Retail Roundup: Former car dealer site repurposed for new food truck festival

The Midland Burger Company serves handmade burgers and fries at the Circle Wine Garden festival, a sister event to the newly created Midland Food Truck Festival. (Photo courtesy of Jim Barker.)

By Michael Piwowarski, news editor.

Midland Ford was once located at 1303 South Saginaw Rd. Nowadays, you won’t find any Mustangs or Explorers parked at the now-empty lot, as the car dealer moved to a bigger facility on Joe Mann Blvd in 2015, the old one having since been demolished.

However, the empty parcel of land will soon be brimming with activity again this summer, as the newly started Midland Food Truck Festival kicks off in May.

Jim Barker, event organizer and owner of Midland Impressions, already runs a festival in the Ashman Circle area called the Circle Wine Garden, which focuses on beer, wine and live music. The new festival will operate as a sister event, and will also include alcoholic beverages, as well as flea market booths, other types of vendors and live music.

Barker was inspired to start the new festival when he attended the World’s Largest Food Truck Rally in Belle Isle, Michigan last November and saw more than 100 food trucks participating. He decided that he wanted to bring the experience to his hometown Midland, with a summer event similar to Frankenmuth’s Funtown Chowdown food truck festival.

“Everyone’s excited about it,” says Barker. “Just because they have the food truck vendors at the farmers market, things like that; you’re starting to see them more and more. But [the] chance to have that many food trucks in one spot is an unusual opportunity.”

When Barker learned from a member of the Midland city council that there was a large, vacant lot on Saginaw Rd, he decided that a food truck festival would be a perfect use for that lot.

“There’s no grass there, but it’s a perfect opportunity to utilize some space that isn’t currently being used,” says Barker. “And then to be able to bring a really cool event to fruition in an area that it may not have happened before.”

Although vendors have not been confirmed at this time, Barker says that he hopes to get 12-15 food trucks to participate, and has been in talks with several, including Bay City’s 5-2-oh and Lansing’s Rice Pallela.

The Circle Wine Garden had its first run in 2018, from August through September, and will operate alongside the Midland Food Truck Festival this summer. The former will run on Wednesdays, while the latter takes place on the second Saturday of every month from May to September.

However, festivals like this don’t come out of thin air. Barker currently has a GoFundMe set up for the Midland Food Truck Festival. With a funding goal of $8,000, Barker hopes to raise funds for event expenses, as well as tents, picnic tables, cement blocks, fencing, trash cans, banners, flags, signage and other accessories.

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