Oak Park Great Food Truck Rally: A Disappointing Success

Radical Underestimation of attendance, sellouts in first hour

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By David Hammond

It is fantastic and foresighted that the folks at Pilgrim Congregational decided to hold a Food Truck Rally in their parking lot this afternoon .

They had no way of knowing what they were bringing forth.

Vendors were told to expect 200 people, and of 11 trucks, 3 had sold out within the first 90 minutes. The Meatloaf Bakery was out of goods within about half an hour. In the photo picture above, you can see people already waiting in line around 12:50PM in front of a sign that promised the truck would re-open at 1:30!

Curried Away, selling curried food, hurried away around 1PM, completely sold out of goods. Empanadas 5411 quickly followed (that's it in the background of above shot, headed east on Lake).

As of this writing, the Great Food Truck Ralley is to go on for four more hours -- a few places, like Jerk Modern Jamaican Grill -- told me they were ready for many more customers. Jerk serves a find product -- well-seasoned jerk chicken for about 7 bucks -- but we waited in line for 20 plus minutes, and that was before other places started shutting down. 

Clearly there is a hunger for this kind of thing in Oak Park. The demand is there. The question is, will Pilgrim seize the opportunity to have similar events that capitalize on the unforeseen enthusiasm for truck-borne chow? For instance, would it not be awesome if there was some way of bringing in food trucks in tandem with the Farmer's Market (maybe after 1PM, when the market is pretty much shut down)? With all the games at Ridgeland Common and the High School Track, I'd think vendors would find it a worthwhile venture. Heck, many vendors came today expecting to sell no more than 200 units – my guess is that most could have sold many, many more than that.

Despite the radical underestimation of attendance, the disappointing sellouts of almost 30% of vendors in first hour, the overcast skies and chill weather, I believe this event has to be considered a success – and I'd hope, a predictor of how well such events would do if they're allowed to continue.

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Reader Comments

34 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

Mike Hanline from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2015 12:40 PM

"Based on some of the comments here it's clear that Oak Park's reputation for respecting diversity of opinion is grossly overrated." Diversity of opinion is one thing, being a NIMBY whiner is another.

John Trilik  

Posted: June 14th, 2015 3:45 PM

Saved our appetite to have lunch there and came away disappointed. Nothing but donuts and coffee available. Of the lunch type food trucks still there the pierogi truck was out of gas and the hamburger truck out of food (why would they stay there and open?). At least there were not hour long lines like at Pilgrim. :) Maybe 3 people in the corral.

Cynthia Kallile from Chicago  

Posted: May 17th, 2013 10:20 AM

Love the picture of our truck and while we ran out quickly, we made two additional trips back to The Meatloaf Bakery to replenish for the hungry crowds. The residents of Oak Park were wonderful. Let's do this again and we'll all bring more!

Laura from Elmhurst  

Posted: May 16th, 2013 8:15 AM

As the owner of the Cupcakes for Courage truck, this event was a huge success. We could have packed more, if we would have been able to anticipate the HUGE turnout, but no one could have. If we didn't have this inventory we would have sold out within an hour like many others. Pilgrim should definitely consider doing more events such as this one in the future. It can be a successful fundraiser for them and also a great way for us trucks to expand our clientele to the suburbs.

elaine from oak park  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 11:00 PM

Sounds like it was a fun event even though the vendors ran out of food, sorry I missed it. How was the entertainment?

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 10:20 PM

I confirmed the 200 with two Pilgrim representatives, onsite, in person; to one I said, "Wow, kind of a radical underestimation," to which she replied, with mock incredulousness, "Do you think?" Were all vendors informed? I dunno. Some clearly came loaded with enough supplies while others, like Curried Away, planned for only 200 (that's what they told me they were told to expect) and so ran out within the first hour.

Russ from Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 9:47 PM

200? I know several involved in planning this event and this story is the first I've heard of that number. Furthermore, I don't believe that is what the vendors were told. See the Vendor FAQ at http://www.foodtrucks-oakpark.info/food-truck-vendors-faqs.html where it mentions that the farmers market draws "thousands" at this same location every Saturday. I'm sure it also increased the crowd when it was mentioned on WTTW "Check Please" a day or two before the event.

Jeriome Mrowca from Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 6:21 PM

Based on some of the comments here it's clear that Oak Park's reputation for respecting diversity of opinion is grossly overrated.

Erika Stone-miller from Chicago  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 3:46 PM

Erika of the ice cubed truck here. We knew Oak Parker's were super excited about the Rally based on the traffic on our social media outlets. That's why we came prepared with 1100 units of frozen deliciousness. Sadly, for all involved, the OP health dept shut us down due to the fact our generator was too loud. What the noise of a loud generator had to do with sanitation is beyond us, but we subsequently left as there was no way for us to power our freezers.

Paddy Boy  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 2:23 PM

Jerome, why don't you tell us what you really think? By the way the Kolovitz (sp?) Movers have an opening this week. My suggestion? Next time have some corn beef n' cabbage. Or perhaps some banger tacos.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 12:18 PM

Anywhere but the Pilgrim parking lot, right Jerome?! (smile). I understand where you're coming from, and I sympathize, really, but I'm not sure Madison corridor gets enough foot traffic...whereas Pilgrim (with the Farmers' Market, ball games, etc.) gets a lot of people coming by, on foot, and ready to stop for a bite. It would probably be best, though, if the trucks were allowed to actually move along the streets and visits points throughout the village (which would also put less strain on your hood).

Jerome Mrowca from Oak Park  

Posted: May 14th, 2013 11:45 AM

There's a lot on the northeast corner of Madison & Oak Park that would seem to be a good venue for food trucks. Isn't the Madison corridor generally underused commercially?


Posted: May 14th, 2013 9:05 AM

oops....my computer deleted the words "Farmers' Market"_after "around the periphery of"


Posted: May 14th, 2013 9:02 AM

O.K. so it was a first time, and a few mistakes were made. How anyone could think that in Oak Park, with adequate announcement ahead of the event, only 200 people would show up? But, it was proof that folks would like to have food trucks around the periphery of the Good music, people having fun, and the sun peeking through the clouds. It was all perfect if you arrived early. So let's learn from this experience and do it better next time.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 7:45 PM

Jerome, I actually love the idea of a weekend food truck rally in Scoville park, but it's the "restaurant row" that is likely to push back. In Chicago, it's people who own restaurants who don't want food trucks around....because of the competition. You think Winberie's, Red Hen, Hemmingway's, etc., want food trucks right outside their doors? No, they don't, much as you don't (for different reasons, of course), but I think such rallies would add vitality to any area...but I guess some don't like that kind of liveliness.

Jerome Mrowca from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 7:24 PM

Your argument is bogus,Reality Check. There's no reason why the same neighborhood has to continually bear burden of these dislocations. Pilgrim has the Farmers Market. Move the food trucks to Scoville Park; that's where there already is a well developed restaurant row.

Marty Swisher from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 7:10 PM

What a great idea and how wonderful that Pilgrim took the leap and brought this idea to us! The first time is always a real experiment. Now we know that OP is ready to explore this, and next time the trucks will be ready for our brand of participation.

Reality Check  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 6:47 PM

Jerome, move to Naperville if that's the way you feel. OP is an urban suburb. Too bad you didn't do your due diligence before buying, but most of us OPers are sick and tired of hearing newbies complain about what we love about this place.

Suzette from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 6:02 PM

Having recently moved from Nashville TN, I share the following: We do food trucks each week as part of the farmer's market but we rotate the trucks each week and rotate the location so as to include variation and not to tie up the same location each week. Attendance is always more than expected ! Congrats on this first experience and I realize there are many considerations in a residential area with a large population. I went about 12:30 and loved it !

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 5:52 PM

One reason for starting a food truck is to generate enough interest and revenue to open a brick-and-mortar location. To have a location and then start up a food truck, Don, though it can happen, is much more rare and I'm guessing the economics are maybe not as attractive.

Don Nekrosius from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 5:44 PM

It would be better if our local eateries could go mobile to serve the evident market. Think of a Tasty Dog Cart, a Falafil Hut on Wheels, any healthful offering from the vibrant food scene we have in OP. Even Oberweis serving ice cream!

Julia Huff from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 5:35 PM

Didn't get there until 4, a few trucks were still there. We still had fun, but would have been better to have more choices.

RMTrindl from Mercer  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 5:26 PM

It was a very impressive event. The vendors all were very apologetic when they rain out of food . It was worth the wait. Also who could plan on the numbers that would attend.....what did you want advanced ticket sale??

Jerome Mrowca from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 5:21 PM

I thought I was moving to a residential area when I bought our home. The Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings is one thing, but your idea of having a second event (weekly? daily?) with food trucks in the afternoons and nights is abominable. How about having them all camp out on your front lawn?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 5:19 PM

When planning for 200, maybe they didn't take in to consideration word of mouth via the Internet? I found out about it because the Relay for Life event at the high school cross-promoted it on their website. And then I, like other people and organizations, shared the information of this food truck event via platforms like Facebook.


Posted: May 13th, 2013 5:12 PM

The Beyond Borders truck also got restocked around 2:30pm and opened again. I left shortly thereafter. I think the Pilgrim Church board should be congratulated -- not insulted -- on having such an amazingly well-attended event.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 4:58 PM

Thanks, Erin, I didn't know they made it back. If anyone was there at 6, I'd be interested in knowing if any truck was able to make it through to the end.

Erin from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 4:54 PM

They did come back, and were sold out again by 4. The truck was being closed as we walked in. We missed most of the trucks but hopefully the disappointed crowd will encourage another event on the near future!

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 4:25 PM

I talked to "Curried Away," which drove away around 1PM, Pressoir, and they said they were calling their kitchen to see if it was possible for them to whip up more curry. I guess it wasn't.

Pressoir Belance from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 4:17 PM

I arrived at at 1:30 and not happy when I saw the two trucks that I wanted to try drive off. There was more than enough time for them to restock and return.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 2:06 PM

Amy, 200 (even for one truck) was a low estimate, yes, but it seems that's been a problem with a lot of food truck rallies. I applaud Pilgrim for making the effort, and hope they try to do it again. And again.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 1:45 PM

Expecting only 200 people!? That is just crazy. Cra-zy.

Amy Williams from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 1:32 PM

This was so much fun! We had an amazing chicken salad wrap from the Beyond Borders truck... There's obviously a huge demand -- it would be great after the farmer's market going into the evening with music, etc. If Chicago is going to over-regulate the food trucks, then let them come to Oak Park every weekend...

Renee Zoltowski from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 1:17 PM

I would love it if they were to do it again. I was unable to go this time. But would go if it were to take place again!

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