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North Carolina – A Day at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo

A day at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo by Duke Stewart
Written by Duke Stewart

A Day at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo

The car pulls into the already-maxed out parking lot at the corner of Rigsbee and Hunt in Durham. Noon has hardly passed but people are already moving on this sunny day that’s more like May instead of February. We stagger towards the place that will keep our bellies full and happy for the day. I have no idea what this Durham Food Truck Rodeo means but will soon discover that over 50 local vendors are going to dominate a tiny slice of the city for a few hours today.

Durham Food Truck Rodeo Map Courtesy of Durham Central Park

Map Courtesy of Durham Central Park

According to Durham Central Park, the event is largely responsible for starting the whole food truck craze in the Triangle area. Even as we pull into a parking spot, I know where the first meal of this day lives. A truck called Banh Mi Ha Long stands out among its other well-decorated neighbors. Why? Because why would you torture yourself with something not Vietnamese if that’s an available option? A kind man serves a delicious sandwich to me and takes back to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with that oh so familiar first bite of cilantro and everything else that follows.

Food Truck and people at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo Winter 2016

I wake up and realizing that the whole thing is gone and try to avoid stares while fleeing the scene. A quick turn on Foster and I realize that everyone else has arrived at the Food Truck Rodeo. That familiar and festive atmosphere that we all know at the Durham Farmers’ Market has jacked itself up by a notch or twenty. Tons of people are starting to arrive and it’s barely 1:00 in the afternoon. I chat with people and try to get the scoop on the next meal before my wife flags me towards the Fullsteam booth where a full beer awaits.

At the Durham Food Truck Rodeo Winter 2016

The grassy field that sits in the middle of the Farmers’ Market looks full of people who’ve come prepared with blankets and chairs to enjoy the day. Instead of staring at the wonderful scene there, our bellies guide us towards the food truck rodeo vendors inside the Farmers’ Market. My mother-in-law goes straight for the Jamaican line while I search for something else, dragging her husband along. Blurry visions of pizza slices and barbecue sandwiches start to appear but I’m not sure if it was a dream or reality.

Shrimp Po Boy at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo

We all meet back at the corner of Hunt and Foster and camp out on the street curb. Somehow, we all have more food and beer in hand and I gobble down meal after meal that comes my way. Most times I never think to ask about its contents until a few minutes later. Hours of this go by and my body remains unaware of the pain that will come later tonight. Somewhere among the hysteria, I run into a kind lady and even register to vote. The crowds eventually win and start to clog the 50+ stalls and force some to run out of food and shut down.

Duke Stewart and Christina at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo

Things start to turn as 10-minute waits turn into at least an hour in some spots. A wings vendor refunds everyone in sight because they ran out and that serves as the ultimate cue for us to head home. Either way, I’m sure that my belly couldn’t handle anymore. Our ears and eyes draw towards Central Park and we all head towards a racket that grows clearer and transforms into the most awesome way to finish this day. I never catch the name of this over 10-piece band dominated by awesome and charismatic trumpeters but who cares when it sounds good? I stare around and see all the people sitting on the grass and notice that everyone is watching these guys; enjoying the songs they’re playing.

Awesome Jazz Band playing at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo Winter 2016

They keep things lively and even when a song starts off quiet and slow, there’s a familiar crescendo that helps me realize these guys know how to play a crowd. Sometimes it’s not enough for the band to just play, so they shout and holler like any other passionate musician would when they’re in the moment like this. People continue passing by and leave considerable sums of money in their bucket, and I do the same as we head towards the car. I’m happy that we found this band or else the day would’ve felt incomplete.

Wool E Bull at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo Winter 2016

The beautiful not-February-more-like-May day is roughly over and we stagger back to the car like happy customers. A volunteer mentions that there will be 3 more of these events throughout the year. My mind is very happy but the belly grumbles at the thought of the struggle that will begin in a couple of months. A couple of things remain clear from this day as we pull out and head home. Sure there were tons of wonderful things to eat and drink but seeing all these people come together for a day of fun just tops it off. I love this city and thanks to days like this at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo, I’m not going anywhere for a while.

Durham Central Park ran this event and for more info about it and things happening there, check this page

I’d love to hear what you thought about this story. What do you think of this? Ever been to an event like this in your town? Let me read your thoughts in the comments section! 

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A day at the Durham Food Truck Rodeo in North Carolina by Duke Stewart

About the author

Duke Stewart

As a recovering Expat, I write about Life through Travel and want you there with me through captivating stories followed by guides on how to do the same. My work has been featured in various magazines throughout Korea and in online publications including the awesome I am also a nerd and love to point out a situation's similarities to any of my favorite movies, books, or tv shows. You've been warned:) Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates.


  • If you love this event but don’t want to deal with big crowds or long lines in the future, check out the “Trucks from the Market” event that Durham Central Park holds annually as part of their “Meals from the Market” series. It’s a ticketed event which means entrance is capped, so no lines! You pay the ticket price ($50 historically) which gets you two beers (usually Fullsteam) and a sample of whatever each truck decides to serve that night. There are usually about 15+ trucks and they are always generous with their servings, so it amounts to an enormous amount of delicious food. You can share your ticket and even two adults on one ticket end up leaving stuffed. You can always take some to-go containers, too. Plus, it is a fundraiser for the wonderful DCP, so it’s a win for everyone!

  • Great stuff, man! I love how you ‘wake up’ after eating the Vietnamese sandwich and have to flee the scene — the visual had me cracking up. I’m the same, I think I love food to a criminal degree.

    This festival sounds like a foodie nirvana! I’d love to try it, but I think I’d enlist a reliable friend to tag along with a wheelbarrow to haul my bloated self away afterwards…
    Nathan Anderson recently posted…Nature Cruise in Milford SoundMy Profile

    • I’m imagining that Banh Mi and now going to look up that truck to see when they’re in the area. Like I said before, get here and I’ll gladly cart you around after a few rounds, lol.

      I have this problem where I eat something so fast, I don’t even remember what it is. You ever do that? If so, then we’re definitely kindred spirits! Anyway, thanks man and I wonder. They have anything like this in NZ? It’d be interesting to see the contrasts between theirs and ours.
      Duke Stewart recently posted…Cambodia – Bayon, Ta Prohm and More Angkor Temple PicturesMy Profile

  • Great sum up of a great day with you guys. I can smell the food, hear the laughter of the people we met and that awesome band with your article. Thanks!