What to Expect at the 2021 Taste of Madison

By Shelby Rowe Moyer

Pulled pork sliders, coconut curry chicken, tamales, samosas, Chicago-style hot dogs, s’mores ice cream sandwiches — the list goes on and on, and you can find it all at the Taste of Madison.

Now in its 39th year, Taste of Madison is back this weekend (Sept. 4-5) and has been orchestrated to accommodate much smaller crowds in the wake of a continuing pandemic, says Sara Klemme, president of Madison Festivals, which owns and organizes the event.

The biggest changes attendees will notice include:

  • a different location
  • designated time slots
  • tickets required at entry

The event will be held at Breese Stevens Field and has been broken up into three, three-hour time slots each day — with different music headliners performing at each — which will allow event organizers to cap attendance for each timeslot at a maximum of 5,000 people. In a traditional, nonpandemic year, it’s not uncommon for 250,000 to 300,000 people to stroll around the Capitol Square for Taste of Madison. But this year, Klemme says the attendance limit will be capped at 30,000 total.

“If you’ve never been to Taste, this is a great year to come,” Klemme says. “It’s a comfortable environment this year because the capacities are limited. … We’re encouraging masks for attendees and have hired an outside cleaning company to come in between each session and do a thorough cleaning of bathrooms, credit card machines, tables — all the high-touch areas.”

The event is usually free, but to help make up for last year’s financial losses and rebuild the budget for future events, a $10 or $15 ticket is required for entry, Klemme says.

Tickets for individual time slots are $10 per person over the age of 3. For those that aren’t sure what time they want to go — or would like to enjoy the event all day — $15 day passes are available online as well. Event sponsor Starion Bank also has 1,000 free tickets, but they’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and they’re running out fast, Klemme says.

This year, roughly 40 food vendors will be on-site (compared to 75 or 80 during a typical year), with cuisine options that aim to represent Dane County’s vast diversity. Beverages ranging from bottled water to soda to beer and wine will also be available for purchase.

The vendors get to keep 100% of their sales, and funds will be donated to various charitable organizations, including youth sports and arts leagues, Klemme says.

“When you come out this year, you’re showing support for Madison nonprofits and restaurant groups,” Klemme says. “These big events are vital to our economy. Taste [of Madison] in 2019 is credited with bringing $7 million in direct spending [around Madison]. When these events don’t happen, it has a ripple effect. Coming and supporting these events are really important.”

For more information, visit tasteofmadison.com.


The Fast Facts

When: Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4-5

Where: Breese Stevens Field

Parking: breesestevensfield.com/parking/

Time Slots: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2-5 p.m.; 6-9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday

Entry Price: $10 & $15

How to Buy Tickets: Online; limited free tickets available at Starion Bank locations

Beverage Prices: $4-$15

Food Prices: $5 max per item

Vendor Payment: Many accept cards and an ATM is on-site

COVID-19 Protocols:

  • Vaccine proof or negative COVID-19 test NOT currently required
  • Masks encouraged for attendees
  • Masks will be worn by all staff and volunteers
  • Thorough cleaning of all high-touch areas between each time slot

Good to Know: There is a bag policy that limits the size of the bag attendees can bring in, which prohibits backpacks and camera cases. For more information, and other helpful facts, click here.

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