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Now the idea is almost common place. But it was not always that way.

This weekend they are staging another edition of A Taste of Cincinnati. It is the longest running culinary arts festival in the United States, dating back to 1979.

More than 40 fine restaurants are featured at the festival, and “Best of Taste” awards are given out each year.In addition to food, the festival highlights local musical talent. The four stages for performances feature country, rock, pop, and jazz music. Approximately 500,000 people attend Taste of Cincinnati each year, making it one of the nation’s largest street festivals.

The idea of Taste of Cincinnati derived from Taste of the Big Apple News, which Karen Maier, then Frisch’s vice president of marketing, came across in the Nation’s Restaurant News, a publication that covers the American foodservice industry.

Taste of Cincinnati started in 1979 as a daylong festival in Piatt Park, previously known as Garfield Park. About 5,000 people were in attendance. In 1981, another day was added to the festivities, and in 1988, one more day was added, totaling three days (the number of days currently reserved for the event). At this time, the festivities were also moved from Piatt Park to Central Parkway in Downtown Cincinnati.

Upon the completion of the $42-million renovation of the Tyler Davidson Fountain Square in 2007, the Taste was again relocated, this time to Fifth Street, taking up six blocks, from Race to Broadway, near Downtown Cincinnati’s cluster of hotels, including The Cincinnatian, the Garfield Suites Hotel, the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, the Millennium Hotel Cincinnati, The Terrace Hotel, and the Westin Hotel Cincinnati.

In 1997, Taste of Cincinnati was selected from over 40,000 special events across the United States as the Food Event of the Year by Events Business News.

In recent years, the Taste has been held over five blocks along Fifth Street, spanning from Vine Street to Sycamore Street.

These days, there are several categories for which the food entry can be classified: Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Seafood, Entrees, Vegetarian Entree, Desserts, and the coined “Best Damned Dish.” The Best Damn Dish is the overall winner of the Best of Taste competition.

It’s an extraordinary event for its size, its scope and for the fact that it remains special as the first event of its kind.

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