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Denton's inaugural food truck festival gets it right

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Posted 8:32am on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012

It has always seemed to me that Denton would be a great location for food trucks. There are others, like City Councilman Kevin Roden, who agree with me, and he has worked for months to open Denton laws to allow the trucks to operate. From following Councilman Roden on Twitter, I have come to see that he is also a supporter of community space and sustainable transportation. Friday night, all of those visions came together in one of the best food truck festivals I have attended.

To celebrate the reestablishment of the A-Train Friday Night Operation, eight trucks set up at the Downtown Transit Center for the evening for the Friday Nite Bites Denton Foodie Truck Festival. People were encouraged to ride the A-Train, enjoy the food and see what Denton was about. All week, I have been talking to truck owners who were participating, and no one could predict the turnout. The weather was going to be cold, the location was new, and everyone was unsure. Unsure of how many people to prep for, unsure if there were enough (or not enough) trucks scheduled, unsure of how the weather would hold.

I don't think anyone dreamed that the event would turn out the way it did, with early estimates of 3,000 people attending. The space was ideal for a food truck festival. There was plenty of room to walk, and for this night, plenty of room for lines. All night, the lines were a hundred people long at all of the hot trucks. Of course, we have seen events with lines this long, in the past, but this time, very few people were upset about waiting. Most people I heard talking were taking it all in and saying, "see Denton, see food trucks, we want you here!" Yes, some people decided to leave and go eat at a restaurant off-site, but no one was upset because they had not paid to get in, so nothing was lost. Even those who left stopped and got a dessert from one of the two dessert trucks before heading out.

Maybe it was the DJ and then the live music, or maybe it was the local beer vendors, or maybe it was the craft vendors that helped the atmosphere, or maybe that is just how Denton is. Regardless of the reason, people were happy to be at this truck festival. There were plenty of seating areas both outside and inside, and there was convenient parking for those who opted not to take the train.

The truck owners were thrilled with the event. Two sold out at about 8:30 and most of the rest were at sell-out or very close by the end of the event. The owners I spoke to, both at the event and afterwards were as happy as I have ever seen then. They enjoyed the crowd, they enjoyed meeting new people, and they really appreciated the people who drove in from other communities just to see the trucks.

If there is one area where people may have a negative comment, it would be that there should have been more trucks serving. Shiitake Swerve and Bombay Chopstix were on the list of trucks attending. Shiitake Swerve is a brand new, Denton-based truck, and I believe this would have been their very first day of service. However, they weren't there; delays are common with many new truck roll-outs. Bombay Chopstix was also a no-show. With these two trucks, the line-up would have been ideal. But, with all truck events, you are at the mercy of truck operations, trucks break down or cannot serve, for various reasons, through no fault of the event planner and usually without enough notice to schedule another truck.

But overwhelmingly, this was a great event. Kudos to councilman Roden, to Denton, Crazy Fish, Gandolfo's, Rockstar Bakeshop, Three Lions, Rock & Roll Tacos, The Butcher's Son, Cup-Cakin and The Pickled Carrot. I hope this is the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship; it's obvious the citizens of Denton and the surrounding communities hope so, too.

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