The word “cute” isn’t one people might normally use to describe the Taste of Chicago.
For years the adorable factor of tots and tykes in attendance was largely relegated to curious glances up at mom and dad as they chewed on giant turkey legs, inch-thick pizza and other Chicago culinary staples.
But festival organizers this year carved out a corner of Grant Park for bouncy houses, face painting, kid cooking demonstrations and other fun stuff.
The Kids Eat Chicago zone was open the last two days of the Taste — Saturday and Sunday — and attracted thousands of kids and parents.
“It’s not as crazy as going out in the main food area,” said Michele Osofsky as she watched her son Nathaniel, 21 months, go down a slide. Her other two kids, Xavier, 5, and Martina, 4, sat in a stroller.
“It’s nice, too, because you’re not worried about losing them,” she said.
Taste organizers reached out to Chicago Parent magazine — which expanded into the event business in recent years — to set up the space and bring in balloon artists, musicians, DJs, and actors dressed as super heroes.
“I learned to punch and kick,” Xavier said of a superhero training course he attended.
“We tend to do things in a way that’s fairly unstructured and free,” said Dan Haley, publisher of Chicago Parent. “We want parents to be able to come and let the kids kind of roam.”
Other features included an area for mother’s to breastfeed and change diapers. Wipes and diapers were provided, along with sunscreen and bug repellent.
Valet service for baby strollers was also offered.
On a stage set up with cooking equipment, Chef Dudley Nieto, whose had a hand in the creation of several notable Chicago eateries, looked on as his student, Massimo Cabrera, 10, of Evanston, put the finishing touches on crepes topped with fluffy cream and bananas.
“Your next big chef folks,” Nieto said as his charge smiled broadly.