Vincennes is enjoying the Riverwalk’s Monday feast
By Bernie Schmitt
Hungry on Monday?
You better get down to the Vincennes Riverwalk early, as the popularity of food trucks along the Wabash River continues to grow and some vendors run out of food.
“It’s a common occurrence,” said Brian Grove, a member of the Vincennes City Council. “They just can’t seem to bring enough. They sell until they run out.”
There were at least seven or eight food trucks along the Riverwalk on a Monday in mid-June, offering everything from ice cream cones to rib dinners. Nachos, Thai food, and fried fish were among the offerings, too. There was a liquor booth, too, where one could get a cold brew to accompany the food.
Visitors and Vincennes residents mingle along the walkway, reading menus or juggling food and drink, seeking one of several tables set up, or finding an open spot along the river’s flood wall. Music floats through the air as the mixed aroma of food preparation wafts alongside the river.
There are food trucks from Vincennes and from other locales every Monday from 5 to 8 p.m. One can find Horton’s Fish Market and the Thainamite food trucks from Vincennes, Little Houston’s BBQ ribs, as well as a vendor from French Lick.
“We like to get out and around,” said Jennifer Flick, who with her son Colin, operate the Old Canoe Slider Company of French Lick. “We try to get around to a lot of southern Indiana communities.”
Grove, who is finishing his first term as a Councilman, wanted to do something that would take advantage of the city’s most visible asset: the Wabash River.
“The river was under-utilized,” Grove said. “I was trying to think of things to get the community involved. Now that we’ve gotten this going, more and more people are calling us, wanting to bring their trucks here”
Plenty of room
There is a half mile of space along the Riverwalk, plenty of room to bring in even more trucks, allowing for more variety.
“As long as the community comes out we’ll continue to have a bigger variety,” he said.
Jeff Horton of Horton’s Fish Market has been a mainstay at the Monday night food truck event. He helped Grove establish the Vincennes Food Trucks on the Wabash, the organization that governs, organizes, and maintains the overall event.
Food trucks pay a fee, either $20 a week, or a larger ($350) fee if they wish to attend the entire season. The season began in April (as soon as the weather was nice), and will continue through the fall, until the weather gets too cold for comfort.
All of the food trucks must meet state and county health guidelines for sanitation and food preparation, Grove said. The vendors must meet all legal standards and all vendors are required to have insurance.
Horton previously had his Horton’s Fish Market in a building along Washington Avenue. But after three years he gave it up for the mobility of a food truck, something he’s been doing for the last four years. He approached Shirley Rose for permission to park at the Farmer’s Market downtown, but the Market already has a food vendor. So, he turned to Grove.
It turned out that both were thinking about some kind of food truck event at the same time, but needed to get the proper okay from city officials. It took a little time, but Grove stuck with it and the food truck event premiered at the Riverwalk last year.
“It turned out to be something Vincennes really enjoys,” Horton said. “Every Monday we have between 1,500 and 2,000 people come through there. The response has been overwhelming.”
The Vincennes Food Trucks on the Wabash had previously borrowed the tables set up along the Riverwalk for its hungry patrons. They were on loan from the Farmer’s Market, but after June 10 they were no longer available. Within four days, Horton said enough businesses came through with sponsorships for the group to purchase its own tables.
“We got enough to buy 17 tables,” he said. “Each table will be sponsored by a business, and we’ll have a nice sign for each table saying so. The response on this was overwhelming. All we had to do was talk to people. Our community is strong in their support for something like this.”
Businesses can also buy general, $250 sponsorships for a particular week, with that money used to pay for the entertainment and for advertising. The business is acknowledged in that advertising, and organizers make sure that the business is represented at the Monday night event.
“We have live bands scheduled for almost the entire season,” Horton said. “Organ Battery lets us use a golf cart, to transport people from parking areas to the Riverwalk.”
Grove and Horton hope the Vincennes Food Trucks on the Wabash will be a destination event, designed to bring in even more people from out of town. In the works are plans for more entertainment, games, and other things. Pete’s Carriage Rides through downtown Vincennes, operated by Max Strate, is another feature of the food truck event.
“We want to invite as many trucks as we can to get a lot of variety,” Grove said. “Our own local truck owners invite others if they find something interesting.”
Coming from near and far
The event is bringing people in from other communities. Grove said he gets calls from people who express their appreciation for the event, and tell him about the nice time they had visiting Vincennes and having dinner alongside the Wabash.
“We get people from Loogootee, Montgomery, Washington, and all around,” Grove said. “There were people here from Illinois. We have people who work here, and stop by to get something to eat before going home.”
Food trucks have become popular in recent years in larger cities. Now, food truck events are becoming popular, but Vincennes is one of few in southern Indiana.
“The only other food truck events are in Bloomington and Evansville,” Horton said. “This brings something to our town that people have been hearing about, something unique and popular. It’s a great thing for our community.”