Tarpon Springs to get a taste of the food truck frenzy

Gwen Thaden gets a Taco Bus taco from Wilbur Morales at a rally in Largo last month.

JOSE FONT | Special to the Times

Gwen Thaden gets a Taco Bus taco from Wilbur Morales at a rally in Largo last month.

TARPON SPRINGS — This city is hopping on the food truck bandwagon.

Tarpon's inaugural Food Truck Rally, uniquely paired with an Art Walk, is set for Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

About a dozen food trucks will set up shop on Tarpon Avenue downtown and serve up a smorgasbord of gastronomical delights. Along the street, artists will be demonstrating and selling their works.

"Most artists will be painting on location," said Heather Risley, president of the Tarpon Springs Art Association, which is collaborating with the downtown merchants on the event.

Live music and belly dancing performances are scheduled during the street festival, too. Tarpon Avenue will be closed from Ring Avenue to Hibiscus Street during the event.

After the rally, the annual Holiday Music Festival and Lighted Boat Parade will be held in Craig Park from 4 to 7 p.m.

This will be the first large food truck rally held north of Largo.

"We're hoping to have more," said Boe Rushing, owner of Back in the Day Books and one of the event organizers. "Food truck rallies are such a hot thing these days."

With the help of social media and televised food shows like The Great Food Truck Race, food truck rallies have been trending in major cities across the nation from San Francisco to Chicago and New York City.

The movement started locally in September with a rally in Tampa's Hyde Park district. Thousands showed up. Largo and St. Petersburg joined the convoy and now the Tampa Bay area is home to somewhere between 40 and 50 food truck vendors.

New ones are arriving each day, said Michael Blasco, vice president of operations for Tasting Tampa, which helps organize the food truck rallies.

So why is it such a treat to eat on the street?

"I think people love to try a variety of different foods in one place," he said. "Vendors know they have to be innovative and creative in their offerings."

In other words, these are not your mother's hot dog stands. Blasco said most chefs go out of their way to create new twists on tastes and give their menu items creative names as well.

Among the food trucks that will be at the Tarpon Springs rally dishing out their specialties are FoodeeZ Mobile, Cruisin Cuisine, Killer Samich and Sweet Ida Mae's Bakery Food Truck.

Many of the artisan foods are made from healthy, locally sourced foods. Or, "It could be a sandwich dropped into a deep fryer," Blasco said.

Almost all food prices are $10 or under. None of the trucks serve alcohol.

"It's the first time we've teamed up with an art event," Blasco said. "It will be good food and great art and will benefit the businesses and residents of Tarpon Springs."

Reach correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves at treeves@tampabay.rr.com.

Tarpon Springs to get a taste of the food truck frenzy 12/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 7:25pm]

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