Evanston, IL: Food Truck Festival Rolls into to Gray Park

By Safiya Merchant | DailyNorthwestern.com
Evanston residents tasted the food of three cuisine companies during Sunday’s Food Truck Festival in Grey Park at Ridge Avenue and Main Street.

As Hummingbird Kitchen, Flirty Cupcakes and 5411 Empanadas served up meals, musical and dance acts also entertained the audience, such as Zumba group Hip Circle Studio and roots band Bill Reedy and the Smokin’ Cattails.

Evanston Parks Coalition member Belén Ayestaran said she organized the event to bring more people to Grey Park.

Evanston allocated money to improve the park’s quality and content under the city’s capital improvement plan. Ayestaran organized the festival to raise an additional $26,000 to fund a design workshop and consulting process from Project for Public Spaces.

“The grounds are beautiful, but it lacks features,” Ayestaran said. “The pathways are completely awkward. (There) are not enough places to sit.”

Other Evanston residents agreed the park could be improved to attract a bigger audience. Colleen Cochran, a mother of four, said she wishes it had a playground. She also runs into smokers there who tend to talk aggressively to her and each other, she said.

Some of these smokers are the occupants of Albany Care, a residential treatment facility for adults with mental disorders. According to Jonathan Eastman, the clinical director of the facility, the fact that many of his occupants use the park can fuel the argument Grey Park does not need to be revitalized.

“If you’re gonna redo the park, redo it so it’s accommodating for everyone,” Eastman said.

Scott Wajda, a 42-year-old resident of Albany Care, went to the meetings at which Evanston planned the food truck festival. He also said the park needed a makeover, and some possible features could be a food/coffee kiosk, demonstrations or concerts in its amphitheater and a new coat of paint for the benches.

“People would want to come if there’s something worth coming for,” Wajda said.

According to Ayestaran, the large turnout for the event proved the park is moving forward.

“What we’re going to work on is bringing more programming to the park,” she said. “The idea is that a lot of different people can interact.”