- BC Games
Food truck fest wheels in the crowd
Kendra Johnston had visions of 10,000 people on Columbia Street for New Westminster’s first food truck StrEAT festival. What her eyes feasted on Saturday afternoon was way beyond what she imagined, and now she envisions making it even bigger and better.
The executive director of the Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Area got the idea of putting a whole bunch of food trucks on the street at the same time from a successful weekly event run in a parking lot in Vancouver.
She took it a step further by putting it on New West’s main drag, and the result was swarms of people enjoying the sunshine and music as they lined up for the food, which in some cases didn’t quite last the full six hours (3 to 9 p.m.) of the event.
“It was exciting. I was very excited to see it come to life and have such a great response,” said Johnston on Monday.
“We were a victim of our own success in terms of the crowd. My goal was to attract 10,000 people and the New Westminster police service said 20,000 people came.
“I don’t think anyone was prepared for that kind of crowd, so some trucks did run out of food before the end of the event.”
Most of the trucks do their weekday business in Vancouver. The festival made them accessible to residents of New Westminster and surrounding cities, with visitors spilling out of the SkyTrain stations out onto Columbia.
Add a beer garden and entertainment as well as not charging admission like a weekly Sunday food truck festival in Vancouver, and Johnston had a recipe for success.
The energy and vibe on the street, she said, made it feel like a party. The feedback she received, apart from those having to stand in long lines, was “overwhelmingly positive.”
“It’s the first new big event we’ve introduced in many years, and that’s always a risk because you don’t know how it’s going to go. I’m very thrilled to have it be such a success,” said Johnston.
A lot of the word of mouth, so to speak, leading up to the festival was spread via social media. That continued on Saturday when the Twitter world went wild, directing the hungry mobs to other Downtown eateries such as Spud Shack Fry Co. and the River Market, filling them up as well.
“That definitely benefits Downtown New Westminster,” said Johnston. “We definitely look forward to doing it bigger and better next time now that we know how popular it’s going to be.”
Johnston would love to expand the event from two blocks—it was set up between Fourth and Sixth streets—to four or six blocks and double the amount of trucks, which approached 20, and beer gardens.
“I would definitely need support of the mayor and council [to do it]. I saw many of them on Saturday and judging by their reaction it won’t be a problem,” Johnston said.