Utica Mayor Thom Dionne encouraged guests to arrive with coolers, lawn chairs and their favorite people to the city’s very first food truck rally July 15.
The rally was held from 5 to 9 p.m. outside of the Utica Public Library, 7530 Auburn Road. Classic rock ensemble the Real Deal band performed next door in Jacqueline K. Noonan Riverwalk Park.
The event was the brainchild of Dionne, the main host of the rally.
“Mayor Thom spearheaded this,” Councilwoman Faith Terenzi said. “As far as council is concerned, we did very little but come and enjoy tonight. It’s such a wonderful turnout and I am so excited for Thom.”
Food trucks provided through the Metro Detroit Food Truck Association included the Mean Weenie, Marconi’s Pizza, Imperial House, the Nosh Pit and Howdy Doodles Ice Cream Coach. Local business Hogs Hollow Smokehouse, 45108 Cass Ave. made an appearance with its own food truck.
Dionne said that the event cost the city no money. Utica’s Downtown Development Authority, or DDA, had spent $300 for live entertainment and the Parks and Recreation Department provided for police for security purposes.
Gorica Brstina and Jay Bandy, both of Utica, came to the event to appreciate the “Good food and good music,” Bandy said.
“We actually live in the neighborhood,” Brstina said, explaining how they found out about the rally.
Bandy and Brstina said they were impressed at the event’s immense attendance.
“It’s a really small town, but it’s also a really beautiful town. I’ve lived here a really long time and it’s amazing to see people want to come out and explore it,” Brstina said.
The weather and location made way for a calming and positive atmosphere, Bandy said.
“It’s nice to see all of the kids and family hanging out and everyone seems very happy,” he said.
C.J. Ventimiglia, of Clinton Township, and Destiny Hulburt, of Roseville, said that although they wish there was a bigger variety of food trucks, that they were impressed by the business it was attracting.
“Every bar is packed,” Hulburt said.
Ventimiglia, a former Utica resident, said that these sort of downtown festivities do not often appear in the city.
“They don’t usually happen, but I’m liking it and I hope they start to do more of them,” he said, “I was hoping this would become an annual thing.”
Terenzi said that the food truck rally was nothing short of a success for the first-year mayor and the downtown.
“I love seeing this many people in Utica,” Terenzi said, “It shows people how cute our downtown is and that we have a lot to offer.”
Near the end of the event Dionne declared it as an “Overwhelming success.”
“We got thousands of people to show up, so we’re excited,” he said. “We’re going to try to make it a monthly thing, so I’m going to go to city council and see if they wouldn’t mind doing it again.”
The Parks and Recreation Department had approved for alcohol to be allowed in the park for the event.
Sponsors were the DDA, and the Ferro Group realty service through Keller Williams, located out of Shelby Township.
The Ferro Group was at the event raffling off $25 gift cards. Representative Sharon Ferro, of Shelby Township, said that the group had started promoting the event about a month ago. As a result of social media advertising, the event had received about three thousand responses, Ferro said.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for a small little city in such a big area to have events like this to get the community together,” Ferro said.