WILKES-BARRE — A truck rally is a race involving trucks that occurs in stages over a long distance; a food truck rally is a gathering involving food trucks that occurs in a designated spot over a prolonged period of time. The Riverfront Food Truck Rally on Sept. 24 is an opportunity for local residents to sample the trucks that service Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, enjoy live music and contribute to a charitable cause.
The Riverfront Food Truck Rally was organized by a group of local food truck owners, including The Wandering Chef operator Michael Raub, who wanted to hold a truck-centric event that mirrored those found in other cities.
“We loved the idea but we couldn’t find anyone interested in hosting it,” Raub said. “We just started thinking of ways we could do it ourselves. I was meeting with another client of ours who was looking for a fundraiser opportunity and we decided to put the two ideas together and do a food truck rally as a fundraiser for the Commission on Economic Opportunity.”
CEO is a non-profit organization that promotes self-sufficiency in low-income populations by addressing the causes of poverty and working to lessen their effects.
The organization takes part in a variety of community assistance initiatives, including Weinberg Regional Food Bank, McGowan Center for Healthy Living, Luzerne county’s Veterans Transitional Housing Program and utility assistance programs.
“Each truck will be selling a donation, similar to what you see at a supermarket for fundraising,” Raub said. “One hundred percent of that will go to the CEO and CEO is also doing a raffle on their own at the event.”
There are seven trucks supporting CEO on Sept. 24, including Scranton-based Southwest Savory Grill. Don Jones, who became a southwestern food aficionado during his 20 years in California, left corporate sales and purchased an existing southwestern food truck. Jones has volunteered with CEO for the past seven years, but he doesn’t just see the Riverfront Food Truck Rally as an opportunity to support the non-profit. Jones also sees the event as an opportunity to support his competition—or, how he views it, his community.
“Mike and I broke into the business around the same time,” Jones said. “We saw the food truck industry in bigger cities and what it took for them to be successful there. We both recognized that we need to work together and we need to promote what we do as a group for everyone to succeed. Uncle Buck (owner of Uncle Buck’s Barbecue in Plymouth) said, ‘There’s enough meat on the bone for everybody. People gotta eat three times a day.’”
Riverfront Food Truck Rally attendees who like to compliment (or replace) their meals with dessert will be able to turn to The Cupcake Camper, a cupcake truck owned by The Sweet Lush Cupcakery in Dunmore. Mike Sabia, who operates the truck at a variety of events like the weekly farmers market in downtown Wilkes-Barre, said the truck tries to make it to at least one charity-based event a week.
“We try to do whatever possible,” Sabia said. “To be able to do something that’s this big with all the other trucks to benefit Northeastern Pennsylvania, it’s just win-win for everybody.”
Sabia hopes to have fall cupcake flavors in time for the event, including one that will please craft beer enthusiasts.
“Our pumpkin pie cupcakes are always super popular, we’ll definitely be doing those again,” Sabia said. “We do a bourbon pecan pie that’s very popular as well and last year we started doing Southern Tier Pumpking Brew Cakes.”
The rally will feature four other vendors in addition to The Wandering Chef, Southwest Savory and The Cupcake Camper: What the Fork, Taste Time to Love Us, Triple S Gourmet and Boyer Brothers BBQ and Deli. Radio station 92.1 WFUZ will join the small fleet of food trucks live from 5 to 7 p.m. before local acts Facing the Giants (7 to 8:30 p.m.) and Zayre Mountain (8:30 to 10 p.m.) take the stage. Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas Leighton will present a Mayor’s Choice Award at 7 p.m.
Each truck is a separately-owned business in the same sector, but they’ll gather to promote NEPA food truck culture and raise money for CEO. The seven trucks may not be racing, but Raub hopes that local residents race to the River Commons to patronize their favorite truck or—in the spirit of the event—try someone new.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO:
What: A gathering of seven local food trucks that will feature live entertainment.
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24.
Where: The River Commons in Wilkes-Barre. The event will be staged on the side closer to King’s College.
How Much: Free! Patrons are encouraged to visit the trucks and, if possible, give a donation to Commission on Economic Opportunity