Expanding Taste of Syracuse starts Friday, faces traffic issues

Thousands of people will descend in and around Clinton Square this weekend for the annual Taste of Syracuse, as over 60 restaurants from around the area will be in attendance to share dollar samples of their best cooked food.

â??People come here because everythingâ??s a dollar,â?? John Banks of Peppinoâ??s Restaurant says. â??Where else can you eat for a dollar these days?â??

Over 170,000 people caroused the various tents featuring those restaurants, musical acts, clothes, and even jewelry last year, causing event organizers to expand the Taste of Syracuse by shutting off the fountains in Clinton Square itself.

Just small puddles remained where the fountain used to be on Thursday evening as the last remaining vendors set up their tents, and the extra space is something Event Director Pam Levine says will be important for growing the event even more.

â??We are busting at the seams here with crowds,â?? Levine says. â??So, this year we closed the fountain at Clinton Square so weâ??ll have more room for folks. It kind of became something we had to do after last year it being so crowded.â??

To give the fountain time to drain and dry out, the water was shut off on Tuesday afternoon, and now benches and chairs fill the spot where the water used to flow. Carol Zwolinski, from Buck and Ruthieâ??s Ice Cream, has been coming to the Taste of Syracuse for five years, and has her truck set up where the water used to be, and can already see how a fountainless Clinton Square will make a difference.

â??Thereâ??s a lot of room here,â?? Zwolinski says. â??There are a lot of tables where people can sit down and enjoy themselves, instead of having to stand for eight hours at a time. More and more vendors each year like to participate in this event, so (no fountain) enables us to be here too.â??

With the addition of those tables, those who attend Taste of Syracuse can sit down and eat in the bigger space, which also will serve as a way of attracting even more people.

â??I remember last year being very crowded, so hopefully, since they expanded it, theyâ??ll have an even bigger crowd this year,â?? says Emily Lang, who will attend Taste of Syracuse this weekend.

Lang though, did have some worries about the downtown traffic that may affect this yearâ??s event. In recent weeks, traffic congestion in the city of Syracuse has been at an all time high, and even Lang said that her commute from her job at Crouse Hospital to Clinton Square on Thursday afternoon took double the normal time.

â??Traffic is crazy,â?? Lang says. â??You definitely have to leave your house early this weekend in the downtown area.â??

On the other hand, most of the vendors werenâ??t too worried about the traffic, rather the weather, which could be the ultimate factor in how many people attend Taste of Syracuse this year.