MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was one of the most popular summertime events ever. Food vendors set up at the state capitol grounds while top-flight rock bands played from the front steps of the historic structure at the Taste of Minnesota.

But changes in the location led to a severe decline in crowds until Taste of Minnesota was disbanded after the 2015 event.

Some of the people who organized the Taste of Minnesota are still trying to bring it back.

“It was the largest free festival on that side of the Mississippi River,” said Jack Koshick, the Taste’s entertainment director for nearly two decades.

“Taste of Minnesota was a marquee festival for years,” he said. “We were doing 400,000 people a year.”

That was when the Minnesota state capitol grounds was the site for the food, music, sunshine, and fireworks. A dispute led to a move across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Paul to Harriet Island. When floodwaters damaged that site, the Taste was adopted by the town of Waconia.

The attendance fell off even more with the festival more than an hour away from the Twin Cities, and after two years the curtain came down, possibly for good.

“It’s sad that we just haven’t been able to keep it together,” Koshick said. “But I know that there’s some who’d like to give it one more shot.”

“I don’t think it’s a dead issue,” he added.

The Taste of Minnesota hosted many top musical acts over the years, and there are indications current performers would like to take the stage if it comes back.

“Agents call all the time, bands call all the time,” Koshick said. “I think there is interest out there. I fact, I know there is interest out there. If we can bring it back into the Cities, I think we’ve got a shot.”

Finding a suitable site is the sticking point.

Venues are few and far between that are large enough to host crowds equal to the Taste’s heyday. The state capitol grounds were perfect before, with wide-open access and no admission charge. But the changing times would mean a changed setting.

Koshick said they want a free festival, but would need to erect a fence around the grounds for security reasons, something state officials have frowned on in past discussions.

“We haven’t had a discussion with the state in two years,” he said.

Koshick says he and others who’d like to bring the Taste of Minnesota back should know by the end of this summer whether there’s a comeback in store for the summer of 2018.

“We’ve had a discussion among myself and the other (former) managers,” he said. “If we find the right venue, we’ve got access to the funds to make this happen.”

If the Taste of Minnesota does return it will be without its founders. Ron Maddox, who died in 2010, and his wife Linda has since retired.

Comments (2)
  1. I was a young attorney in Rochester when I decided Minnesota needed a major summer entertainment event like Chicagofest or Milwaukee. I knew no one, but travelled to Milwaukee and met the organizers of their event with my idea. They were very receptive and asked me to line up a meeting with officials in Minneapolis or St. Paul. I contacted Mayor Lattimer’s office and they too were interested. I set up the initial meeting which I attended and out of which A Taste of Minnesota was born. That, however, was the extent of my involvement. I was given a “thank you” and sent on my way! However, the experience enforced in me the idea that only one person with one idea can make a difference. I was saddened to see the festival come to an end and am hopeful it can once again be a part of the fabric of our summer fun.