NORTH PARK — Chicago's 18th annual homage to the city's Korean community and culture kicks off Saturday at its new home on Bryn Mawr and Central Park avenues.
The two-day Chicago Korean Festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, was moved west from Kimball to accommodate larger crowds. This year's event will begin with a Saturday ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.
Organizers are expanding the culinary options for this year, adding ice cream vendors, food trucks and a kimchi-eating contest aptly dubbed "Chowdown in Korea Town."
The Major League Eating-sanctioned event — which will feature a gluttonous eight-minute showdown between competitive eating champion Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas and newcomer Miki Sudo — carries a $1,750 first place prize.
Kimchi, a popular Korean side dish, is made up of fermented vegetables — mainly cabbage, drowned in an array of seasonings and spices.
"I love kimchi. I regularly have it stocked at my place," said Sudo, who took home first place at North Center's Ribmania.
"But you know, the 7 1/2 pound jar lasts me, even on the quicker end, two weeks, maybe. So when I think about having to eat that in an eight-minute period, it’s really daunting," she said.
Fest-goers will also be able to make their own batches of kimchi in a do-it-yourself workshop.
While Sudo and Thomas scarf down kimchi, fest-goers can win round-trip tickets to South Korea by entering and winning the K-Pop Singing competition.
They can also participate in the B-Boy break-dancing competition, a Ssireum tournament — traditional Korean wrestling — and Sunday morning's 5K race.
Lydia Paek, a singer, songwriter and dancer, will headline the fair on Sunday night.
Paek first gained notoriety in America after being a member of the winning group on MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew."
With all of the added events and hype for this year's fest, organizers are anticipating the largest crowd yet.
"We just wanted to make this festival bigger. Last year, it was really so packed ... that people complained.... We wanted to kind of change it and make this festival bigger and bigger so that many people come and kind of enjoy [it]," said Sean Yoo, co vice-chairman of the festival.