Revamped 'Taste' lost money, drew smaller crowdby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The newly revamped Taste of Minnesota lost money and brought in about 20 percent fewer people than in previous years.
The four-day festival, which ended Monday, shook things up this year by charging an admission fee of up to $30 and booking a more eclectic range of bands and food. Until last summer, the event was free.
The changes drew praise from music fans and foodies.
Festival co-owner Andy Faris said he's proud of the improvements, but he'll consider tweaking the festival to make it sustainable. Faris said he doesn't expect to go back to making it a free festival because charging admission allows him to bring in exciting bands. This year's line-up included Counting Crows and The Offspring.
"Everyone just said, 'I never would have seen this in past years, this is the coolest thing. Thanks for bringing this kind of live music back to the Twin Cities.'" Faris said. "So I know we connected on those levels. How many of those people are in the Twin Cities? I guess that's what we don't know."
Faris said he needs to look at his business strategy. Since he took over two years ago, the festival has not turned a profit.
"Part of any business is evaluating performance," he said. "We are going to evaluate what went right and what went wrong."
Faris says sweltering heat -- and the weak economy -- kept the crowds away from Harriet Island over the weekend. At least 64,000 people attended the festival, compared to about 80,000 in previous years.
St. Paul police say they've noticed fewer crime-related incidents at the festival in recent years. Only one person was arrested over the holiday weekend, for allegedly selling expired tickets, said police spokesman Andy Skoogman.
"It was pretty quiet," Skoogman said of this year's festival. "The last couple of years, arrests have gone down, and incidents have gone down as well."