress, while continuing to be okay with these valiant attempts to have fun and let our municipal hair down a bit. The next thing you know itinerant artists will be painting murals on downtown buildings, how about that!

This year the Taste features local music along with the local cuisine, with a range of area talent covering most of the entertainment time. Old Shoe closes out the Friday night show and Paul Thorn headlines on Saturday, giving the around town bands a chance to play on the big stage with big names brought in for the grand finale. I’ll miss the American Music Show booked by Sean Burns for the verve and variety of national acts, but the times-they-are-a-changin’ and they did. So go eat, drink and be merry for a true Taste of Springfield.

In other happenings, Sunday, July 14 head to Curve Inn from noon to 5 to support the Pre-Girl-a-Thon 2013 concert and party with Novocaine, Next of Kin, Thornhill, Stone and Biscuit Band and the Girl-a-Thon all-stars. Also, look out for the Havana Metal Resurrection, July 13, 7 p.m. at The Paddlewheel in Havana with Creatureborne, Utter Chaos, A-Bomb Nation, Ocularis and Knights To Kings creating a metal mania for all ages. Talk about taste!

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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