When Caleb Stiles opened The Lunch Box Truck in Carthage, Missouri, in 2016, he struggled to find customers.
“I was set up on Grand and there wasn’t much foot traffic,” he says. “I moved and went all over town. I was like ‘How do you generate foot traffic?’ and a buddy said ‘events.’ An event sounded good.”
A graduate from Ozark Technical Community College’s culinary program, he organized what he expected to be a one-time affair: Food Truck Friday. Four trucks set up in Central Park in Carthage and to his amazement, about 2,500 people showed up. “There was such a huge response … it was crazy,” he says.
The next month, there were eight trucks. Then, 13.
Food Truck Friday is now a monthly affair, held the second Friday of each month from April through September, in Carthage Central Park. The 2019 season kicks off on Fri,. May 10 and will feature the maximum of 28 food vendors. The event series has become so popular that Stiles now has to turn away trucks.
In 2017, the Carthage Convention and Visitors Bureau teamed up with Stiles to expand the event. Stiles estimates the events attract around 4,000 attendees, although he’d like to eventually double the size. His dream is to see Carthage's Food Truck Friday events attract customers from larger cities like Kansas City and St. Louis.
Aside from the trucks, the events include live music, a car show and other vendors.
Niki Cloud, executive director of the Carthage Convention and Visitors Bureau, says it’s a great community event.
“It’s so much fun because you see a bunch of people and the variety of food trucks is crazy awesome,” she says. “We have gourmet grilled cheese, street tacos, anything that can be deep fried. It keeps growing.”
Food Truck Friday is a rain or shine event. There are picnic tables in the park, but Cloud suggests attendees bring a blanket or lawn chair. Guests can pack their own drinks, but no glass containers are allowed.
“It’s such a great festival. Who doesn’t want to try a variety of food?,” says Cloud.
Food Truck Friday dates for 2019 include:
- May 10
- June 14
- July 12
- Aug. 9
- Sept. 13
Food Truck Friday Carthage is held from noon to 9pm on the second Friday of the month from April through September in Central Park at 714 S. Garrison.
Food Truck Friday Carthage, foodtruckfridaycarthage.com