Durham showcased its growing mobile food culture—and lived up to its name as the Foodiest Small Town in America—during its Father's Day Food Truck Rodeo Sunday afternoon.
More than 60 food trucks, many with creative names such as Sympathy for the Deli and Mac-Ur-Roni, convened at Durham Central Park for the event. The largest rodeo held since the event began four years ago, the afternoon showed the growing presence of Durham's food trucks, which have made themselves increasingly known on Duke's campus as well as across the Triangle. The event happens multiple times a year on major holidays and boosts food truck sales considerably, according to John Greene, a worker at The Humble Pig.
"It's a great way for us to meet Durhamites and gain publicity," Greene said. "You know it's an honor when, out of all 60 or so food trucks, a customer chooses yours."
Participants included Only Burger, one of the Triangle's first food trucks, and mainstays from Duke's campus, such as Baguettaboutit and Chirba Chirba Dumpling. The rodeo attracts audiences not only from Durham, but across the Triangle and beyond. Betty Craisem, a resident of Wake Forest who has attended every Food Truck Rodeo since 2009, said it's an event she greatly enjoys.
"There's food, beer and music," Craisem said. "What's not to love?"
Craisem also noted that the Food Truck Rodeo speaks to the entrepreneurial and "foodie" spirit of Durham.
"You'll never see events like this in other cities," she said. "Durham has the perfect vibe and motivation for such a large-scale event centered around food."
Food trucks have played an increasingly large role in Durham's culinary culture and on Duke's campus over the last few years. Since the first Rodeo was held in 2010, the number of participating trucks has jumped from the single digits to more than 60—and as Durham's trucks have grown in number, they have also grown in prominence. The food truck scene has received mention in the New York Times, Southern Living and national food blog Serious Eats, among other publications.
On campus, food trucks were the subject of significant discussion last year. With West Union closed for renovations and dining options limited as a result, the trucks were highlighted as a source of increased food choices. Lunchtime food trucks were offered for the first time in 2013—though the program was ultimately put on hold after low turnout—and 14 food trucks applied to be among the seven chosen for the 2014-2015 school year.
In addition to food, the Rodeo features other merchants, such as craft vendors and beer vendors. Nonprofit organizations also take part in the Rodeo, spreading awareness of their organizations. Cynthia Satterfield, a volunteer at the Eno River Association, said that an event like this is the perfect opportunity to reach out to the surrounding communities.
"[The Food Truck Rodeo] is a great way to meet open-minded, young Durham residents, and introduce them to our association and cause," she said. "It's also a good way of sharing information about events being held in the Eno River, such as Festival for the Eno."
Daniel Smith, a middle-schooler from Durham, was attending the Rodeo for the first time. He said that he's never seen so many food trucks in one place.
"This has to be a world record or something," he said. "I'm never missing another Food Truck Rodeo for the rest of my life."