Down­town Chow Down makes sea­sonal re­turn

The News-Times (Sunday) - - News - By Zach Murdock zach.murdock@hearst­medi­act.com

DAN­BURY — The Down­town Chow Down has re­turned for a brief fall en­core.

The pop­u­lar weekly food truck rally wrapped up its se­cond sum­mer sea­son at the end of Au­gust, but af­ter a slew of re­quests, city of­fi­cials de­cided to bring it back for a brief trial run for sev­eral Wed­nes­days to start this fall.

“It’s a chance to get out of the of­fice on hump day to come down and en­joy some good food and just kind of break up the mid­dle of the week,” said Austin Sa­muel­son, the city’s com­mu­nity ser­vices co­or­di­na­tor. “With the pub­lic de­mand to con­tinue it into the fall, we saw this as the first op­por­tu­nity to pi­lot it for next year.”

The event re­mains in its lunch-hour slot from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kennedy Park on Main Street, but it has changed from its usual Thurs­day sched­ule to Wed­nes­days for this trial run, and when it re­turns next spring, of­fi­cials said.

The first of three events in the trial run came last week and it will be held again Wed­nes­day and on Oct. 10.

The change to Wed­nes­day should help the es­tab­lished down­town restau­rants that do more busi­ness start­ing at lunch Thurs­day and through the week­end, said An­gela Wong, events and de­vel­op­ment direc­tor for Ci­tyCen­ter Dan­bury, which hosts the event.

“We hoped that would help a lit­tle bit and we want ev­ery­body to do well, so we thought we’d give it a try,” she said. “The more foot traf­fic, the bet­ter it is for every (busi­ness) down­town.”

As the event has grown in pop­u­lar­ity, it reg­u­larly draws 300 to 350 peo­ple each week, Sa­muel­son said. The food trucks that par­tic­i­pate share how many meals they serve so the city can gauge at­ten­dance and even a slow day with lessthan-ideal weather draws more than 200 peo­ple, he added.

Sur­veys of cus­tomers also sur­pris­ingly re­vealed about 20 to 30 per­cent of at­ten­dees each week came down­town from one of the of­fice cam­puses from across the city, like Prax­air or Scha­ef­fler or Boehringer In­gel­heim, Sa­muel­son said.

“We were re­ally sur­prised,” he said. “We have had a lot of cor­po­rate peo­ple from the larger busi­nesses car­pool­ing down, so we’ve been very pleased by that. It’s peo­ple who gen­er­ally don’t have the time to get down­town to ap­pre­ci­ate it and they get to see ev­ery­thing it has to of­fer, so we’re hop­ing they re­turn on the week­ends to ex­plore.”

The event pays for it­self, with par­tic­i­pat­ing food trucks shar­ing a por­tion of their pro­ceeds to pay for the live mu­sic and mar­ket­ing that go into each event, he added.

All that foot traf­fic — whether peo­ple who al­ready work down­town or who come just for the food trucks — helps boost the profile of every busi­ness down­town, Sa­muel­son and Wong said.

“This sea­son’s wind­ing down and we’ll see how turnout is with the cooler weather, but it should work out well,” Won said. “I think we’ve got such mo­men­tum that peo­ple know to ex­pect it and look for it, and some of these food trucks have a big fol­low­ing, too. It’s re­ally go­ing to be good fin­ish­ing up now and go­ing into next spring.”

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