Utica to hold first food truck rally

By: Samantha Shriber, | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 12, 2017

UTICA — Mayor Thom Dionne hopes to put a spotlight on the city’s downtown area with its first food truck rally July 15.

The event will be held in the parking lot of the Utica Public Library, 7530 Auburn Road, from 5 to 9 p.m. It is sponsored by the city of Utica and the Utica Downtown Development Authority.

The Metro Detroit Food Truck Association will be presenting Mean Weenie, Marconi’s Pizza and Imperial House at the event. The trucks will be joined by an ice cream truck and Detroit classic rock ensemble the Real Deal.

“Food trucks typically show up in cities like Royal Oak and Ferndale,” Dionne said. “We don’t really have them here, and it’s something newer for Utica.”

Dionne aspires to amplify the city’s nightlife and businesses through the rally and have it become a recurring event during the summer season.

“I hope for it to make people want to visit our downtown and to showcase our community,” he said.

He got the idea for the Utica rally from previous metro Detroit food rallies he’d attended in the past.

“I have noticed that often with food trucks, they tend to have their own fan bases. They turn cities into destinations just by being there,” he said.

If the evening’s weather cooperates, Dionne said he hopes that the rally will make “Utica seem more like a destination, and less of a place for driving through.”

Justin Groom, of Utica, manager of Steampunk Tap Room and Bottle Shop at 7722 Auburn Road, said he is looking forward to the occasion.

Groom is “Utica born and raised” and said that events like the food truck rally are helping the city make a “comeback.”

A critical question that sprouted while organizing the event was whether or not the trucks would harm the business of local restaurants and eateries, Dionne said.

Groom said that the city already gains new traffic from Jimmy John’s Field, 7171 Auburn Road. Groom has loved what it’s done for his 6-month-old business.

“It’s been great,” he said. “We are really excited for the rally and have been publicizing the event on our social media.”

Groom plans to offer drink specials on the day of the event and is expecting a full house, he said.

One of Dionne’s goals for the event is for guests to venture off to the various taverns located downtown, he said.

“The idea is to bring people in to consume food and who are interested to view our city and visit taverns,” he said, explaining that the city’s bar scene captures the traditions and welcoming attitude that Utica offers.

“It is a place that keeps people together,” he said.