Illinois specializes in the eat-and-greet, otherwise known as the food festival. People in the state celebrate all manners of cuisine, from fine dining to meat on a stick, and they love to share this fare with visitors.
The importance of food to the state is evident by the fact the James Beard Awards – known as the Oscars of the food industry – moved its annual ceremony to Chicago in 2015 after being held in New York City the previous 24 years. The prestigious event is scheduled to remain in Chicago through at least 2021.
Chicago also celebrates the need to feed with a mouth-watering buffet of food and drink festivals, including Chicago Restaurant Week, Taste of Chicago (which has been held in Grant Park every summer since 1980), the Chicago Food Truck Festival, the Chicago Food and Wine Festival, Festa Italian and SausageFest Chicago.
But food festivals – and waistbands – extend beyond Chicago. The Naperville Rib Fest combines smoked meat with sizzling musical acts. Hot is also the appropriate description of the International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville.
The Peach Festival is held each August at the Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center in Grafton. Joilet offers up such Cajun classics as gumbo and crawfish at the New Orleans North festival.
The town of Galesburg can nearly match Chicago in longevity with the Taste of Galesburg, which has been held every year since 1987. And the Ottawa 2 Rivers Wine Fest combines wine, jazz and fresh lobster that is flown in for the event.
And finally, for a true smorgasbord of dining delights, there is the annual Illinois State Fair in Springfield, with more than 150 food vendors serving everything from funnel cakes to frog legs.
All this, and we never even mentioned the pizza.