Taste of Madison moves to Breese Stevens Field


Clarion File Photo

A vendor displays a dish at the 2015 Taste of Madison.

Lauren Taillon , Arts Editor

This year, the Taste of Madison is back in action at Breese Stevens Field on Labor Day weekend. Attendees can attend by purchasing a ticket online for one of three time slots on either Saturday, Sept. 4 or Sunday, Sept. 5. 

“The biggest changes this year are location and that this year you have to buy a $10 admission ticket for one of three time periods: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2-5 p.m., or 6-9 p.m. We will have 42 food vendors this year and there will be beverage options and one live entertainment stage. So for each time slot, we will feature a different genre of music,” said Sara Klemme, president of Madison Festivals, Inc. 

All tickets can be purchased online or received through a 1,000 free ticket giveaway that Taste of Madison’s presenting sponsor, Starion Bank, is doing. To get a free ticket, visit any of the Starion Bank locations in Sun Prairie, Middleton or Monona. They are being handed out on a first come first served basis until they run out. 1,000 tickets were also donated to frontline workers, healthcare workers and nonprofits in the area.  

Klemme made note that the decision to host the Taste of Madison in Breese Field as opposed to downtown Madison, wasn’t an easy one, but a necessary one to help ensure a safe event. In a normal non-COVID year, Klemme said that the Taste of Madison has an average of 75 – 80 food vendors and upward of 250,000 people. This year, there is a max capacity of 5,000 people that will be allowed to attend per time slot. In addition to having a limited number of slots available to the public, there will be one entrance and one exit to help control the flow of crowd traffic.  

The 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. time slots will be more family focused with live entertainment sponsored by Magic 98, balloon artists, air brush tattoos, and mascot appearances from Maynard G. Mallard and D.C. Eagle-Official Mascot of the Madison Capitols Hockey Team. On Saturday at 12 p.m., ‘The Voice’ contestant Raine Stern and the Girls Rock Camp Madison will take the stage in what will be the biggest act of the weekend. Other artists who will be performing over the holiday weekend are Jenna Joanis and Friends, Frank Martin Busch and the Names with The Rotation, Aranda with Foo Foo Dolls, Kerosine Kites and Don’t Mess with Cupid with Seasaw. 

Of the 42 food vendors attending, Klemme promises a diverse selection of options for the public. “We worked really hard to be more representative of Madison and our diverse food culture and our diverse community that lived in our area. And that is one of the initiatives that I have to move forward, just making sure that the taste restaurants are representative of our community. So you’ll be getting soul food, Jamaican, Indonesian, it’s not just, although Pizza is my favorite food in the world, pizza. It’s everything,” she said. This year, each of the vendors will also have allergy disclaimers at their booths so attendees can see if something is vegan, dairy-free, nut-free or gluten-free. 

Another thing that makes the Taste of Madison stand out in comparison to other events of its size, is all of the charity work that the event contributes to. “I think there is a common misconception with Taste that people don’t realize that it is a non-profit fundraising event. So the money that comes in is not lining anyone’s pocket, it’s not funding some second home that I have in the Caymans – although that would be amazing – but it’s going back into our community. Taste has donated $1.2 million back into the community,” said Klemme. 

The huge event partners with local charities every year by utilizing volunteer groups to help set up and run the event. “When you buy a beer or a soda at taste, you are buying it from a volunteer so when you leave a tip in their tip box, 100% of those tips stay with that volunteer group,” Klemme continued. 

Even the ticket cost this year is being donated to a local charity. Klemme explained that the reason why the majority of the tickets have a cost attached with them, is to provide insurance to the vendors that people will show up to buy their products. This is one of the multiple ways that Madison Festivals has been trying to help restaurants in the area since so many were hit hard by the pandemic. In non-COVID  years, restaurants also have to pay a fee to set up their booth at Taste of Madison. This year, that fee is being dropped. Even though there are a lot of changes this year, Klemme stated things won’t always be this way. 

“Breese is a temporary thing. We will be back in square next year barring any like, other apocalypse that we can’t predict. Taste is going to go back downtown in 2022, it’s going to return to its glory, and it will be a free event again.”