Parks board approves monthly food truck events

From 4 p.m. to dark on the first Saturday of each month from May to September, food trucks will be set up at Shields Park in Seymour, and live music acts will perform on the bandstand.

This is a new initiative proposed by Neal and Gretchen Rose with Sno Biz in Seymour to the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department board.

During Monday’s meeting at city hall, the board gave approval on a 4-0 vote. Kendra Zumhingst abstained.

“I see nothing wrong with it,” board member Art Juergens said before making a motion to approve. “I think it promotes the park, we get some money out of it and as Chad (Keithley) and Stacy (Findley) said, I think we need to get us a fund built up where we could put money in there so we can do a few things.”

Keithley is program director of the parks and rec department, and Findley is the city’s parks director.

Each food truck will donate $50 or 10% of sales, whichever is greater, each time it sets up for the event to go to the parks department.

“I think in order for us to start building what we’re calling our park fund, we’ve go to do something to generate some money in order to build that up where we can do something, like have seed money for the baby pool,” Keithley said.

“Right now, we don’t really have a whole lot that we’re taking in as far as our park bond fund,” he said. “I think this is one way of starting out showing the community that we’re trying to build our park bond fund in order to do some of our bigger projects and have some seed money for our matching dollars.”

Findley said there’s a difference between the park bond fund and the normal operating expenses.

“This would not go back into our general budget,” she said of money generated from the food truck events. “This would be a savings account that would accrue interest, and the Greater Seymour Trust is a 501(c)(3), so any time we put money in there, we have different grants that that would open us up to versus a municipality. As a department, we just need to be looking at doing fundraising to put money into that account for some of these bigger projects.”

Rose said he takes the Sno Biz food truck to food truck events in Bloomington on a regular basis, and those are held in a city park.

He approached Findley about doing something similar in Seymour and also having live music.

“I thought it was a great idea, but then also, it’s a way like how could we make this also do something to positively impact our department?” she said. “I know with farmers markets or food truck events that there is a registration fee, and so when he approached me, what about if the registration fee went to benefit the parks department and we could put that in our Seymour park fund and have that as one of our fundraisers?”

Rose had the idea of charging a $75 fee with $50 or 10% of sales going to the parks department and $25 covering the live music acts.

He also gave her a list of the food trucks that have permits from the city and health department to set up in Seymour.

After that, he talked to Matt McDonald at This Old Guitar Music Store in Seymour to help arrange onstage entertainment. Rose said he and a couple of other local food truck owners will help with that, too.

Currently, Rose said there are 25 food trucks approved to operate in the city. He, however, only expects five or six to be there each month.

“Half of those will have prior commitments,” he said. “Most of the food trucks are very busy. I know a couple that have already stopped. They are not taking anything else until fall because they are that busy, so I think we’ll be looking at five, six trucks at a time. You’re not going to have all 25 of them rolling in.”

Rose said he chose to have this at the park instead of the farmers market parking lot because there are picnic tables and a shelter house for people to sit and enjoy food and music and there are playgrounds nearby.

If there is inclement weather on the first Saturday of each month, Rose said they would move the event to the second Saturday. If that doesn’t work, either, it would be canceled until the next month.

Board President Monica Riley said she was involved in the Seymour Area Farmers Market, and that took a lot of organizing. She expressed concern about the parks department taking this on.

“It doesn’t seem to me like a good idea to have one of the vendors be in charge of setup and everything, and I think that there probably needs to be oversight over the health department stuff, and if you are going to charge for booth space, that needs to be watched over because you can’t let some people get away with not paying and other people have to pay,” she said.

“I think that this is not a bad idea, but I think that it’s a significant project that is going to take a lot of work on you and your department’s part,” she said to Findley.

Findley said she would have food truck vendors register for the events through the parks department’s RecDesk software so they can keep track of who sets up and who pays the fee.

“I wouldn’t see this any differently than any other program,” she said.

Findley said the parks department also has the staffing capacity to stop by the events and see which vendors are there.

“If we do this, I’m going to take my own kids to this,” she said.

Juergens said for this to be a success, it will need to be promoted, including via social media, radio and newspaper, and he asked if security will be needed.

Neal said he would share information with the Jackson County Visitor Center to include on its online community calendar, and January Rutherford, the city’s public information specialist, said she could post information on the city and parks department’s Facebook pages. Plus, the food truck owners typically share information on their social media pages where they will be set up.

“I see no objection to it,” Juergens said. “I just think as long as it’s organized, people are paying their fees, there’s some promotion to it, I would be willing to try it.”

Zumhingst said she sees value in the food truck events because she likes when several of them set up in the farmers market parking lot and offer a variety of food options, but at the end of the board’s discussion, she didn’t have enough information to make an educated decision on the proposal.

“I think there’s a need for it,” she said. “Just for me, I kind of get into that parks managing thing that gets a little blurry for me.”