With mask mandates falling by the wayside as vaccine distribution increases, attendees’ noses were able to appreciate the enticing aromas of barbecue, Asian and vegan cuisine on Saturday. The Original Food Truck Rally, hosted by the High Dive, invited eight restaurants to showcase different cuisines to Gainesville locals.
The event happens every six weeks but saw a nine-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Pat Lavery, High Dive’s event manager. In January, the rally returned with social distancing and mask regulations.
Since then, Saturday’s event was the first time masks were partially optional and no social distancing regulations were in place.
“We still require masks indoors in our venue unless you’re eating or drinking for the event,” Lavery said. “But we have lots of outdoor seating, seating in the parking lot and the beer garden, so for people who aren’t vaccinated or don't feel comfortable taking off their masks indoors, you have all those outdoor options.”
This is the High Dive’s eighth consecutive year with the Food Truck Rally, and it usually hosts 10-12 food trucks at a time. Lavery said there are waitlists of food trucks from all over the Gainesville, Ocala and Orlando area. He said the idea of the rally started on a whim.
“Food trucks weren't really a popular thing in Gainesville,” Lavery said. “At the time, we had a food truck that was parked in our parking lot every day. The first one had, I think, six food trucks, and I feel like when we did that event, we kind of launched the food truck culture in Gainesville.”
Lavery said they like to mix up the list of vendors to include new, old and regular vendors while partnering up with a local charity for each rally. Since the return of the rally this year, Lavery said High Dive has continuously worked alongside vendors to provide an initial donation for the charity.
“It's a really good partnership,” he said. “Since the inception of the food truck rally, we've raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities through the events. We're really proud of that.”
For Saturday’s event in particular, the rally partnered with the local organization Gainesville Girls Rock Camp. Each food truck had a QR code available for visitors to contribute to the camp.
“Every time we work with a charity, we give them an opportunity to set up a tent or a table in the parking lot, along with the vendors,” Lavery said. ”They can use that to get information out about their charity and also raise money for their charity.”
Co-founder and co-director of Gainesville Girls Rock Camp Jennifer Vito walked around the crowds of people with brightly colored maracas and a tip bucket.
The camp started in 2013 and was inspired by the Global Network of Rock Camps and surrounding camps like Jacksonville Girls Rock Camp. Vito said their mission is inspired by a passion to uplift marginalized voices in the community and music scene.
Co-director Coral Smith hopes volunteers and campers walk away from the program feeling “powerful, worthy, supported and loved.”
“I think what we do at camp is such special, sacred work that it becomes integral to creating the kind of world we want to see,” Smith said. “I want people to take the lessons they learn at camp and bring it to the outside to help make a more equitable, creative, kind and joyful space.”
Vito, alongside Smith, set up an information booth at the rally, where they sold merchandise and recruited volunteers and potential campers.
For the last six years, the camp’s final showcase used the High Dive’s venue.
The Food Truck Rally attendees could enjoy the various Gainesville delicacies of chicken sandwiches, lobster rolls and snow cones throughout the night. Inside the High Dive were different acts, including the local band Heavy Pedal.
Kamala Major, 27, who was working the T-mobile truck at the rally, said she found out about the event on Facebook. Major, a vegetarian, said she tried the chili fries from Vegan Gator, gelati from BZ’s gelati and veggie spring rolls from Taste.
Shelby Hewit, 28, who was alongside Major, said it was her first time at the Food Truck Rally. She said she tried the mushroom burger from Vegan Gator and intended to try the barbecue food truck and gelati food truck.
Lavery said the rally’s return in January received a good response and mentioned how exciting it was to see the community embrace it.
“We just missed seeing all the people getting together and trying out the food, meeting up with their friends and hearing live music. We just missed that sense of community from the event.”
Contact Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @melissahernandezdlc.
Melissa Hernandez de la Cruz is a fourth-year journalism major at the University of Florida. She loves to travel, create photography, enjoy new cultures, and is a fellow history junkie. Apart from being a citizen of the world, she also shares birthdays with legendary artists Bruce Lee, Jimi Hendrix, and Bill Nye.