By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
Five years ago, the Ashwaubenon Parks, Recreation and Forestry hosted its first food truck rally — the beginning of an annual series of events which continue to be popular today.
The 2023 food truck rally season kicks off this Thursday, May 18, with multiple local food trucks on site selling food from 4:30-8:30 p.m. and live music performed by Carbon Road.
Rex Mehlberg, Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, said the food truck rallies first got their start when he and other staff began to notice the rise of food trucks in the area.
“You could see the popularity of the food truck community growing, and certainly with the people that enjoyed going and getting food from food trucks,” he said. “We thought it might be a good match to try something like that out in Ashwaubomay. We tried a couple in that first year and it worked so well that we decided to switch into a monthly mode, which has worked really well for us.”
Mehlberg said the events attract people of all ages to enjoy not only the local food trucks, but the entertainment and other activities as well.
“We’re trying to make it more of a family event,” he said. “But really, we’re getting all ages there. We’re getting young adults all the way up to seniors that just want to go out on a nice summer evening and listen to some music and try some new food.”
Part of appealing to all ages, Mehlberg said, involves making sure the rallies have a little something for everyone — especially kids.
“One of the good things that we’re able to do is that, with being in Ashwaubomay, for the June, July and August rallies Ashwaubomay Lake stays open later on those three event nights,” he said. “So that if parents or if a family wanted to go and mom and dad wanted to get some food and sit and listen to some music, they can do that and the kids can go over to Ashwaubomay Lake and swim in the lake. And we typically have some special events and contests going on that night at the lake as well.”
In addition to the lake, Mehlberg said there are a number of other amenities at Ashwaubomay Park that allow the food truck rallies to cater to all ages.
“Ashwaubomay is a fairly large park,” he said. “So for the most part, parking is somewhat convenient — they don’t have to walk too far to get to the actual food area — and then the area where they’re eating and listening to music, we’ve got other things going on, too. We put out family games, giant Connect 4 boards… People can play bean bags back and forth. We’ve got a sponsor that sponsors a bounce house every month so if a family comes and they’ve got some kids, their kids can go over to the bounce house and they can bounce around. We’ve got a playground area right next to right next to the bounce house. We’ve got permanent restrooms that are there. So it’s convenient for a lot of different ages and I think people appreciate that, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been successful.”
Mehlberg said another reason the rallies have been successful is the high interest in participating from food truck owners. Nearly 20 vendors signed up for this year’s season of rallies — including eight who are new to the Ashwaubomay Food Truck Rally scene.
“We’ve had a great group of food truck owners involved in our rallies,” he said. “We have 19 different food trucks this year that we’re going to vary and kind of move in and out each month. We’ve got 19 different vendors and I’ve got at least seven or eight more on a waiting list… If we’ve got that amount that are interested in our rallies, that means the food truck vendors like it as well, And it’s just worked out real good, We’ve got regular food trucks and we’ve got some of what’s called dessert trucks, so we’ve got a little something for everyone depending upon what they’re looking for.”
This year’s food truck rallies are scheduled for May 18, June 22, July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 14.
More details can be found at ashwaubenon.gov/government/departments/parks-recreation/food-truck-rally.