Downtown Chow Down makes seasonal return
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.”