At a time when many towns are competing to make their festivals bigger and flashier, the organizers of Taste of Roselle say they're primarily focused on maintaining a down-home feel.
"It really is a hometown, party atmosphere," said festival commission member Kathie Fitzpatrick as organizers prepared for the 33rd annual Taste's three-day run from 6 to 11 p.m. today, 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday on Main Street between Roselle Road and Howard Street.
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If you goWhat: Taste of Roselle
When: 6 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
Where: On Main Street between Roselle Road and Howard Street
Cost: Free admission
Info: (630)-980-2000 or roselle.il.us
"You'll see people from around town you haven't caught up with in weeks or months, and you get a real sense of community," she said. "It's a small-town feel."
Which is not to say the Taste hasn't gotten bigger and better with age.
Starting as a small block party in 1981 in downtown, the festival has expanded to include roughly 20 food vendors and more than 50 craft exhibitors. New vendors this year include grilling specialists Best Truckin' BBQ and Doctor Dog, which serves just about any food that comes on a bun.
But even with that growth, organizers work hard to maintain the Taste's charm. Most food and wares, for example, are made locally.
"We spend all year putting this together, and all of our positions and what the workers do is all volunteered," Fitzpatrick said. "It's how we've been able to maintain the quality throughout the years."
Indeed, volunteers have been key in helping the fest retain its cost efficiency. Members of the chamber of commerce and Lions Club help serve food and drinks, and even the bands are all local and perform for free.
This weekend's musical lineup includes concerts by headliners the Billy Ray Valentine Band, Camouflage Sun and Laidback Funky.
Additional activities include Mr. D's Magic Show on Saturday and Sunday, a bags tournament along Park Street and a jousting tournament for competitive teens.
A perennial festival favorite is the chamber of commerce-sponsored bingo tent, which will give visitors a chance to win gift cards and other prizes. A kid-oriented carnival runs along with the carnival for an additional cost.
In addition, all profits are funneled into ventures that benefit the community.
"In the past, the money we've made has gone to funding the Fourth of July fireworks and improvements to our parks," Fitzpatrick said. "This event is really about the community celebrating and supporting itself."
That self-sufficiency has led longtime festival participant Jake Tumminaro from volunteer to Taste of Roselle chairman.
"I'm a lifelong resident of Roselle and I've been volunteering at this event since I was 15, so it's great to see families and friends coming back every year," he said.
As Tumminaro tours the Taste this year with his family in tow (his kids' favorite dish is the roasted corn), he appreciates that the festival has maintained its modest charms in the face of the surrounding glitz.
"We're not as big as other suburban town events, but we like it that way," he said. "It has the feel of a small town reunion and we think that's what keeps it special."