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Pittsfield Food Truck Rodeo Offers Unique Sights, Sounds And Flavors

Jim Levulis

A food truck rodeo over the weekend in Pittsfield was filled with sights, sounds and smells.

The trucks, trailers and carts that pulled into Palace Park in Pittsfield Sunday weren’t rolling on a river as the band suggests, but they were running on wood-fired stoves and generators.

But inside the trucks and trailers, it sounds like a typical restaurant during frantic dinner hours.

Other than being set on wheels, what sets these restaurants apart is their unique food. Dishes ranged from gypsy stew to egg rolls to flammkuchen. The flatbread dish, which means flame cake in German, cooks in about 45 seconds inside a wood-fired oven burning at more than 800 degrees.

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
Flammkuchen inside a wood-fired oven on Black Forest Flammkuchen's trailer.

Courtney Failla is one of hundreds who came out in the wind, rain and periods of brief sunshine to check out the city’s first annual food truck rodeo.

“I definitely came out here thinking that I was going to get something different and people were going to come out that don’t usually come out,” Failla said. “I thought it was definitely going to be a fun Sunday event.”

The Jill Gallagher Band summed up how must customers reacted to the food by playing the song Vehicle by 1970s rock band Ides of March with the lyrics “I love ya, I need ya.”

What did that customer sentiment mean for the five mobile food vendors and two local breweries at the rodeo? Although the event ran from 11 until 4, by the time 2 o’clock rolled around all but two of the vendors were out of food. Andrew Chase ofBlack Forest Flammkuchen, based in Kinderhook, says that feeling is bittersweet.

“It means that you hit your expectations, but then it’s ‘We could have done more,” Chase said. “We could have made more than we expected.”

Dave Hall co-owns Palace Park, located on North Street, the heart of downtown Pittsfield.

“We have this park here that we use for a lot of community events,” Hall said. “We like interesting things. We like creative things. We like downtown Pittsfield hopping.”

Jen Glockner brought her two sons to the rodeo. With bellies full and faces painted, she says it is a great family event.

“If you see a food truck roll into town, you say ‘This is a good thing,” Glockner said. “Now we’ve made it big.”

Not everyone shares the opinion that food trucks strengthen downtown business. Like other communities, Pittsfield city planners have been working on a mobile food vendor ordinance since last summer. Restaurant owners have voiced their concerns over the Pittsfield-based How We Roll food truck and potentially others in the future taking away customers during peak hours, without having to pay the fees and taxes a brick and mortar business does. The ordinance to determine where food trucks can set up is on hold while the city waits for the results of a parking study set to wrap up this spring. Ernie Jordan has been dishing out hot dogs, kielbasa and chili from his Grampie’s Dog House food cart for the past 17 years.

“Seventeen years ago North St. had grass growing in it with weeds and dirt,” Jordan said. “I used to call it tumbleweed way.”

Jordan says greater variety means more customers.

“It’s not every day that you’re going to have steak and potatoes,” he said. “You’re going to have a hot dog, a burrito or an egg roll. That gives you much more variety and brings more people out.”

Jordan says downtown Pittsfield is busier than it was a decade ago, but is hopeful an industrial revival can really bring it back.

“It’s coming,” Jordan said. “It’s coming, but it’s taken a long time.”

Proceeds went toMoments House, which supports people in Berkshire County affected by cancer.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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