Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally to restart its engines

The Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally—a regular feature on the city’s food and music scene – shut down in March due to the pandemic, but now its organizers are reviving it in a revamped, socially distanced form this Saturday.

“We want people to know we didn’t just jump right into this. It’s been 10 months since we’ve done it, and we’ve put a lot of time into organization and thought into making it safe,” said Pat Lavery, the facilities and events manager at High Dive and founder of the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally.

The organizers said they hope Saturday’s event will be the first in a restarted series of food truck rallies at the event’s High Dive venue.

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“If everything goes well, we hope to be back on our regular schedule and do this every six weeks or so,” Lavery said in a phone interview with Mainstreet Daily News.

Eight years ago, Lavery organized the first food truck rally at High Dive, a live performance venue, and Saturday’s event will be on the anniversary of the original rally, which was also the first food truck rally in Gainesville.

Saturday’s event will showcase live rock music from local artists such as The Medicine Show and Thomas Allain & The Late Night Loses, all of whom are donating their talent to the event and will perform throughout the night on High Dive’s indoor stage.

Area food trucks will serve a variety of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, including arepas, tostones, burgers, barbecue, seasonal wraps, New England lobster rolls, poutine, gelati and funnel cakes. Vegetarian options along with a vegan food truck will also be available.

Monsta Lobsta, a Leesburg-based food truck featuring lobster rolls and lobster bisque, was one of the trucks at the original rally and will be making a return appearance to the restarted event.

“It’s one of our favorite events,” said Monsta Lobsta owner Kurt Andreaus, who started the food truck in 2011. He credits the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally for establishing and building a dedicated customer base in Gainesville.

Monsta Lobsta is a fixture at local events like the Gator Growl and University of Florida home football games. They also can be found serving food outside local breweries such as First Magnitude.

If Monsta Lobsta is a veteran presence at Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally, the Vegan Gator food truck, run by chef Drew Durham, is the new kid on the block. Durham, who has worked for 10 years as a chef in Gainesville-area restaurants, started his truck five weeks ago.

Durham is serving up burgers and fries but from a totally vegan food truck. Everything from the burger and barbecue to surf and turf and the bechamel sauce on the poutine fries is plant-based and animal-free.

Durham says his food is made to appeal not only to already dedicated vegans looking for comfort classics, but to the carnivores who might be looking to swap out meat for some tasty plant-based alternatives.

“The community has really picked us up,” Durham said. “I want people to try this.”

He said hopes the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally will help introduce the new truck to people who haven’t had a chance to try his food.

Other area food trucks scheduled for event include: Apps, Brooklyn’s Coffee, B’z Gelati, The Chameleon Food Truck, Crave BBQ, Miller’s Funnel Cakes, Off the Griddle and Salsa Boricua Food Truck.

While the music is free, the drinks and food are not. High Dive will sell alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, while guests can purchase food, coffee and hot chocolate from the various food truck vendors. Some of the food trucks take credit cards, but others are cash only, so organizers suggest bringing both to the event.

Same concept but further apart

Before the coronavirus shut it down in March, High Dive had been hosting approximately eight Original Gainesville Food Truck Rallies a year. But the popular event will look and feel different when it returns this weekend.

Lavery said the venue took time to think through how to do this event while keeping patrons safe.

Among the changes, the free event will have two checkpoint entrances and a set capacity. Once that capacity is reached, patrons will have to wait in a socially distanced queue to enter.

“It will be a one in, one out situation after that,” Lavery said.

The rally will feature fewer food trucks than in years past so that the lines for each truck can be spread out. High Dive also has limited, socially distanced seating inside near its performance stage as well as outdoor seating in its beer garden and additional seating in the parking lot.

For area residents who have been to an Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally, they can expect attendance to be capped at about 25 percent of previous big events, Lavery said.

High Dive spent the six months it was shut down planning how to deal with events and crowds during a pandemic. Once the state allowed them to reopen in September, the venue started slowly and proceeded carefully, Lavery said, despite the fact the state didn’t have many requirements. High Dive has hosted approximately 75 events since it reopened.

“Unlike a lot of businesses, which were like ‘Great, we’re now reopen,’… we have been the opposite,” Lavery said. “From the beginning we’ve said ‘We’ve got to think about this. We have got to prepare.’ I think that’s why we have had very little issues with reopening.”

A charitable partner

From its inception the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rallies have had a charitable component, sponsoring a variety of local organizations through the years. In addition to restarting the rally, Saturday’s event will be the venue’s first fundraiser since March.

Donations at the event will benefit Peaceful Paths, the local domestic violence center serving Alachua, Bradford and Union counties.

“Peaceful Paths is a well-established local charity, and they do really great work in the community,” Lavery said.

The charitable donations also will go contactless. A smartphone scannable QR code on posters at the event will allow patrons to donate electronically to Peaceful Paths via apps like Venmo.

The money raised at the event will go to provide services to the center clients, said JoAnn Wilkes, a Peaceful Paths board member.

“We are pleased to have this as our first in person event since the pandemic started,” Wilkes said. “And we know this is a very popular venue for Gainesville because it reaches students and other community members who want to participate.”

If you’re going

  • Time/Day: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday
  • Venue: High Dive, 210 SW 2nd Ave.
  • Parking: Street parking available; $5 at the Southwest Downton Parking Garage, 105 SW 3rd Street.
  • Cost: Free entry; food and drinks available for purchase
  • Social Distancing measures: Limited event capacity; masks required; socially distanced food service lines; outdoor seating
  • Payment method: Credit cards and cash; ATM on-site

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