Friday, July 1st, 2011 at 10:00 am

Edmonton’s Food Truck Extravaganza: What the Truck?!

It’s not often that an event you plan actually comes together in the way that you imagined. What the Truck?!, for that reason, was magical.

Mack and I first started talking about the idea of a food truck festival in March. Inspired by San Francisco’s Off the Grid, we knew our version wouldn’t be nearly as big, but we also had different goals we would want to accomplish with such an event. While raising awareness of Edmonton’s burgeoning food truck culture was a big part of that, we also knew that such a gathering could also be a way to bring vibrancy to a corner downtown that would otherwise be deserted on a Friday night.

When we look back, I think 2011 will be Edmonton’s year of food trucks, given the number that have or are set to hit the streets this year. But in the planning of What the Truck?!, we started with those that we knew of, and approached seven vendors in total to participate: Carnival Cravings, Eva Sweet, Fat Franks, Filistix, The Fork and Spoon Brigade, Funky Pickle and The Lingnan. We were very fortunate that all of them said yes!

I will be writing more about how Beaver Hills House Park at Jasper Avenue and 105 Street came to be chosen as the location, but suffice to say, it fit the bill of a central, accessible space. We knew there would be some challenges in ensuring the trucks would be able to safely manoeuvre onto the concrete surface, but we had faith that it would work out in the end.

Loading up the trucks themselves was definitely the most harrowing part of the day. Made more difficult because of a few things beyond our control, the vendors, some who had to make multiple attempts to ease into place, were patient, steady and calm. It was the perfect storm of qualities to get us through the set-up, and by 3:45, all of the vehicles were appropriately parked.

What the Truck?!

The Fork and Spoon Brigade entrance, take one

Though it wasn’t a mirror image of the site plan, it was pretty darn close! I had envisioned a ring of food trucks, with the crowds converging somewhat in the centre, allowing for mixing and mingling. I read later that some people didn’t appreciate this, but I have to say, I loved it. Standing in the midst of the trucks and people chatting away, the park felt more alive than I had ever seen it.

What The Truck?!

Chatting away

What The Truck?!

Overhead shot by Devin Serink (it’s great to have friends in high places! Or at least, friends that live in the Icon)

It was also great to see people utilizing the green space on the north end of the park. Families, pairs and groups spread out on the park benches, along the water feature and on the grass.

What The Truck?!

Hurrah for green space!

People had started trickling in at 4pm, but it really didn’t get going until close to 5. Filistix easily had the longest line throughout the night (I have no idea how Ariel and Roel didn’t collapse with exhaustion later on), but the great thing was, most people didn’t mind the wait! After all, good food is worth the wait, isn’t it?

What The Truck?!

The Filistix line

It also helped that we had DJs Thomas Scott and Marc Carnes on hand to provide some beats to accompany the eats. The party atmosphere was on!

What The Truck?!

DJs Thomas Scott and Marc Carnes

Unlike the vendors, Mack and I were able to enjoy the event, taking photos, catching up with friends, and of course, eating!

What The Truck?!

After devouring Filistix’s southern biscuits with gravy and bacon, I forgot to eat anything else

What The Truck?!

Brittney with her order of biscuits

What The Truck?!

Thom with his first taste of The Lingnan’s dry spicy chicken!

What The Truck?!

Bruce and Sarah, with their adorable puppy

What The Truck?!

The Critical Mass riders rang their bells when going by on Jasper

What The Truck?!

With some of my friends from work – Jill, Leigh and Ellen

What The Truck?!

Even my parents came out!

At about 6, the sky started to threaten rain. We were a little worried that the crowd would disperse, but we really should have given people more credit – they were fully prepared to stay, rain and all!

What The Truck?!

One of Mack’s favourite shots – umbrellas ready!

By 8pm, it was clear the event was winding down. But given five out of the seven vendors had sold out, it was the right time to close up shop! The vendors all reported having a great time, and deemed What the Truck?! a success – Mack and I were thrilled.

Of course, the success of this event is attributed to many people who helped out behind the scenes. First off, hat’s off to designer Gabe Wong who immediately understood the whimsical nature of a food truck event, funnelling that into the logo that ultimately set the tone for the website. It’s easier to sell something that looks professional and polished, and without Gabe, that would not have been possible.

Similarly, thanks to Thomas and Marc for coming on board quite early on. They too knew what we were trying to achieve right on the outset.

Third, the budget for our event was quite small, but we did have a few expenses. As we didn’t have any sponsors step up initially, we accepted the fact that we may have had to finance the event ourselves. However, due to the generosity of three sponsors, we didn’t have to do so. A big thanks to the Unknown Studio, Citizen Experience, and Responsible Hospitality Edmonton for supporting What the Truck?!.

Next, we were grateful to have four fantastic volunteers on hand that Friday. Whatever we threw their way – whether it was playing traffic cop, relocating picnic tables or take down – they were game. Thanks to Kara and Nevin Fenske, Thom Male and Su Dennis for being our go-to people!

What The Truck?!

Our volunteer crew (Kara and Nevin will have their own food truck up and running soon!)

To the vendors, who jumped in with both feet when I’m certain even they didn’t quite know what to expect – thank you! Your unwavering enthusiasm and dedication to mobile cuisine in Edmonton is an inspiration.

Lastly, thanks to everyone who came out to What the Truck?! The vendors were blown away by the energy and excitement of the crowd, and it seemed that even weather wouldn’t be a deterrent!

In a few weeks, will be updating the What the Truck?! website so that all of the information you need to satisfy your street food fix will be in one place. We’ve also been asked whether or not this will be a repeat event. We hope so, and are planning for a September edition, so stay tuned!

Read Mack’s recap of What the Truck?! here. Chris, Karlynn and Cathy also wrote about the event.