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Reno Food Trucks 'Transcend Culture, Religion, Language'

Diners meander up and down the street lined with food trucks at Idlewild Park in Reno.

Every week during the summer about 3,000 people, mostly college students and families, make their way to Idlewild Park for “Food Truck Friday."

Children laugh and do cartwheels on the grass and lawn chairs are clustered in the shade of the trees. Live music floats over to the food trucks, which are parked in two long rows. Their windows are open and cooks hurry to serve twisting lines of customers. 

One of these customers is Christine Novicio, who has just ordered what is called a “Truck Burger”.

“It’s the peanut butter burger with sautéed onions and bacon on it,” she says.

Down the row, vendor Guy Wilmoth, owner of “The Drink Doctor” mobile beverage truck cannot stand still. He is constantly hopping in and out to grab more supplies and keep up with the orders.

Wilmoth says that everyone is: “…very busy, a lot of foot traffic, good participation, and everybody’s just out having a good time.”

This event is bustling now, but it hasn’t always been this packed with people.

Steve Schroeder is the owner of Reno Street Food. He remembers how things were in 2012 when he started the event; back then, there were only eight food trucks in the whole city.

Now those numbers are drastically different.

“We have 60 vendors that are registered through our process that will be allowed on a rotational basis. Last year we had over 60,000 people attend Reno Street Food,” Schroeder says.

With this growth comes challenges. Diner Paramjeet Bains likes the social aspect of waiting in line, but in her opinion, Idlewild Park is getting too cramped.

“I think it’s a good location, but with the more food trucks coming into the area, they need to get a different area where there’s more walking space,” Bains says.

Steve Schroeder would also like to see the vendors serve their food and drinks faster.

“They need to speed things up. They need to make some changes, do better, be better,” Schroeder says. “I mean, if you go to L.A. they can serve food in 5 to 7 minutes. Here in Reno, we still have some work to do.”

Schroeder also challenges the vendors to move beyond selling burgers and pizza and offer more eclectic, gourmet food.

In the meantime, Schroeder hopes to continue bringing people together through food.

“It transcends culture, religion, language,” he said. “You can see two complete strangers go to different food trucks. As they walk back together, somebody points out and says, “What is that?” and then it starts a conversation … and then it turns into friendship. That’s what food does. That’s what I love about it.”

“Food Truck Friday” events will continue on a weekly basis throughout the summer.

Natalie is a freelance journalist and translator based in Reno, Nevada, who reports in English and Spanish. She also works for the nonprofit SembraMedia, supporting independent, digital Spanish-language media in the United States.
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