Taste of Lombard is history for now, but community groups are welcome to revive it
“The purpose of the committee was that historically the Taste of Lombard, which has been around for decades, was an event run by the Lombard Jaycees," Scott Niehaus, Lombard village manager, told the DuPage Policy Journal recently. "In October 2014, we were informed that the Jaycees were disbanding and they would no longer exist as a service organization in the village of Lombard. The village board wanted to use that as an opportunity to step back and reassess its approach toward funding and supporting a community event.”
Niehaus said the village typically provided $65,000 in funding to support the festival, which the village would pay up front and then get reimbursed by the Jaycees. In addition, the village would provide $35,000 in funding without reimbursement for fireworks on the 4th of July. When the Jaycees disbanded, the Taste of Lombard fell apart because no other existing community group had the number of volunteers, the financial bank account to deposit reserves, as well as equipment and carnival booths.
“Organizations need to have some history," Niehaus said. "They need to have a checking account or a bank account to do that, and there was no one that was prepared and ready to go once the Jaycees disbanded."
In the years leading up to the Jaycees’ disbandment, there had been complaints from residents that the Taste of Lombard wasn’t as good as it had been in the past. The annual festival, residents said, was geared toward people residing outside of Lombard. It was five days of music, food and carnival activities in a residential neighborhood, Niehaus said.
“So knowing that there were different opinions out there, the mayor wanted to create, for lack of a better term, a blue ribbon panel of interested citizens who could (go) about the business of researching what other towns do — taking a survey of what was most desired by people," Niehaus said. "So the Pride Committee was created and it consisted of eight citizens from the town."
One of the members is a former member of the Park District and another was a member of the Chamber of Commerce — two groups with a vested interest in community events and programs, Niehaus said.
The Pride Committee held its first meeting last July and explored options for a new annual community festival.
“Ultimately, the committee said it didn’t need to be five days; it didn’t need to be over the 4th of July weekend," Niehaus said. "Preferably it would be something operated by a not-for-profit group that also gave back and supported the community. So the village actually created a request for proposal and mailed that out to over 30 not-for-profits that have a presence in the village of Lombard: Lions Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, YMCA, those kind of organizations.”
The purpose of sending out the requests was to see if any of the longstanding organizations were interested in submitting a request. It was also intended to give the organizations the liberty to come up with different ideas for the event so they would not feel confined to doing the same thing that had been done for the past 20 years.
“And at the end of that process there were no requests submitted so the village board took the position of we’re not going to force this; we’re not going to have village staff operate this,” Niehaus said. “Our purpose as an organization is to provide police, public works, fire, essential daily services, but the village always keeps the door open that if in the future a group wanted to come together and put a community event in Lombard, we would always have an open door to consider doing that and supporting it with financial resources and/or structural resources.”
The Taste of Lombard may be a memory for now, but residents will still have fireworks to look forward to on the 4th of July, which the village will continue to support.
“The park district allows Madison Meadows to be used; so in 2016, there will be a fireworks display, but that is it,” Niehaus said. “It is a situation where people come out at dusk, put their blankets on the ground and enjoy hanging out with their neighbors. But there is no music; there is no popcorn; there is no carnival; there is no beer.”
Niehaus said last year the fireworks went off very well and the community enjoyed it. He added that the door will always be open for any group to approach the village about holding a community event at any time of the year.