Raleigh, NC: Crowds Gather Early for Raleigh Food-Truck Rodeo

via Flickr - Ray Rivera

By Josh Shaffer   |   News Observer

via Flickr - Ray Rivera
via Flickr – Ray Rivera

RALEIGH — An hour before it began, the Food Truck Rodeo drew hungry hordes begging for crab burgers, crawfish po-boys mixed with squash and tomato pie – all of it cooked on the humming floorboards of four-wheeled vehicles.

So popular is this event – the third in downtown Raleigh – that people queued up offering exorbitant tips and bribes Sunday for a cup full of Kona Ice before the official 4 p.m. start.

“You feel like a shmuck,” said ice truck owner Carina Veverka. “It’s 100 degrees out here. But they’ll kick you out if you serve too early.”

With crowds expected to top 15,000 on Fayetteville Street, Raleigh has followed the lead from neighbor Durham, which was quicker to accept the quirky, mobile method of food delivery. Two years ago, some of Raleigh’s leaders worried about noise, litter and competition trucks would bring to restaurants without wheels. The trucks found the wait worthwhile, and downtown hosts one more rodeo on Oct. 13.

More than 50 of them crowded downtown Sunday: Pie Pushers, Cakes by Caren, Sympathy for the Deli, King Creole and Baguetteaboutit with its signature snack titled “You Talkin’ to Me?”

“This is the only festival in the world where the people come early,” Veverka said. “That truck right there, Olde North State BBQ, said they ran out after three hours last time. I’ve never run out before. But it’s hot …”

With that, she turned away another early bird, hoping he’d hang onto his thirst for another 30 minutes.