CHAMPAIGN — The popular Taste of Champaign-Urbana at West Side Park is coming up quick. Its hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
As usual, C-U restaurants will set up shop on the festival grounds, offering tastes of their food. New this year, the 43rd annual Taste of C-U will have beer sales as well.
You will need tickets sold at Taste to buy food and drink and to cover the cost of some activities. Tickets are sold in sheets of four for $5 and may be bought using cash, credit or debit. Ticket sales end 30 minutes before the festival closes each day.
Besides beer sales, another new event this year at Taste is a Pie Run at 6 p.m. Saturday. The 3.14-mile run will start and end at West Side Park. Runners (or walkers) can enjoy pie and water breaks throughout the course.
At the end they can finish in one of two ways:
"'Flying Pie,' which means we throw pies at you and you have to dodge them. Or you can finish pie-free," said Chelsea Norton, marketing director for the Champaign Park District, which organizes Taste each year.
Registration for the Pie Run ended June 19, but if there are spots left Saturday, people may sign up then.
Taste of C-U also will feature free concerts, with Mhondoro, a local Zimbabwe-style pop group, and Outbound Drive, a classic-rock-with-a-country-kick band, on Friday evening.
Entertaining Saturday will be Jim Markum's New Vintage Band, Dave Rudolf's Beach Party, Brushfire, Hurricane Gumbo and Ryan Ideus & the Feudin' Hillbillies. Acts Sunday include BreakAway, singer-songwriter Jeff Arrigo, Bruiser and the Virtues and Heartless.
Besides food, drink and live entertainment, Taste of C-U will have the Taste Vendor Emporium, with artisans showcasing their pottery, paintings, photography, jewelry and crafts.
And activities are planned for the whole family, including inflatables and artist demonstrations. But some family members — pets, even on leash — are not allowed at Taste of C-U. So leave your furry friends at home.
You can ride your bicycle to Taste of C-U — but not onto the festival grounds. Bicyclists who park their two-wheelers in the bike corral in the southeast corner of the park will receive a coupon for a free Pepsi at the festival.
The proceeds from the event go toward reducing program fees for youths who cannot afford to participate in Champaign Park District programs.
For more information on district programs and Taste of C-U, go to http://www.champaignparkdistrict.com.