On a whim in 2013, Pat Lavery decided to host six food trucks at once in the High Dive parking lot. Fifteen minutes later, the lot was full of customers, and Gainesville had its first official food truck rally.
Now celebrating its fourth anniversary, the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally expects its largest turnout yet this weekend.
About 12 food trucks will be in the High Dive parking lot, located at 210 SW Second Ave., Saturday. The event is held about every six weeks, but the anniversary rallies every January draw in the biggest crowd, with a few thousand people attending, said Lavery, the event’s founder and organizer.
“We feel like we have been a catalyst in the launch of food truck culture in Gainesville,” Lavery said.
The event begins at 5 p.m., with live music starting at 7 p.m. Trucks range in choices from dinner options like tacos, grilled cheese and pizza, to desserts like funnel cakes and snow cones. Vegan and vegetarian options will be available.
Each rally raises money for a local charity. Attendees can “vote” for their favorite food truck by donating money in the jar at the truck of their choice. Proceeds for this event will benefit UF Habitat for Humanity.
This is UF Habitat for Humanity’s third consecutive year partnering with the Original Food Truck Rally, said Jennifer McBride, the UF Habitat for Humanity event coordinator.
The club plans to use donations to fund various projects, including critical Gainesville home repairs and school supplies for children in Alachua Habitat for Humanity homes.
The food truck with the most donations receives a monetary prize from UF Habitat for Humanity, which incentivizes the trucks to encourage donations, McBride said.
“We love collaborating with local businesses, especially the High Dive and the Original Food Truck Rally, because it’s a great way to educate the community and raise awareness about our organization’s mission,” the 24-year-old UF ecology graduate student said.
Cilantro Tacos, a family-owned Mexican restaurant and food truck, will be in attendance. Sen Khiev, the owner and food truck operator, said he looks forward to the turnout from both the community and the local food trucks he’s gotten to know.
Cilantro Tacos has been to about 10 food truck rallies with High Dive, Khiev said. He said the variety of events keeps them engaged.
“You kind of don’t know what to expect, so it keeps you on your toes a little bit,” he said.
Khiev said he appreciates that the rally offers diverse food options from all different trucks while supporting a charity.
“It’s a really positive event for the community,” he said.
Between locals, students, families and professionals in attendance, Lavery said they have raised about $15,000 for local charities over the past four years.
“My favorite thing about the rally is that (it) is a unifying event in Gainesville with so many different types of people attending,” Lavery said.