Many Valdosta residents have come to know and love Food Truck Thursdays in downtown Valdosta. Unfortunately, after only one season under their belts, Valdosta Main Street and the Public Information Office had to cancel this event for 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Recently both departments decided to get creative and find a new way to restructure this event to allow for social distancing. The solution was to host a Food Truck Crawl instead.
Food Truck Thursdays started in 2019 to showcase the variety of food options and businesses in Valdosta while also bringing attention to the many amenities in the downtown area. Every month from April through November, a number of food truck vendors and residents would conjugate in Food Truck Park. After taking a break for the holidays, the plan was to start it back up in April of 2020. Obviously, that plan soon changed. Still, it was essential to both Main Street and Public Information to find a way to bring this event back. “We wanted to be able to bring food trucks back, but with COVID, we had to figure out a way to be creative and to bring them back in a way that we could socially distance people and keep the trucks as safe as possible, ” said Rachel Thrasher Main Street Coordinator.
The goal of the Food Truck Crawl was to get back to a sense of normalcy and bring people downtown as well as supporting local businesses like the food truck vendors. Ultimately this event was a win-win situation for everybody. Trucks were spaced evenly throughout the downtown area, all within walking distance of one another. Maps showing where each truck would be located were provided to attendees for maximum convenience. The result was even better than the city and residents could have anticipated. “The public was super happy, and the trucks were super happy. Our phone has just been ringing off the hook since this event, with people calling wanting to know when we are going to do it again, ” said Thrasher.
This could not have been better news for Food Truck Crawl participant and Owner of Pink Magnolia Patisserie, Shelia Rice. Sheila had built up her reputation as a baker while working as a teacher in Ray City, but she always knew she wanted to open a bakery someday. Rather than a conventional brick-and-mortar location, she decided to purchase a food trailer immediately after retiring. “I figured if I got a small concession trailer, then I could take my stuff around to different places, ” said Rice.
Sheila has a cottage food license for the state of Georgia and is certified in food handling. She specializes in Italian Macarons, pastries, and desserts, all of which she cooks from scratch out of her kitchen at home. So, when she received the invitation to participate in the Food Truck Crawl, she knew it would be the perfect event for her mobile bakery. Sheila found out about the Food Truck Crawl while out another event in Lake Park when she was approached by the Valdosta Main Street Coordinator and asked to participate. Sheila said yes, without any hesitation, as she loves the fact that public events allow her to interact with people but especially children. “Sometimes, it feels like giving back to the community. I make little cookie monster macarons for the children, and if I see a child walking by, I give them out. It is my way of connecting with a child now that I am no longer teaching. I want them to feel important and special, ” said Rice. Overall, Sheila enjoyed participating in the Food Truck Crawl and had even received follow-up orders from people she met during the event. Based on her experience she said she would most certainly participate again.
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“Sometimes, it feels like giving back to the community. I make little cookie monster macarons for the children, and if I see a child walking by, I give them out. It is my way of connecting with a child now that I am no longer teaching. I want them to feel important and special, ”