Recap: What the Truck?! 2

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.

What the Truck?! 2

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!

What the Truck?! 2

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.

What the Truck?! 2

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!

What the Truck?! 2

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!

What the Truck?! 2

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!

Mack and Sharon
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.

What the Truck?! returns on September 16

After the success of our first event back in June, I don’t think there was any question that we’d do another edition of What the Truck?! at some point in the future. Food trucks have started to gather steam here in Edmonton, and we’d like to see that momentum continue to grow! It was important to us that What the Truck?! not be simply an annual event – we’d like to see food trucks getting together all the time. That’s why we’ve organized our second event for September!

What the Truck?! 2 
Friday, September 16, 2011 from 4pm to 8pm
Abbey Lane Park, 102 Street & Jasper Avenue
RSVP on Facebook

What the Truck?! is a celebration of Edmonton’s food trucks, combining street food with pedestrianism and downtown vibrancy. Join us again for eats and beats in the heart of the city.

We hope What the Truck?! 2 will be bigger and better. We’ve got ten food trucks lined up this time – Drift, Nomad, and Molly’s Eats will be joining the original seven. That means we needed more space, so we’ve moved a few blocks down Jasper Avenue to 102 Street (with help from Responsible Hospitality Edmonton). We’ve arranged to close the street for the event, and we’ll also be filling Abbey Lane Park with picnic tables (with help from Melcor). We’re looking forward to utilizing a space that is pretty empty most of the time!

Abbey Lane Park & 102 Street

Once again there is no admission fee for this event – just bring cash to buy whatever you’d like to eat directly from the trucks! Urban Monks DJ’s Marc and Thomas have agreed to once again share their musical stylings with us. If the first event was any indication, it’ll be a fun time!

We’ll have more details to share over the next few weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please RSVP on Facebook if you can join us, and tell your family, friends, and colleagues! We’re also looking for sponsors, so if you’re interested please let me know. You can see the event on ShareEdmonton here.

Recap: What the Truck?!

Last Friday night we held What the Truck?!, Edmonton’s food truck extravaganza, at Beaver Hills House Park downtown on 105 Street and Jasper Avenue. I think it’s safe to say that the event was a big success! The weather mostly cooperated, hundreds of people were downtown on a Friday evening in a park that is usually empty, and seven of our city’s best food trucks sold lots of food. It was a great feeling to see a relatively simple idea come together to result in a memorable evening.

What The Truck?!
Photo by Devin.

We did the best we could to prepare the food trucks and our volunteers for setup, but it was still a stressful couple of hours. We staggered the arrival times of each truck, but it was still tricky trying to fit them all in the park! We knew the space was small, and we wanted the casual feel that would result, but we didn’t realize how difficult it would be to navigate the poles, trees, and other obstacles in the park. Not to mention the fact that we were on downtown’s busiest street, blocking both cars and pedestrians while we maneuvered the trucks into place! Everyone stayed calm and got the job done, however.

What The Truck?!
Our volunteers – The Fenskes, Thom, and Su.

All of the trucks were situated around the circle with their windows facing inward, except for Funky Pickle. That was not intentional – it was simply a byproduct of the fact that we ran out of space to turn their trailer around! It really highlighted for me that most of our food trucks in Edmonton are actually trailers, which need to be towed by an actual truck or other vehicle. By far the easiest vendor to get setup was The Lingnan – the only one that is a self-contained truck.

What The Truck?! What The Truck?!

When the event officially got underway at 4pm, it was sunny and hot. It wasn’t long though before the sky turned dark and cloudy and the rain threatened. But it didn’t rain very hard or for very long. Not that it would have mattered – it was so neat to see absolutely no one bolt from the lines when it did start raining! Instead, a few umbrellas casually appeared.

What The Truck?!

All of the trucks were popular, but Filistix definitely had the most consistently long line of the evening (due partially to popularity and partially to the fact that they move far fewer units per hour than Funky Pickle does, for example). It was great to read the comments on Twitter after the event. Things like “Filistix was definitely worth the wait” and “Crepes from Fork & Spoon Brigade – Best. Thing. Ever.” It also seemed that long-time fans of Eva Sweet used the event as an opportunity to try a waffle with all the toppings for the first time. That people were feeling adventurous was reinforced by the fact that Carnival Cravings sold far more “OMG! Mini Donuts” than is typical.

What The Truck?!

During our early planning for the event, we briefly considered having live music at the event. We decided against it, to keep things simple and to ensure the focus was on the food trucks. Instead we asked the Urban Monks DJs to provide some music to help liven up the event. They did a great job, and even created a food-inspired playlist!

What The Truck?!

It was great to see so many families at the event, and to see people using the picnic tables and even just sitting on the grass in the park. It’s such a wonderful and generally underutilized space! Mayor Mandel, Councillor Iveson, and Councillor Henderson were among the VIPs that attended, and it was cool to see such a mix of familiar and new faces throughout the evening. One of those new faces was Luca Levesque, who stopped by to shoot a great video of the event:

Sharon and I had some key goals we wanted to achieve before we could call the event a success. At the top of that list was that the vendors were successful. Considering nearly every truck ran out of food before the evening was done, I think we can say we achieved that one! Filistix was so tapped out they couldn’t even make it to the City Market the following morning! The feedback we received from all of the food trucks that participated was really positive.

A few thank-yous are definitely in order. Thank you to everyone who came to the event! Thank you to our volunteers for all your help! Thank you to Thomas and Marc for the great music! Thank you to Gabe for the fun logo! Thank you to our sponsors for your support! Thank you to the vendors for taking a chance and sticking with us! And thank you to everyone else who helped us out and made the event a success.

Sharon & Mack
Sharon & I. Photo by Chris.

Are we going to do What The Truck?! again in the future? Based on how well the first edition went, yes, definitely. We hope to do it again sometime in September and have already started some preliminary planning (and have been in touch with some new food trucks too!). Stay tuned to the website for updates. We’ll also be doing some blogging over the summer about the things we learned along the way with regards to parking lots, permits, bylaws, etc.

what the truck?!

Check out Sharon’s recap of the event here. You can see more photos from the evening here.

What the Truck?! Edmonton’s Food Truck Extravaganza

I love street food. When Sharon and I were in San Francisco last year, it was the burrito from the San Buena Taco Truck that I enjoyed most. And we both loved stumbling upon Off the Grid, a food truck festival. When I was in London earlier this year I made a special trip just to visit Daddy Donkey, an extremely popular burrito truck. And back at home here in Edmonton, no trip to the City Market is complete without a stop at one of our food trucks, such as Eva Sweet for a delicious waffle. Food trucks are not only a great source of tasty eats, they also encourage activity on the street. There’s a lot to love about food trucks and carts!

For these reasons and more, Sharon and I began thinking about having a food truck festival here in Edmonton. And today, we’re happy to announce that it’s happening!

What the Truck?!
Friday, June 24, 2011 from 4pm to 8pm
Beaver Hills House Park, 105 Street & Jasper Avenue

What the Truck?! is a celebration of Edmonton’s food trucks, combining street food with pedestrianism and downtown vibrancy. Join us for eats and beats in the heart of the city.

We’re so excited for this event, and we hope that you’ll come out to help make it a success! There is no admission fee – just show up and enjoy some excellent food from our seven vendors. If you’re planning to come, please RSVP on Facebook to give us a better sense of numbers. The event will also feature the musical stylings of the Urban Monks DJs, Marc Carnes and Thomas Scott. Shout out to Gabe Wong for designing an awesome logo for us!

The work we’ve done to make What the Truck?! a reality has been educational, to say the least. One of the reasons I wanted to make this event happen was that I think it’s a good example of a little thing that can help to revitalize downtown. With that in mind, we originally planned to hold it in an empty parking lot (we tried a couple different ones). It turns out that isn’t as simple as you might think (if you go the ask-for-permission route, that is). We’ve also learned quite a bit about the City’s Street Vending Program. Let’s just say there’s room for improvement. I think there’s a lot we could do to help the local food truck scene grow and prosper!

I’ll be writing more over the next couple of weeks about the journey, what we learned along the way, and where we can potentially improve things. In the meantime, I hope you’re as excited as I am for What the Truck?!

See you there!