Original Post: May 21, 2011, 01:53 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff
The Sixth Annual Bay Area Maker Faire is kicking off a busy summer of programs at the San Mateo County Event Center this weekend with the county fair following shortly behind in June.
While the sprawling site in San Mateo may be best known for hosting the annual county fair, it also hosts trade shows, car shows and other events such as Hyper-Con, a Japanese anime and pop culture event to be held in August.
The center’s newest venture, however, is geared toward food lovers and will feature gourmet food trucks, live music, a car show and independent clothes makers.
First Fridays Movable Feast, a partnership with San Jose Eats, will begin at the Event Center July 1 and is planned to be held throughout the summer.
SJ Eats made its debut in downtown San Jose April 2 with nearly 10,000 people showing up to sample gourmet street food from more than 30 mobile food vendors. It is San Jose’s version of the popular Off the Grid events that have become popular in San Francisco and that caught the interest of Chris Carpenter, the event center’s general manager.
Carpenter recently met with officials at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco where Off the Grid first got its start. The events have since expanded to other parts of the city but the Friday night event at Fort Mason is its most popular.
“Off the Grid just exploded for them,” Carpenter said.
Off the Grid is also currently looking to expand into a San Mateo location this summer. It is going through the city’s permit process now and is trying to find the best location near downtown for the street food events.
Off the Grid’s popularity sent Carpenter and his staff looking to provide the same type of atmosphere at the event center Friday nights. The event center’s Jeanavive Janssen reached out to SJ Eats founder Ryan Sebastian and a partnership was formed to rebrand the event for San Mateo as First Fridays Movable Feast.
While the county fair is the event center’s anchor event, it only operates nine days a year.
“We still have to fill up the rest of the calendar,” Carpenter said.
While weekends are booked up completely at the event center going into 2013, weekdays are often open during the year.
Carpenter and Janssen are hoping First Fridays become a regular event.
Be warned, however, the first SJ Eats event held at Fallon House April 2 had way more people show up than what was expected. Lines were long at that event and there was not enough food to feed the nearly 10,000 people who flooded downtown San Jose that Saturday.
Sebastian even wrote a letter of apology after the first event because of the long wait times for food at trucks such as MoGo BBQ, CurryUpNow, Chairman Bao, Bill’s Beer Steamed Hot Dog Cart and his own truck Treatbot.
Sebastian’s food truck, Treatbot the Karaoke Ice Cream Truck (From the Future), parks near the Intuit Mountain View campus daily and has a steady stream of regular customers.
A lot of synergy has grown out the street food gatherings and the event center is hoping to capitalize on it. The center is even expanding its Wednesday farmers’ market to include more food trucks, Janssen said.
“We are trying to give the community another option for Friday night entertaining,” Carpenter said.
First Fridays Movable Feast will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, July 1. For more information check out the event center’s website at: www.sanmateoexpo.org.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.