The food trucks returned to Barron Park on Thursday, May 4 for the second time to help drive residents of LaBelle to the Barron Park House Gallery. At the LaBelle City Commission Meeting on April 13, the commissioners voted to postpone approval for the Barron Park House Gallery to host monthly food truck events. The commission cited concerns of possibly upset residents in the Barron Park area.
I asked residents who live near Barron Park their opinions on the food truck event becoming a monthly event.
“We enjoy the food trucks and like them,” said Judy Martinez, a resident on Lee Street, a block away from Barron Park, “we’re headed there right now. We are used to the Swamp Cabbage Festival and sit on our screened in porch to listen to the music.”
“We have no problem at all with the food trucks,” said Elsie Curtis who lives on the corner of Lee Street and Park Avenue.
“The only thing that bothers me about the food trucks is when people park in front of my house,” said Myranda Ayala who also lives on the corner of Lee Street and Park Avenue, “They bring something new and different to the community. It is a way for the community to come together.”
Mike Shough, President of Arts of the Inland that runs Barron Park House Gallery said he wants to keep hosting the food truck events as long as the city commission will let him.
“We had 150 people visit the Barron Park House Gallery,” said Shough, “we sold more in the gift shop this time than we did at the first food truck event. Approximately 1,000 people attended this month’s food truck event. People can go to Ft. Myers or Naples or they can stay in LaBelle and come to the food trucks and the art gallery. The food trucks are a family affair. You can bring your little kids and your dogs.”
The Barron Park House Gallery is raising money to build a handicap accessible ramp.
“We need to raise $10,000 - $20,000 to build the ramp,” said Shough.
Carolyn Ford Kirk- Patrick, a fourth generation LaBellilan, who has lived and worked in LaBelle for 55 years did not know the Barron Park House had been turned into an art gallery until recently.
“The last time I was here it was for a birthday party when my son was five,” said Ford Kirk-Patrick, “and he is 25 years old now. I think turning the Barron Park House into art gallery is a good use of space.”
Carolyn Ford Kirk- Patrick came for the food trucks and visited the Barron Park House Gallery after eating there.
“If the food trucks bring people of the community out of their homes it is a good idea,” said Ford Kirk-Patrick, “It breaks the monotony and gives people a choice.”
Jamie Rachel and Justin Velez came to the food truck event with their son Roman. It was their first time coming to the event and the first time they learned about the Barron Park House Gallery.
“We’ve lived in LaBelle forever and didn’t know the art gallery was here. There are a lot of hidden gems in the community,” said Jamie Rachel.
“I think they should continue doing the food truck event,” said Justin Velez, “we didn’t want to cook in and enjoy the creations of the food trucks.”
James and Melanie Powell just moved to LaBelle a month ago. They rode to the food truck event on their golf cart.
“We love the food,” said James Powell, “it is different food. We are huge food truck fans and fans of mom and pop type stores.”
The City Commission also cited the impact the food trucks would have on local restaurants as a reason to postpone monthly food truck event approval at the April 13 City Commission meeting.
“We scheduled an extra server for tonight,” said Kendall Weatherford server and manager at Forrey’s Grill, “We were really busy during the first food truck event. We ended up not needing the extra server. It was a normal Thursday for us.”
“Tonight, was better than our typical Thursday,” said Rugger Marra, Co owner and operator of Belle’s Ice Cream Bar, “The food truck event is in our favor since we have dessert. I am in favor of the food truck event no matter what. It gets people out of the house. We need more events like this.”
Matt Germain Owner of The Quart House said any kind of events in LaBelle impact their business. Despite the impact the food trucks had on The Quart House he is in favor of the food truck event.
“One, because I am a chef,” said Germain, “two, because they bring more people to town. When more people come from outside of LaBelle to events in LaBelle it helps our economy. People buy gas and other items.”
“Business was off a little, but wasn’t bad,” said John Schofield Co-owner of Log Cabin, “The food truck event is good for the community. It is nice seeing the community come together. There is not much for the college kids and younger age groups to do in LaBelle and it is nice for them to have something to do. They are not our normal clientele.”