Kristin Kulachkosky, co-owner of the Gravy Train, poses for a photo at the truck’s order window in Whitehorse on Aug. 20, 2020. Whitehorse’s annual food truck festival will be happening at Shipyards Park Aug. 24 to 28. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse’s Street Eats returns, but to Shipyards Park

The food truck event, like many aspects of life, is a little different this year due to COVID-19

Whitehorse’s annual gathering of food trucks is still on this summer — just don’t call it a festival.

Like many aspects of life, Street Eats, now in its fifth year, has also had to adapt to the threat of COVID-19.

Instead of vendors setting up at the usual location outside of city hall for a week, they’ll be stationed at Shipyards Park instead, with a break on Thursday to accommodate the Fireweed Market.

Traffic will be one-way, with a defined entrance point and signs reminding attendees to maintain proper physical distance from, and to avoid sharing tables with, people outside their social bubbles.

And, of course, there will be hand sanitizer readily available.

City of Whitehorse economic development coordinator Greg Stone said in an interview Aug. 19 that there were questions earlier in the year about whether holding Street Eats would even be possible.

“We weren’t very sure, you know, when the pandemic first hit if Street Eats was something we could do this year safely… (but) in the past few months we’ve seen a few other community events be hosted in a safe way for everybody so that gave us the confidence to go ahead with Street Eats and support the food truck scene again this year,” Stone said.

“We submitted our plan to the chief medical officer of health and it was approved, so it’s good to have their support as well.”

While Street Eats has previously been advertised as a festival, Stone said it was a conscious decision to drop that description this year “just because of the connotations of crowds that come with a festival.”

Kit Velasquez, co-owner of Kit’s Kitchen On Wheels, poses for a photo at the food truck in Whitehorse on Aug. 20. Street Eats, Whitehorse’s annual food truck festival happening next week, is adapting to follow COVID-19 precautions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Crowds are a key thing the city is trying to avoid. Moving the event from its central, downtown location on Steele Street to Shipyards will allow more space to ensure physical distancing measures are followed, and may also cut down on the number of people at the food trucks at any given time since they’ll be a little further away.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for people to take a walk down the river … so if they’re working and they’re looking for lunch, they can still make it to Shipyards Park and back in time,” Stone said. He also added that since the trucks will be serving until 7 p.m., there’s hope that people will drop by for snacks or dinner instead of just rushing out for lunch.

Not everything will be completely different; Stone said that, like last year, vendors will be using compostable containers for their food in an effort to reduce single-use waste, and the eight trucks will be familiar to people who have attended Street Eats before.

Ron Davis, the co-owner of the Gravy Train, said he was looking forward to being a part of Street Eats again, and was feeling confident about it running well based on the success of this year’s Fireweed Market.

Street Eats means a lot every year because it’s “a last big hurrah” for all the food trucks in town as summer winds down, he said, and he’s hoping that people are looking forward to it.

“Previous years have been a great success and a great week and we’re hoping to see the same this year,” Davis said.

He added that this summer was a “big change” for the Gravy Train, which typically sets up at festivals or other large events, many of which were cancelled or greatly scaled back due to the pandemic.

Arnold Salas and Kit Velasquez, the owners of Kit’s Kitchen On Wheels, also said they have taken a hit because of the pandemic — money-makers for food trucks, like the Dawson City and Atlin music festivals have all been cancelled — and were grateful the city found a way to make Street Eats happen.

“This will be our big event as a food truck vendor and we’re just hoping that people will give support to us so we can have something (to live on) this coming wintertime,” Velasquez said.

“We would like to thank the City of Whitehorse for making this happen even with this COVID thing,” Salas added. “It’s going to help a lot to all the vendors in general … This is the only thing that we have happening in Yukon.”

Street Eats will be at the paved loop at Shipyards Park from Aug. 24 to 28, skipping Aug. 27, with vendors serving up food from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Participating food trucks will also include Daat Indian Cuisine, The Chuck Wagon, Smoke and Sow, Alligator’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Shuhui Foods and Paddy’s World Famous Hotdogs.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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