City officials cut the 32-year-old Taste of Chicago in half this year, and are charging for concert tickets.
Officials say the food festival has lost $2.7 million in the last three years. City spokeswoman Cindy Gatziolis says the changes are an attempt to be more "fiscally responsible."
Meanwhile, other festivals across the country are reporting record attendance.
Experts say the Taste of Chicago's well-established brand is one of its greatest assets but also may be holding it back. They say the festival may need to make big changes to keep drawing people back.
At its peak in 2006 and 2007, the Chicago festival saw 3.6 million visitors. Last year, attendance dropped to 2.3 million.