On Friday, September 16, hundreds of Edmontonians descended upon 102 Street and Jasper Avenue for the second What the Truck?!, Edmonton’s food truck extravaganza. We had high expectations for the event and were very pleased with the way it turned out!
The biggest change from our first event was that we closed a street. We wanted our second event to be bigger and better, but we didn’t want to be in the gigantic space of Churchill Square. In keeping with our goal of utilizing under-used spaces downtown, 102 Street just seemed ideal. The area is busy with people during the day but quiet at night, and the park is nearly always empty. We were pretty surprised at how expensive it is to close a street, but fortunately Responsible Hospitality Edmonton stepped up to help us (What the Truck?! fit nicely with their mandate to animate Jasper Avenue). I also want to thank the Civic Events Office at the City of Edmonton for sticking with the idea, despite the challenges it presented. More on that in a follow-up post.
Setup for our first event was a bit of a nightmare thanks to the smaller space and the need to jump the curb. This time, setup was incredibly smooth! With the street closed, it was quite straightforward to get all of the trucks into place. The only hiccup was that we had to make sure the barriers were in place at all times – it’s amazing how many people tried to drive around the barriers. The other part of setup was arranging the picnic tables and garbage cans in the park. We were thankful that Brittney, Sandra, and Walter were able to help us out! Thanks team!
One of the things Sharon spent quite a bit of time doing in preparation for the event was our siteplan. She figured out where all the trucks would go and which way they’d face, and she took into consideration the expected length of each line and even the noise of their generators. That’s why Filistix and Carnival Cravings were closer to the alley – so we could tuck their generators around the corner. And that’s why Drift and Molly’s faced outward on opposite sides – to allow the lines room to grow. I wasn’t as concerned as Sharon was, but I’m glad she put that effort in because it absolutely made a difference.
Once again the weather was less than ideal. While it was sunny and warm most of the afternoon, it turned windy and cool as our event got underway. It even rained briefly just after 4pm! Thankfully that passed and the sun even snuck out a few more times throughout the evening. It was certainly windy though, to the point that our wonderful DJ’s remarked they now had experience with “extreme DJ-ing”! The tent nearly blew away a few times, but Thomas and Marc stuck it out and did a wonderful job!
You can get a sense of how windy it was in this interview I did with CTV’s Carrie Doll just before the event started:
I think it’s fair to say that all of our vendors sold a lot of food at What the Truck?! 2! A number of trucks sold out, some more quickly than others. Our three newest trucks – Drift, Molly’s, and Nomad – were definitely a draw. Nomad sold out first, and both Drift and Molly’s had long lines all evening long. Determining how much food to prepare in advance based on rough estimates of attendance is more art than science, so I don’t envy the position the trucks found themselves in. It sucks when you’ve waited in line for 30 minutes only to find out that a truck has sold out, but it’s difficult to avoid. Filistix was completely swamped at our first event, but they learned from that and things ran much better for them the second time around (their line moved relatively quickly). I think all of the trucks learned a lot about how to deal with long lines, and we certainly learned that we probably need more trucks for the number of people we had. There’s definitely room for improvement at future events!
We were happy to see so many families at the event, and to see the park being used! All throughout the evening people sat at the picnic tables, and there were a lot of kids running around on the grass. I bet that park would be used a lot more if the picnic tables were there regularly (just look at the positive change that picnic tables have made for Beaver Hills). Thanks again to Melcor for allowing us to use the space.
Social media once again played a big role in the success of the event. There were 4856 people invited to our Facebook event. A little over half responded, and of those folks 1247 marked attending and 529 marked maybe attending. I’d say it was a fairly good indicator of our attendance!
Lots of people talked about the event that day on Twitter too. Here’s what the tweet distribution looked like on the 16th:
And here’s a word cloud of all the things people were saying (with #whatthetruck, @mastermaq, @sharonyeo, #yeg, and #yegfood removed):
Once again we had some specific success criteria for the event. First and foremost, we wanted the vendors to be successful. All of them were very happy with the result! Secondly, we wanted a strong turnout. Thanks to everyone who came out to experience some of Edmonton’s food trucks! Thirdly, we wanted to prove that smaller-scale revitalization projects like our event can have a positive impact on downtown. We talked with the owners of Tres Carnales and Credo Coffee after the event, and were elated to hear that both experienced one of their busiest nights ever because of spillover from What the Truck?! 2! We also chatted with a number of people at the event who hadn’t been downtown in quite some time, so it was great to hear that What the Truck?! not only got people downtown, it got them exploring downtown businesses as well!
Thanks to Brittney for the photo!
What the Truck?! will likely happen again in the future, so stay tuned to the website and our hashtag for updates. You can see the rest of my photos from What the Truck?! 2 here, and check out Brittney’s photoset here.