Food, bands bring together community

West Side Park held the 42nd Taste of C-U over the weekend. This three-day event has been one of the biggest summer events in the Champaign-Urbana community.

Sponsored by American Family Insurance, 10 bands were invited to play throughout the event, like Huckleberry Fate, Tons O’Fun Band, Blue Bus, and the Decadents. The diverse lineup attracted different audiences to the tent throughout the event, and the music could be heard from every corner of the park. Local restaurants from Champaign, Urbana and Savoy, Ill. presented the opportunity to try different foods.

“There are 25 restaurants this year,” said Laura Auteberry, director of marketing and development for the Champaign Park District (CPD). “It’s about the same from last year.”

Some restaurants used the festival as an opportunity to gain new business from the Champaign-Urbana community.

“We are a new restaurant, only one and a half years old,” Angela Lee, cashier for the Spoon House Korean Kitchen tent said. “It’s an opportunity for us to share our traditional Korean food with the community.”

For the community, it was an opportunity to explore the local fair in an efficient manner.

“It’s been the third year of coming here,” said Pam Whitfield, of Champaign. Whitfield said her husband uses Taste of C-U to try the community’s different foods.

Thirty-four arts-and-crafts booths covered the southeast corner of the park. Nine demonstrated artists, specializing in anything from personalized custom jewelry to face painting to ceramics and hand-thrown pottery.

Robin Willey, who owns Wiley Pottery in Effingham, Ill. has participated in Taste of C-U for the past 10 years. Besides bowls and pots, she also makes oil lamps and hand-crafted vases.

“Traveling 70 miles to Champaign isn’t far. I’ve gone further to Indianapolis for shows.” Willey said. “This is like home to me. It’s like my backyard.”

The Taste of C-U is not only a stage for people to show their talents, but also a place to discover other interests as well, according to Rachel Hess, president of the Champaiagn Urbana Potters’ Club, which demonstrated the art of making clay pottery on Saturday.

Amy Doll used to work for CPD and moved to Freeport, Ill., several years ago. Last year, she returned for Taste of C-U and decided she would volunteer for this event this year. Doll said she missed the community and it’s fun to watch the people.

Taste of C-U is a top fundraiser for youth. According to the CPD’s website, the proceeds of the event will also contribute to its Youth Scholarship Fund. Auteberry said the event raises $10,000-$15,000 for the cause.

“The Youth Scholarship Fund provides opportunities to kids to participate in recreational programs throughout the year,” Auteberry said.

The CPD also cooperates with Champaign County Bikes, the Bike Project, Prairie Cycle Club and Wild Card Racing to “promote a healthy environment for all guests and our planet,” according to the CPD website. A bike corral is located in the southeast corner. As reward for riding bikes to the Taste of C-U, a ticket for a free beverage is given at the Pepsi drink tents in the park.