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Five years of Fork is reason to party

Eat | Drink | Explore

Adelaide’s Fork on the Road food truck event started life as what founder Joe Noone describes as a “random, crazy idea”. More than 50 Forks later, it’s set to celebrate its fifth birthday this Saturday with a party in Bonython Park.

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Noone, who has a day job with Renewal SA and has been managing the organisation of the Fork events in his spare time since their inception, decided to introduce the concept to Adelaide after seeing similar food truck festivals while travelling overseas.

Conveniently, at the time Splash Adelaide was calling for ideas for new events to add vibrancy to the city, and with its support he staged the first Fork in Victoria Square in November 2012.

“Six months earlier there might not have been enough food trucks and six months later the caravan might have moved on,” Noone says.

“We had about 20 [vendors] at the first Fork event. It was a collection of pop-up stalls and a few trucks and other bits and pieces – some are still around, some aren’t, and some have gone on to bigger and better things.”

Among the latter is Burger Theory, which now has permanent restaurants in the East End and at Adelaide University. Other mobile vendors that attended that first Fork in 2012 and have gone on to establish bricks and mortar premises include Bodri’s Chimney Cake Station (now Bodri’s Hungarian Artisan Bakery & Cafe), ChurrOZ and Fair Espresso.

“It’s another pathway into the industry … most importantly, it’s probably a chance to try something without being locked into a five-year lease.”

Noone admits he didn’t know whether locals would embrace Fork on the Road or if it might just end up being a once-only event, but his vision paid off: more than 50 Fork  events have been held in a range of locations since then, often in partnership with other organisations or events.

Looking back, he says the first festival was at the forefront of Adelaide “embracing change, innovation and the appearance of gourmet food trucks on our city streets”.

Wheaty Brewing Corp at a Fork event. Photo: Daniel Purvis

Although Fork on the Road is run “on the smell of an oily rag”, Noone tries to organise at least one a month and already has events booked for the next six months.

“The more recent trend is that metropolitan councils have come to me to explore partnerships around events or something they’ve already got planned,” he says.

“It’s been a suburb shift. We’ve done two ridiculously successful ones at West Torrens, and we did one this year during Fringe at Tea Tree Gully, where 8000 people attended.

“For me it’s just about seeking the opportunities wherever I can find them, and there are just so many more events now in the city … that’s a really good thing as an Adelaidean, but as an event organiser, it’s really tricky.”

In addition to this Saturday’s All Night Prong: 5 Years of Forkin’ birthday event at Bonython Park – which will be attended by around 25 food trucks and 20 SA craft drink makers – there are more Fork events planned up until early June for Victoria Square, Elder Park, Sempahore Park, West Torrens, Modbury, Hallett Cove and Port Adelaide.

Fork on the Road food. Photo: Daniel Purvis

While the suburban councils are keen to share the cosmopolitan flavours and vibe offered by food trucks, the Adelaide City Council has attracted criticism in recent years over its move to cap the number of permits it issues – a move some councillors argued was necessary to protect bricks and mortar businesses from the influx of mobile vendors.

However, Noone says although there are more food trucks around now than when Fork started, the vast majority of them operate at events or offer a catering service rather than selling direct from city streets.

“The market has kind of matured, and in a mature market people will come and go depending on how successful they are.”

All Night Prong – Five Years of Forkin will be held in Bonython Park this Saturday from midday until 9pm, with 25 food trucks, craft beer, cider and spirits, live music, DJs and kid’s entertainment.

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