Food truck rally at Barking Duck draws huge crowds

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On Friday, March 31, Mint HIll hosted its first Food Truck Rally at Barking Duck Brewery.

Many attendees at Friday’s event may be familiar with other local food truck rallies, like Matthews Food Truck Fridays, which happen every second and fourth Friday of the month in Stumptown Park. The idea to bring food trucks to Mint Hill came from Karen Trauner, who coordinates Food Truck Fridays at Plaza Midwood.

The Mint Hill Rally was actually Trauner’s regularly scheduled Plaza Midwood Rally transported. Due to a scheduling conflict, Trauner was unable to hold March 31st’s already-planned rally in its usual location on Central Avenue. “We only found out about this about ten days before the rally,” said Trauner. “I didn’t want to have all the trucks I’d scheduled out of a job, so before canceling, I tried to think of where else we could have the rally.”

A Mint Hill resident herself, Trauner knew that Mint Hill locals are eager to see more events in their small town. Trauner had actually proposed a food truck rally in Mint Hill many years ago near Town Hall, but the suggestion was vetoed. “Too bad,” said Trauner, “because the next year Matthews started theirs, and it was very popular.”

But with nine trucks already booked for the 31st and nowhere to park, Trauner immediately thought of Barking Duck. Trauner had never been to the brewery herself, but after speaking with the owners and visiting the location, she thought it would be a great place for Mint Hill’s first food truck rally.

Friday’s food truck rally featured a diverse selection of food from nine different trucks: Roaming Fork, Cremoso Cheesecake Factory, Kabobsters, Wonder Wings and Things, Boone’s BBQ, Now Toasted, Magnolia’s Po Boys, Ruthie’s of Charlotte, and Trauner’s own truck, Sticks and Cones. Of course, the event also featured Barking Duck’s local draft beers and other selections.

The kid- and dog-friendly event drew a huge crowd to the Barking Duck and an enthusiastic response from Mint Hill residents. “We just moved to Mint Hill, and it gave us the opportunity to meet up with our neighbors and get to know everyone!” said Clint Dagenhart, who heard about the event through the “What’s Up Mint Hill?” group on Facebook. “The food was great,” adds Dagenhart, who tried the po boy and cheesecake trucks.

[/media-credit] The kid- and dog-friendly food rally featured open seating outside the brewery.

“We were so excited that Mint Hill decided to do this,” said Andrea Williams, who often visits Barking Duck with her husband and attended Friday’s event with her husband, dog and friends. “We love local events and were happy that it would bring in patrons to the Barking Duck . . . We tried the kabob food truck, which was great. The lobster mac and cheese was fantastic. We also got the turtle cheesecake from the cheesecake truck. Absolutely delicious! I felt the event was super dog and kid friendly and loved seeing families out and kids playing.”

The biggest complaint about the event seemed to be the long lines, which were often followed by long waits to receive food. The long waits were particularly problematic for people who brought young children. Anne-marie Williams attended with her own family and two others, 9 children in all. “Waiting in line for 10 minutes and then 45 minutes for a simple hot dog with hungry kids didn’t make for a fun time,” said Williams, who was discouraged from spending more by the long lines. “I really wanted to try the beer as well, but after waiting in line for food for over two hours, didn’t have the energy.”

Others were frustrated that the trucks seemed to run out of food early. Sunshine Price was disappointed to find that Now Toasted had run out of burgers after waiting in line for 30 minutes shortly before 7:00 (though the owner did tell her she could skip the line and come right to the window if she decided on something else she wanted). “Unfortunately, it appeared that the food trucks could not handle the amount of crowds,” added Anne-marie Williams. “A lot of the trucks even ran out of the food that we wanted to try, and we got there around 6:20, so it’s not like we showed up really late.”

Though everyone acknowledged that the wait times for food and beer were long, not everyone was bothered by it. “I know some people were frustrated with the long lines,” said Tammy Morris, “but I think that’s simply a testament to how excited people in Mint Hill are about this type of event.” “Long lines are a great problem, depending on how you look at it!” added Tara Perotta Goodfellow. “Hate to say it,” said Trauner, “but if the line isn’t long and you’re not waiting, it’s not a successful food truck rally! The lines and wait are part of the experience!”

[/media-credit] Mint Hill’s first food truck rally drew large crowds to Barking Duck Brewery.

Others attendees agreed that crowds, long lines, and food shortages are simply something to expect from any successful food truck rally. “From what I’ve read, it sounds like the Matthews Food Truck Friday on the first week, too,” said Erica Larter. “Food Truck Fridays are usually pretty busy and run out of food the first week or two, especially on nice evenings.”

“As far as food trucks running out of food,” said Allison Towner, a food truck rally veteran, “well, they only have limited space and resources to bring with them. This always happens to popular trucks and items. All I can say is come early, especially if you have a favorite food truck. I think the food trucks do the best they can. All the food is made to order essentially, so it’s the reason why it gets so backed up. So you either just expect that or come early.”

“We came later on, and there were lines, but no different than Matthews Food Truck Fridays,” said Samantha Smith. “I think it just shows how eager Mint Hill is to have something of its own and how big the town is getting. It was nice to only have to drive five minutes to do something with our family.”

Several attendees found the set up in alley behind Barking Duck a bit tight, which made the lines difficult to navigate, and amplified the loud sounds of the trucks’ generators “The trucks were parked too close together.” said Dagenhart, “It was hard to tell where the lines were.” Other suggestions for improvement were better lighting and additional trash cans in the seating areas outside the brewery and additional bartenders and cashiers to expedite the beer line.

For Trauner, items selling out to a big crowd is a sign that the night was a huge success. “It’s difficult to know what to expect from a rally when you’re in an untested location,” said Trauner, who relied on sources like Next Door and Facebook to get the word out. “I knew my posts were getting quite a bit of attention, so I was hopeful. But quite honestly, it exceeded my expectations. All the trucks pretty much sold out of food. They were pretty happy!”

Despite some suggestions for improvement, most of the people who attended were pleased with the event and hope to see more like it in Mint Hill. “I have been to other food truck rallies, and I think this one was really great,” said Andrea Williams. “They had trucks there I had never heard of. I hope that they make this a monthly thing in Mint Hill. It’s a great way for the community to come together.” Dagenhart agrees that it was a great event, and he didn’t mind the crowds. “We hope Mint Hill hosts it again! We were actually happy to see such a good turn out.”

There isn’t another Mint Hill Food Truck Rally on the calendar at this time, but Trauner is hopeful that it will happen again. “A lot of people are asking if we’ll do it again,” said Trauner. “We’re going to speak with Barking Duck and see what they think. They were quite pleased.”

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