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Taste of Omaha packs its bags and moves to Ralston for 2023; Ralston will see sales tax boost

Posted at 10:56 AM, May 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-01 19:38:57-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Taste of Omaha is moving to Ralston for 2023.

The 26th annual version of the food and entertainment festival will be held at the parking lot of Liberty First Credit Union Arena and an event center, The Granary, about a half mile away. A shuttle will connect the two venues.

The event will be held from June 2-4 and will feature live music and other performances.

A last-minute arrangement

The Omaha City Council members voted in April to not give a liquor license for the event at Elmwood Park. The decision came after residents of the Elmwood Park area complained the festival does a number on the historic park.

The area's councilperson, Councilman Danny Begly, asked the council not to approve the license. He said the residents of the park were told it would not return to the city park after 2022.

Elmwood Park served as a temporary location while the riverfront is being renovated. But the renovations will still be underway this summer. It was originally expected the longtime home of the festival would be available to Taste of Omaha this year.

"I would have preferred Taste of Omaha remain at Elmwood Park in 2023 and then move back to the RiverFront," Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said in a statement, "But Ralston and Omaha are good neighbors and we're pleased they could secure a venue for this year."

The event could have been held at Elmwood Park without the sale of alcohol, but organizers were not inclined to do so.

So, Mike Mancuso, the event director and Mid-America Expositions looked for a Plan B.

"We reviewed many, many different ideas," Mancuso said about looking for a new venue last month.

But he said a plan put forward by Ralston was one of the first and stood out.

Despite coming together quickly, Mancuso expects few issues.

"We've really done a thorough job for previewing how we'll lay out the event," he said. "But, yes, there's always going to be tweaks and changes as we go along."

A win for Ralston

Ralston Mayor Dan Groesser hailed Mancuso's choice as a big win for his city.

Groesser said, "When I heard the Taste of Omaha was not going to be held at Elmwood Park, we got our team together, and along with The Granary, we worked really hard to put together a plan to entice them to come."

By hosting the event, Ralston will get a boost through sales tax revenue, and Omaha will miss out. Omaha City Finance Director Steve Curtiss estimates the city makes $20,000 from Taste of Omaha when it's in town.

The Taste of Omaha "will bring over 100,000 people to our front door," Groesser said. "We're only two miles off the interstate, we're very convenient, it's easy to get to, and we're right in the heart of everything."

He said funds Ralston makes from sales tax will go to the Ralston Community Foundation for a million-dollar parks project.

"(Ralston's) commitment to the plan was beyond what we had seen from others," Mancuso said.

The Granary opened last June.

"We couldn't be more thrilled that just one year after that we get to help host the biggest event in Omaha," said Gordon Whitten of the Granary. "It was built just for things like this."

Over 40 restaurants

Mancuso said he expects the same number of vendors at Taste of Omaha this year, though a few dropped out.

He said, "There's always going to be some that didn't want to wait ... In general, we were really encouraged by their patience."

There will be concerts at both locations all weekend, Mancuso said.

Musical talent is set to include the following, and will happen simultaneously at the two Ralston venues:

  • Jordan Harvey, a country singer, on Friday at 8:30 p.m.
  • Revelation, a Journey tribute band, on Friday at 8:30 p.m.
  • Slim Jim Phantom, Saturday at 9 p.m.
  • Spectrum, a Las Vegas-based Motown group, on Saturday at 6 and 9 p.m.

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