First food truck rally comes to St. Petersburg on Saturday; more on the way

ST. PETERSBURG — The food trucks are coming.

Nearly a month after a miscommunication between city officials and community organizers threatened to keep food trucks out of St. Petersburg, they are about to roll in for the city's first rally Saturday.

About 20 gourmet food trucks, a drum circle, and a selection of wine and craft beers will be featured from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Value Fair Market, at 3951 34th St. S.

And that's only the beginning.

Pinellas County will see a rally every Saturday for the next three weeks: two in St. Petersburg, on Saturday and Dec. 17, and one in Tarpon Springs on Dec. 10.

The rally Dec. 17 is planned at First Unity Church.

Value Fair Market, a small-business collective, hopes to hold rallies every four months through 2012.

"We couldn't be more excited," said rally organizer and food blogger Todd Sturtz, who has helped orchestrate rallies in Tampa and Largo. "It's great that we're finally moving in a positive direction."

In line with the host's mission, the rally Saturday will emphasize local vendors, Sturtz said. There will be about 20 vendors spread out over an acre of grass, indoor seating and craft vendors.

And there will be beer. Craft beer.

"We were told the foodies go for the artisan beers, not just Bud Light," said Value Fair Market manager Julie Johnson. "So that's what we'll have. We're doing this for them, for the community."

Johnson and Sturtz said they hope bringing a food rally to St. Petersburg will engage a community that, until now, has been shut out of the food truck craze.

Although Tampa has embraced the food truck phenomenon with open arms — Mayor Bob Buckhorn will host his second downtown Food Truck Fiesta next week — Pinellas County has lagged behind.

Largo held the county's first food truck rally on Nov. 19, two months after Tampa's first rally in Hyde Park attracted thousands and jump-started Tampa Bay's food truck scene.

"It immediately got a ton of attention and people wanting more," Sturtz said.

But the road to food truck rallies in St. Petersburg wasn't as easy.

Organizers' first attempts to establish a rally in St. Petersburg were stopped short when officials told First Unity Church of St. Petersburg what it wanted was a violation of city code.

Turns out all the church needed was a special-event permit, like the type needed to put on carnivals or festivals.

The confusion sparked public outcry, an online petition and dozens of letters to the city and moved the City Council to consider revising ordinances that bar food trucks from city streets.

In the weeks since, organizers said, the city has made a U-turn on the issue.

"They bent over backward to make sure we had everything we needed and our permit got through," said Stephen Micklo, a board member of the First Unity Church of St. Petersburg. "Quite a difference from the first time."

The church will host St. Petersburg's second rally Dec. 17 with about 20 food trucks.

The City Council on Dec. 8 will discuss how St. Petersburg should handle food trucks outside a rally setting.

Contact Marissa Lang at mlang@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

First food truck rally comes to St. Petersburg on Saturday; more on the way 11/30/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 4:58pm]

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