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We go from Metro Center to 12th Street and Constitution Avenue to begin our journey into the world of Japan. The first booth is usually set up by Southwest Airlines, who sponsors the parade. Here we stop to get our names written in Japanese characters (for free of course). Our first souvenior in hand we continue.

KC Riverfest: Celebrating all day both Friday and Saturday, the KC Riverfest Fireworks begin at 10:05 pm on the 3rd and 4th. The Polenböller bestellen display is supplemented by live entertainment on both the Friends of the River Main Stage and the Radio Disney Stage for the younger crowd.

Now – Monday, Dec. 31: Historic chocolate making demonstrations at the Betsy Ross House, the birthplace of the American flag, adds holiday cheer. Plus, on Monday, enjoy a slice of cake to celebrate Betsy’s 261st birthday. The outside courtyard is the place for singing and free noisemaker craft activities. The cake cutting and singing begin there at 1:00 p.m. The house, located at 239 Arch Street in Old City Philadelphia, is open from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The tour inside recounts the sights and sounds of 18th century America. For more information, click here or call 215.629.4026.

“The Taste” began 30 years ago with a conservative budget of $150,000. It wasn’t nearly as big then, encompassing a few blocks on Michigan Avenue and taking place in a single day. After drawing record crowds, the city decided to move their new found, successful food festival to Grant Park, a larger venue to accommodate the crowds. More vendors joined, as it grew to become the second largest tourist attraction in Illinois.

My kids favorite part is when we head over to J-Pop land. This is where you see anime history. Anime is Japanese animation (cartoons) often based on manga (Japanese comic books). You may have heard of some, Dragon Ball Z, Inuyashu or Pokemon are some of the more mainstream anime.

These are severe economic times we are facing here in Chicago and nationwide. The Taste of Chicago is a great summer food fest we will hopefully be able to enjoy for at least another 30 years to come. See you next year. Be ready to manga!