Five years ago, the Main Street Food Truck Festival kicked off for the first time. It was... well, it wasn't quite as well planned out as everyone had hoped, but that was likely more to do with the sheer number of individuals who showed up, got in line, realized they needed to get event currency, got in that line... you get the picture.
The kinks have been worked out. The festival has expanded. And this particular Saturday in downtown Little Rock, it was evident that food trucks have taken hold in Little Rock, and this event is a sure winner.
|Adding condiments to tacos at El Bueno Gusto.|
I got into a conversation a few weeks ago with a fellow food lover. We were comparing Austin and New Orleans to Little Rock. I hear someone laughing in the peanut gallery out there. But seriously, stick with me.
|Preparing a rib sandwich (with bones) at Yvette's Sandwiches.|
"Keep Austin Weird" is a mantra that's gained its own mainstream vibe. It's even entered the marketing arena, which sorta means the weird is gone, it is just what it is in Austin these days. I haven't been, though Grav has been insisting
The hipster scene has developed since those
initial days (I still say part of the hipster dynamic comes from the emulation of the attire in O Brother Where Art Thou, but maybe I've missed the boat on that). The nouveau simplistic yet cutting edge pop culture world has changed. Many say it's moved towards a post-Katrina New Orleans.
|A performance artist at the Main Street Food Truck Festival.|
But in festivals such as the Main Street Food Truck Festival in Little
Rock, you sense a vibe of something taking root right here. While other cities have bragged very loudly and received great deal of national attention for their downtown revitalization, Little Rock's is still something of an edge-of-Southern secret. Those of us closest to it are oft-times those of us who have the hardest time visualizing what has happened.
|A drum circle for everyone at 8th and Main.|
Drum circle magic at the Main Street Food Truck Festival in downtown Little Rock. #foodtrucksrock #littlerock #foodtruckfestival ll#visitarkansas #arkansasfood
|Parents, kids, dogs, everyone came ont.|
Downtown of today is worlds apart from downtown of even five yeas ago. This budding event and the Creative Corridor in general are a mirrored response coming up from the birth and development of SoMa (the Southside Main Street District) and it's a lovely thing. Here we
have this wide, reinvented street tying in to the west end of the Little Rock River Market District. Tourists are discovering this and coming in (the 2013 numbers are 5.7 million out-of-towners coming in to discover River City). It's time for us to turn this around.
|That's a big tamale.|
Which is why this event is... well, okay. See all those photos. Yeah, notice the food, sure.
Notice the number of food trucks you see.
|Photo op time.|
Now notice the people. Because if nothing else today, I realized several things. There were people from all walks of
life out at this festival today. With their dogs. And with their beards. In fact, I doubt I've ever seen so many dogs or beards at a food festival before in my life -- and since I frequent the Wings Over The Prairie Festival each year down in Stuttgart, that's saying something.
|This beautiful blue merle Great Dane was so sweet.|
A video posted by Grav Weldon (@lordgrav) on
|Sarah Cecil performing in the 700 Block.|
And the performers... there so many. Musicians playing folk and indie and country and even a DJ mixing tunes in the 300 block... and a drum circle for everyone to join in. Performance artists. People showing off and selling their art. This may have started off being about food and food trucks but it's developed into something more. Something honest and beautiful, a community coming together. Gosh, that sounds like a cliche, but no, it's really not.
|Luncheria Mexicana Alicia's burrito and taco plate.|
So, I've rattled on about things. But you may not be here to read my rattlings. You want to see the food. You want to see what you missed, or maybe you want to see yourself in these images. Have at it. Hunter and I took off for one end of the festival and Grav went the other way and we did our very best to shoot what we can. That being said, though we arrived before the 11 a.m. start time, by noon we
were all pacing the lines and weaving our way through the crowds. This... especially for Little Rock, was massive.
|The longest lines by far were at Excaliburger.|
I'm going to be honest with you. Because of the life choices I've made these past several years, because of my short-lived career as a
government wonk and my activity with the Southern Foodways Alliance (which has hosted its annual symposium on the same weekend at least twice), I haven't been back since that initial festival.
|Joel DiPippa sent this Excaliburger photo.|
There was so much demand, the truck did away
with the grilled cheese buns for this festival,
but normally has them on the burger.
The weather was perfect (maybe a little chilly for my daughter, who decided to wear a sundress) and the air was crisp and for five blocks, people celebrated food in this city in a communal way. This festival is exactly the sort of thing this city needs, and exactly the sort of experience so many of us have been craving. I'm glad it's ours to claim.
And I'm so glad to say... this is my city.
|There's so much happiness about Loblolly Creamery...|
|Looking for customers who ordered chicken and fish.|
|Bacon chili cheese dog with barbecue sauce and red onions.|
|... I'm not sure if this is a pepper dish or an egg dish.|
|Shrimp and fries.|