The Taste Of Tacoma Has A New Flavor & Some Tacomans Aren’t Happy About It

Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, where the Taste of Tacoma had been traditionally held for over 30 years. Now the Taste is moving to the state fairgrounds — and getting a new name. Photo by Lauren Gallup.
Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, where the Taste of Tacoma had been traditionally held for over 30 years. Now the Taste is moving to the state fairgrounds — and getting a new name. Photo by Lauren Gallup.



Umi Wagoner says he’s not a scone guy. 

Wagoner is, however, a lifelong fan of The Taste of Tacoma, an event traditionally held over a summer weekend, in Point Defiance Park, with food vendors, arts and knick knacks for perusing and live music.

“It was an event that if I’m around when it was happening, I would make sure I was there,” Wagoner says.

But Wagoner will not be going to The Taste of Tacoma this year. Not after the event is moving to the Washington State Fair Events Center in Puyallup.

“When the pandemic happened, the former company that owned The Taste of Tacoma, called Festivals Inc., they could no longer financially support the event,” says Stacy Van Horne, public relations manager with the fair events center. 

The events center, who hosts the Washington State Fair every September, purchased the Taste.  It will move to the fairgrounds this July and be renamed the “Taste Northwest.”

Wagoner is not the only Tacoman expressing frustration over the change. People took to Twitter posting the change is messing with the flavor of Tacoma,” and that it was hell on earth.

Wagoner posted in mid May on the eTc Tacoma Twitter account, a clothing store he co-owns in downtown Tacoma, “Taking Tacoma out of the name feels like our invite was aggressively revoked, but also if they had kept Tacoma in the name while moving to the fair grounds that might have been more upsetting. It’s a lose/lose for Tacomans like us.”

Wagoner feels the loss of the event in the city is reflective of broader changes in the Grit City.

“It also comes at a time again, where there is just a lot of removal of things, heritage culturally, to Tacoma, which already is a place that struggles with having like a group culture, because there’s so many cultures here, people often choose their own pockets to hang out in,” Wagoner says.

Wagoner feels that changes to arts events like the Taste of Tacoma seem emblematic of the gentrification the city is going through. 

“I think the main thing about the Taste (of Tacoma) is how abruptly — It was like, ‘Well, where were these discussions happening?’” Wagoner says. 

That shock factor is something Van Horne, of the fair, picked up on after they made the announcement.

“I think that the big thing is, you know, people feel like that was a staple of their community. And we get that, and we respect that. And we’re gonna do our best, you know, to create, like I said, to keep old traditions, but help create new ones,” Van Horne says.

Van Horne acknowledged that the event will, in some ways, be different. “By purchasing it, we’re rebranding it, but it’s gonna have a lot of look and taste and feel of the original event,” saying the main reason the fair purchased the event was to “keep the tradition alive.”

Admission to the event will still be free, but this year, people can buy “Taste Experience Packages,” The packages include food and beverage credits and activity tickets, a nod to new additions to the event — like ax throwing, a roller skate rink and scones.

The new location will also be able to accommodate more parking, Van Horne says, and be ADA compliant.

Like any loss, Wagoner wished for one last time with how things used to be.

“Even if there was like a sendoff Taste of Tacoma, I might feel completely different … if it was like, yeah, we all come together for this last hurrah. And we tasted up in the Tacoma one last time before … this park can’t support it anymore,” Wagoner says.

But, the scones aren’t luring him to the Taste Northwest.

“It just doesn’t seem like it’s being promoted towards me,” Wagoner says.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.