Start saving room in your stomach now. This weekend, you'll want to be ready to eat.
Foodstock returns this Saturday, June 5, lining the streets of Somerset with all sorts of food trucks and their accompanying mouth-watering smells and flavors.
In the halcyon days of 2019, Foodstock was the first of several outdoor downtown Somerset festivals, featuring food, music, art and more. Part of Mayor Alan Keck's effort to revitalize the core of his town with community activities, the inaugural Foodstock was a hit with seemingly all who visited.
"I think the festivals were a way for us to celebrate who we are," said City of Somerset Communications Director Julie Harris. "They went over really well the first year. When we couldn't have those again last year, we did hear from residents and visitors that they missed them. It was always our intention to bring them back when we were able to. ... Being able to enjoy good food and being able to have a drink if one wanted right in downtown Somerset was really cool (according to feedback), so we wanted to bring that back. It's a great way to highlight local artists and all the changes we've made in the last two years."
Of course, last year was different — with COVID-19 came government restrictions that made Foodstock effectively impossible last summer. Joy Carroll, Community Development specialist with the city who is running point on putting Foodstock together this year as festival coordinator, said that the vendors who took part before were "super excited" that the city was rolling back out the food truck festival for 2021, now that things have cleared up.
"With the restrictions being lifted, it's going to be one of the best events in attendance," said Carroll. "Because of Foodstock being the first one of it's kind, we were getting a lot of requests (for its return). With (last fall's) Moonlight Festival being a success even with COVID, we felt like people could go back to the original event."
The layout will be a bit different this time around — instead of musical buskers located along the sidewalks, a stage will be set up at the judicial center plaza. With fewer and more homegrown performers than for the Moonlight Festival or the New Year's celebration, noted Harris, there was no need to put the large stage in the middle of Main Street and shut it down; instead, the plaza stage adequately serves this festival's needs and Main Street will remain open to traffic on Saturday.
"People can gather on the lawn, bring their lawn chairs," said Harris. "We're just thinking about how to make it easier for people, with all the great bands in one place."
Foodstock this weekend will feature 17 food vendors and seven beverage vendors. Some are local — from small-business trucks like Mombo's Italian and Tacos Tanaco, to outreach from chains like Gold Star Chili and Chick-fil-A ("They've really been pushing their catering and wanted to be a part of this," said Harris. "I'm glad it worked out for them") — while others are from out of town, larger cities like Louisville where food trucks are more common.
The food vendors include: Louisville Cookie Dough Bliss, Made in Brazil, Chick-fil-A, Tacos Tanaco, My Gyro, Gold Star Chili, Get Ur Smoke On, Summit Meats, Pretzelful, Red's Hot Dogs, Mombo's Italian, Eddie's Roasted Corn, The Food Wagon, Taco Oso, Boone Creek Creamery, Spotz Gelato, and R&D Concessions.
Drink vendors range from adult beverages to the home-favorite flavors of Baxter's Coffee ("It wouldn't be a festival if we didn't have Baxter's with us," said Harris). Of course, Somerset's official bourbon brand, Horse Soldier, will have a booth with a speciality drink, a "Summer Slush" bourbon lemonade; Harris noted that their speciality cider drink at the Moonlight Festival went on to win a Kentucky League of Cities contest. Jarfly Brewing Co. will also be selling their craft beer products and Eubank's Cave Hill Winery will serve the fruits of their efforts. From out of town, Maiden City Brewing, West 6th Brewing, and Kentucky Mountain Moonshine will also be on hand.
Music begins at noon with Lake Cumberland Blues Society; Tommy Minton and Friends play at 2:30 p.m.; Cody Lee Meece takes the stage at 5 p.m.; and a "trashgrass" act from Cincinnati, the Rumpke Mountain Boys, will close things out at 6:45 p.m.
The Foodstock festival runs from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Carroll said there will also once again be a competition for local artists. The medium can be anything from paint to metal to blown glass — whatever the artist works in — but they must come and start the work there at the festival. The art must thematically have something to do with the community. Artists have until Monday to finish and submit the work; three winners will each win $1,000, as selected by a panel of three judges.
The "horseshoe" around the Fountain Square will be blocked off Saturday for the festival, along with East Mt. Vernon down to Central Avenue, as that's where the food trucks will be located. There will be three gate entrances; admission is free but anyone wishing to buy alcohol inside the festival will need to buy a special wristband for $5 at the gate to signify that they are of legal age.
There are no COVID-19 restrictions and no contract tracing as was the case for last fall's Moonlight Festival, though Harris said anyone who is not feeling well is asked to stay home, and if one feels more comfortable wearing a mask, they may do so, though it's not required.
Carroll and the rest of the City of Somerset have all been waiting a long time to bring Foodstock back to the community. It's finally time — and not a moment too soon for people wanting to get out of the house and enjoy summer fun in the streets once again.
"It's been so nice to get back to normal," said Carroll. "Our community really loves festivals. It's really nice to be back at it."